Thursday, 26 April 2012
Just a few weeks ago I was happily running amok through the multiple worlds of Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, an absolutely bonkers Mario fangame. Now another Mario fangame has made its way onto my screen; so with no further ado, I humbly introduce Mari0, which is the answer to the question "what would happen if Super Mario Bros. and Portal defied the laws of nature by somehow mating and producing a baby?"
It's a game of two halves, this one. First up there's the faithful remake of Super Mario Bros. but with one diversion from the original: our moustachioed hero is packing a Portal Gun. And it's just as fun, dear reader, as it sounds.
Since this is a freeware game it really is worth the download alone just to set up an infinite portal loop and watch Mario bouncing in and out of portals until the time runs out. Actually playing the game, and not snickering at Mario's death, is also a hell of a lot of fun. Throwing a Portal Gun into the mix opens up a load of problem solving options, and allows the player to catch Koopas in hilarious feedback loops and run the timer down just looking at them being all pathetic. The Portal Gun is aces for doing away with enemies (although setting up portal traps to drop them down bottomless pits is a lot more convoluted than just jumping on their heads) and allows for some handy teleportation, but it's a testament to the original Super Mario Bros. gameplay that throwing in a Portal Gun doesn't break the game. SMB is still fried gold in gameplay terms, with the added ability to create portals adding another level of crunch to the gaming experience.
I'm guilty of the occasional lapse, both in and out of work (although I really hate to call playing video games and writing about them "work"), and I managed to almost entirely miss out second facet of the game, Mari0's "side two", in cassette terms, which was the absorbing Mario-isation (I may or may not have made that word up) of Portal into a brilliant 8-bit style puzzle platformer. I was too distracted by the downloadable content (including a hilarious acid trip level) to even notice the option to play Mario Portal the first time around, and promptly had to scrap this entire review and start again from scratch!
The Portal end of the Mari0 experience is smoothly put together with smart puzzles that, while occasionally quite difficult, never stray into the realms of the barely possible, and the game strikes a good balance between problem solving and platforming skills. The graphics are distinctive, and the transplantation of our bright, blocky hero Mario to a clinical, laboratory setting of whites, greys and blues works very well on an aesthetic level.
The option of up to four player gameplay makes everything go a bit bonkers, with four multicoloured Marios bouncing around the screen at one time, and a user friendly map editor allows for plenty of distraction from the goal at hand! The game's producers have already added some player designed (I assume) downloadable content to the game, including the aforementioned acid trip level (complete with a "press down to take drugs" option) and a map pack featuring the levels from the Japanese release of Super Mario Bros.
Mari0 has hidden depths, and with a level editor and a producer that shares downloadable content it has massive potential. With its update to the Super Mario Bros. experience it is very much a successful case of teaching an old dog new tricks, and this re-working of the classic platformer stands up on its own as brilliant, even without the Portal levels and downloadable content.
Download the the game here (from the StabYourself website).