Sunday, November 05, 2006

Crushing gaming disappointments #1

Warning: I totally geek out in this post. Anyone not literate in the subject matter will likely be completely lost.

I know this is old news, but let’s hash it out anyway: New Super Mario Bros. Seriously, man. When the news came down the pipe that we were getting a new 2-D Mario platformer!, there was mass rejoicing. But the final product…man, I know it satisfied a lot of people, but I was deeply underwhelmed. Yes, okay: on the one hand, I am well aware that it’s wasn’t fair to expect it to have the same impact as SMB3 did when I was twelve. Or whatever I was. But I am quite certain that this ain’t just me. NSMB just lacked that creative spark. Sure, it had its moments: hitting that megashroom in the first level was mad neato, and the first time you jumped on a springy mushroom and the camera pulled waaaaay back to show how far up you were going—cool. Granted. But there are all too few moments like that. The worlds, by and large, are simple rehashes of what we’ve seen before, with very little real creative spark. It doesn’t help that the polygonal graphics lack the crispness of the classic sprite-based Mario. None of the new enemies make much of an impression. And the power-ups—man, don’t get me started. The mega and minishrooms are amusing gimmicks. But that’s all they are: gimmicks, designed to show off the scaling capabilities of the system. They’re almost completely irrelevant to the actual gameplay. Which would be fine—except that the designers were apparently so excited about them that they didn’t feel any need to include some that were. So the only other power-up besides the standard mushroom and flower is the blue shell—a decent idea in theory; worse than useless in practice. It primarily serves the function of causing you to accidentally careen into pits. So, you’ll basically be sticking with the flower. Solid, but very, very familiar. A few really cool, useful new power-ups would have done wonders for the game.

Also: difficulty, anyone? Like, could we have some? The game isn’t as braindead as Super Princess Peach, but that ain’t saying much—I don’t know what’s wrong with Parish, but this is not a demanding game. And I say this as someone who’s always been mediocre at best at platformers. Even if you are having trouble, the constant, endless stream of 1-up mushrooms should easily get you through. I don’t demand non-stop, brain-crushing difficulty, but man—I would have liked a bit more than this.

So yeah. Maybe they’ll learn from their mistakes with a sequel, but I’m kinda doubting it, given the near-universal praise it received from gamers, deeply in denial as they are. Not that anyone can blame them for that, but still.


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