Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Super Mario Bros. X

There are three things that will never stop happening in this world: Birth, death, and the creation of Mario fangames. There have been countless Mario fangames uploaded to the 'net in all of its years of existence; some good, some bad, and some abysmal. One could probably spend days upon days just sifting through the pages of downloadable/flash games about the fat red plumber. There are too many to keep track of at this point, and their numbers are growing rapidly. "So," you might be asking yourself, "where does this 'Super Mario Bros. X' thing fit in?" Hit the jump to find out.

There are literally tons of different Yoshis that you can ride around on.
Wow. Where to even begin with this one? At its core, Super Mario Bros. X is a game that really knows what it is: a Mario game. Some of the main problems I've come across with other fangames based on the Mario franchise is that they seem to have identity issues. The developers hide their crappy, buggy platformers and dress them up in a Mario skin to draw gamers towards them. And the sad thing is, it works 90% of the time. Games that bear no gameplay relation to Mario get millions of views, purely because the online gaming audience feels safe with a familiar name. Super Mario Bros X. doesn't just accept its identity, but embraces it. This clear love and devotion towards preserving the source material is evident in every aspect of the game. Players can slide down hills while pressing down, Yoshi gains the power of whatever koopa he eats, characters like Peach, Link and Toad play almost identical to how they were played in their native games... There are so many little things that the developers really nailed right on the head, from the physics, to the Yoshi riding, to the plant throwing. The attention to detail is spectacular, and it most definitely shows.

Elements from every part of the Super Mario series can be found in this game.
 The gameplay here is, as expected, standard Mario fare. The physics just click right off the bat, and the pixel-perfect platforming from Super Mario Bros. 3 has been faithfully recreated in every respect. The jumping feels right, the running feels right, and I always felt like I had complete control over my character. The power-ups from all the original games are there - mushrooms, fire flowers, even the deadly poison mushroom from Lost Levels makes an appearance - but there have also been an arsenal of new items and power-ups put at the player's disposal. The Ice Flower, the Billy Gun, the Hammer Plant, the Propeller Block, and many more add unique twists to what would normally be standard Mario gameplay. Want to open a ground block, but don't have a shell to do it? Just ice that spiny and slide him into it. Impossible-looking wave of enemies? Just snatch that blue plant and start hammering away.

Enemies from nearly every 2-D Mario game imaginable populate the world of SMBX. From the Shy Guys of Subcon, to the fire-breathing piranha plants from Super Mario Bros 3, they've pulled all the stops with the NPCs in this game. With such variety in enemy patterns, and such a large number of power-ups to take 'em down with, the possibilities are near-endless. The enemies are never too hard, but some provide a fair bit of challenge (like the flying koopas/paragoombas that home in on your location in one swift swoop), much like a soup that is prepared at a perfect temperature. It burns your tongue, but only gently, and it still makes your stomach feel warm and cozy afterwards. The enemies are hard, but just hard enough to provide that satisfying sort of difficulty.

In case I haven't made it completely clear in the review so far, variety is the name of the game in Super Mario Bros. X. The levels are incredibly diverse, each one an experience in of its own. Every stage has a unique flair to it, and no two play even remotely alike. The level design, for the most part, is as brilliant and authentic as it can be. In most worlds, there are stages that are throwbacks to games of old. For instance, a level in the "Super Mario World" section of the game starts out as a perfect representation of level 1 in SMW. It later branches out into a level of its own, though, offering a whole different experience. The pure creativity of most levels is really some awe-inspiring stuff. One of my favorites, Retroville, takes graphics and design elements from the first couple Mario games and blends them together beautifully. It's this sort of stuff the really makes you admire the work that the creator dumped into this game.

Battle Mode is hilariously fun.
 In addition to to the gameplay, the graphics are very well mixed together. There isn't terribly much to say here, as all the graphics are ripped, but they blend together wonderfully, and there isn't any noticeable style-clashing to be seen.

Some of the best moments come from the co-op and battle modes, though. In 2-player co-op, you and a friend can play through any worlds you have downloaded. The screen seamlessly splits depending on where your partner is, and it's tons of fun to work together to complete each level. If working in harmony isn't really your thing, Battle Mode has you covered. It's essentially a game where the objective is to use whatever means necessary to defeat your partner. Be it chucking hammers, freezing and tossing, or throwing them off the side of a cliff, there's loads of fun to be had. There are a fair amount of battle levels readily available, but the community is always expanding the selection. One gripe I have about multiplayer is the lack of an accessible online option. I'd love to be able to hook up with someone over the web if I happen not to have someone to go on a 2-player romp with. There is a method to play online using the level editor, but it's really a chore to go through the process over and over again.

Nostalgia, anyone?
What if you want to make a fancy level of your own, though? The built-in level editor comes with all of the tools you need to make a great level. The accessibility and ease in which you can create a fantastic stage of your own are spectacular, and you'll never feel overwhelmed by the properties of enemies or special "zones", as an easy-to-understand manual is included in the folder with the game. Another neat feature is the option to dynamically edit your level, while you're playing it. I personally find it satisfying to go around and erase all the enemies on my screen, create a path across an uncrossable gap, or just wreak havoc on the the place in general. This style of level editing also eliminates the need for frequent testing, as you can just add things you see fit as you make your way through the level. Add in custom music and graphics support, and you have yourself one fantastic editor.

The ability to edit levels while playing them is a major drawing point.
 The music in this game is, of course, a bunch of tunes from Mario games new and old, but there are some songs from other games that also carry some flair of their own. The music is used well, and the sounds in general are very charming. The developers chose their sound options well.

Before I wrap this review up, I feel there's something worth mentioning: This game is HUGE. And by huge, I mean there's enough content to last you a lifetime. "The Invasion 2," the campaign world that comes bundled with SMBX, will take you around 5-6 hours alone. I've been playing for around 3-4 hours now, and I've gotten less than 50% through. Add in the battle modes and an ever-growing list of community-made levels, and you have yourself a game that would easily be $15-$16 if it was being sold by Nintendo, all for the price of free.

The developers managed to wrap up this beautiful package with an elegant bow. The presentation in this game is very pleasing and professionally done. The menus emit a sort of early Nintendo-esque feel, and the HUD, text and overall balance of visual/audio elements make this one finely done piece of electronic entertainment.

4.5/5 

1 comment:

  1. Indeed Mario is superb game. Playing mario game online is superb experience you ever have. Play play mario game online today free at Game Liver


    ReplyDelete