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Wrecking Crew (NES) artwork

Wrecking Crew (NES) review

"In spite of the fact that it features Mario, the world's most famous plumber, Wrecking Crew never managed to pull itself out of the ditch of unjustly unknown games. Yet, while boasting nothing outlandish, Wrecking Crew is a good time-waster that everybody would enjoy if he'd just care to give it enough time. Of course, in order to be able to do so, he must first find the game itself, which, I'll admit, isn't a very easy task nowadays. "

In spite of the fact that it features Mario, the world's most famous plumber, Wrecking Crew never managed to pull itself out of the ditch of unjustly unknown games. Yet, while boasting nothing outlandish, Wrecking Crew is a good time-waster that everybody would enjoy if he'd just care to give it enough time. Of course, in order to be able to do so, he must first find the game itself, which, I'll admit, isn't a very easy task nowadays.

As Mario, the small, fat plumber with the peanut-sized brain (I mean, how dumb can you get, running after the same princess in numerous castles on different systems?), you are asked to perform a task whose affiliation with plumbing still escapes me. Your objective throughout the 100 levels that Wrecking Crew consists of is to destroy walls, avoid or trap enemies, and deal with the annoying Gotcha-Wrench, a rival plumber, half of the time.

In doing so, Mario gets to use a hammer, which easily demolishes the dozens of walls each stage comprises of. However, his task doesn't just consist of using his hammer on them once since there are different kinds of walls. The first, standard one is also the weakest; a single use of the hammer is enough to make dust out of it. In addition, there are two stronger versions; the slightly stronger and darker in color one, which takes two hammers to disappear, and the strongest one, dark gray in color, which will oblige you to ram into it thrice. It isn't solely about normal walls though; there are also ladder-walls. However, you obviously need to be more careful when taking care of those since you may need to keep those handy to get access to a single wall on a far-away ledge.

So, your basic task is to run about, climbing ladders and their wall counterparts where necessary, and demolishing the gray protruding objects making up most of the stages. While there are different orders in which you can set about performing your job, in some instances, you will find it's more a matter of rapidity than anything else. Thus, you may be left with only five terribly long ladders, but with a Wrenchboy, the sole kind of enemy found in the game, using each. As you demolish each wall, the Wrenchboy will fall down and walk toward you. In these cases, you thus have to be quick and end the stage before getting attacked by the enemies rather than choosing an order out of the several available, or trying to get the couple of items and bonuses to appear.

Wrecking Crew isn't exactly a game focusing on items and bonuses, but it does have its own tasty treats. A nice bonus consists in finding all the letters making the protagonist's name, M-A-R-I-O. It doesn't do anything other than increase your score, but actually getting all the letters to find is tricky and very rewarding. Even now, after having playing the game so many times, I cannot actually say I'm confident I have found every word, so that should tell you everything about the depth of this feature. In addition, there are also a couple of real items, such as the Golden Hammer, which will enable you to demolish every wall with only one hit. Good luck finding one though.

Finally, there's also the presence of a neat bonus game where you need to compete with the irritating Golden-Wrench to find a gold coin behind a row of walls. These bonus stages pop up after you've cleared a given number of stages, and are extremely fun as they focus exclusively on competition and rapidity. A row of walls of every type will conceal a coin, and your objective is to find it before your rival. Doing so within seconds ensures you'll gain a lot of points since these depend on how much time you take to win; do so quickly, and your score will suddenly reach the million mark. And speaking of the Golden-Wrench, you'll learn to have this guy. He'll invite himself to a lot of regular levels and make a real nuisance of himself, demolishing the ladder-walls and causing bombs to explode in your face…which cause you to fall down had you been standing on one of the upper ledges.

The opposition suffers from a lack of variety in Wrecking Crew, but this isn't such a glaring flaw given the simplistic nature of the game. The wrenchboys come in two types: the red ones, which always walk towards you no matter where you may be, and their purple counterparts, which behave exactly like them but are slightly quicker. To add to this weird roster is the Purple Robot, which is as fast as a rocket and which likes to climb up ladders before jumping off ledges. While you cannot literally dispose of them, you do have the ability to trap them in barrels, and to cause them to fall down by destroying ladders when they are on these and having bombs explode in a timely fashion. You may also go into risky business by knocking them down when you have the elusive Golden Hammer. Fireballs will also fly across the screen from time to time, and these can only be avoided since Mario was foolish enough to forget about taking water with him. I mean, what kind of dumb plumber would ignore the usefulness of water in any situation?

As old as Wrecking Crew may be, it nevertheless boasts splendid graphics. The enemy designs are a bit goofy, but Mario himself and the overall designs more than make up for this. Mario, who exists solely in his 'big version' in this game, is assuredly the most wonderfully animated character in the whole game. His mimics while demolishing a wall are hilarious, and the way he behaves while running about and carrying out his chores will very likely make you laugh. The walls and ladders themselves are quite realistic, and the explosions are well-done. Golden-Wrench will cause you to wonder about his origins with his wacky clothes and style, but eventually, you'll grow to loathe him since he can be so annoying throughout the whole game.

Unfortunately, the game takes a major blow with its putrid music. There are only a handful of themes in the game, and you'll be hearing the same thing over and over again all the time. You see, the other tracks play only when you get the special items, as their purpose is to notify you whenever you are still under their influence. Given how it's hard to find these items, you'll very likely be forced to listen to the first track throughout the whole game. I'm not saying that the music is bad, but it does tend to get annoying after a while, even more so when one considers the length of the game.

Thankfully, the excellent game play itself, coupled with the lasting appeal, will make you forget about the poor audio. Due to the absence of a 'Save' option (and the ensuing 'Load' counterpart), you actually have the ability to start on any stage you want. To do so, just press the left and right directional buttons on the starting screen to change the level before validating your choice. Moreover, you have unlimited continues, which should be helpful in beating this tough game. I personally haven't been able to beat all the stages yet. Wrecking Crew's difficulty curve is weird, as one stage may be horribly difficult, and the ensuing one very easy. This sharp contrast may surprise at first, but you'll welcome it on playing the game since it prevents you from getting frustrated and eventually throwing the game away.

As surprising as it may sound, in spite of its sheer fun and the fact that it features Mario (which, in our era, bestows upon any game godly status), Wrecking Crew remains ignored. I'll admit that there's nothing really groundbreaking in it and it pales in comparing to Mario's real games (you know what they are), but Wrecking Crew is nevertheless a nice title suitable for everybody, from the rampant Nintendo fanboy who still believes the princess is behind the next door to the drooling X-Box aficionado who wants to marry Ayane.

siegfried's avatar
Community review by siegfried (April 27, 2003)

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