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Mario Bros. (Arcade) artwork

Mario Bros. (Arcade) review

"Pipe dream"

Mistaken identity... I've experienced that before, and it's always awkward. I've had moments where I thought I saw an old friend at the store, standing at the magazine rack or the VHS movie section (yeah, I'm that old). I'd sneak up behind my old buddy and slap my hand on his shoulder, only to realize it isn't him. I'd then slink into the shadows to die of embarrassment.

Mistaken identity.... I've experienced it in the arcade, too. It was awkward even then, because it's always awkward...

I entered one arcade with some quarters to burn, looking for a colorful score attacker to try out. One caught my eye, bearing a name I recognized: Mario Bros.. I'd never touched this one before, but I figured I knew perfectly well what I was doing. After all, I had played Super Mario Bros. religiously, and that was super! In comparison, this should be a breeze, being less than super and all. Plus, I knew Mario well, as I was well acquainted with his mechanics. There was no way I could lose.

A heartwarming introductory fanfare played as I popped in my first coin, and I sent Mario after our first victim, a simple koopa. Mario flew through the air, his plump bottom aimed for that koopa's shell. As he descended, I formulated my next few moves. I'd kick the shell into the fiends behind it, watching them all die in short order, and then laugh at my own brilliance. Unfortunately, that's not how the scenario played out. Rather than shelling my foe with a cute WHOOMP!, Mario perished.

He didn't just die, either. He turned to face me and peered directly into my soul, saying "Why did you do that? WHY! That's not how things work here, you idiot! I think you have me confused with someone else!" He flailed his arms and plummeted off the screen as an uncomfortable silence fell between myself and the cabinet. I had no idea why the usual trick didn't work. And since I didn't bother to watch the introductory demonstration, I didn't know what to do from here except watch Mario die a couple more times.

Mario Bros. screenshotMario Bros. screenshot

One rotten experience didn't abate me, though. I hung back and watched as others took their shot at this impostor Mario. I only then realized that I had to position myself beneath each creature and knock them over leaping into the floor beneath them. Of course, I also had a few seconds to give them a good kick, or else they'd recuperate with an even nastier attitude and swifter legs.

I challenged the sewers bravely after that point, learning how to time Mario's jumps appropriately while taking into account his slippery mechanics. One by one, I eliminated the opposition, dropping them into the murky depths below with deadly efficiency. With practice, the first few stages became boring in comparison to the later, greater challenges. Even then, I wasn't afraid, and actually felt like a pro thanks to my training.

The game wouldn't have any of that, though. For every time that I adapted to a situation, it threw new wrenches into my cogs. For instance, it introduced new opponents like flies and crabs, the latter of which required two bumps to incapacitate. Dealing with those two, though, wasn't nearly as tough or frustrating as navigating icy floors, which made the already-slick control response more difficult to work with. Before long, fireballs manifested and chased me into foes, while icicles fell from frozen platforms. Both of these proved to be especially irksome when I was occupied with other dangers, usually while being pursued by a crab. That's when I'd fail to notice an icy dagger falling from the ceiling, penetrating my Italian skull within seconds.

Irritating though it was, that's when Mario Bros. was most enjoyable. It was during moments when I could scarcely find a safe haven and I'd have to run like mad, leap numerous times, spend the POW block at the bottom to temporarily debilitate all enemies, all while constantly weaving from platform to platform passing creature after creature that I would find myself in a state of pure, arcade bliss.

Thinking back, I'm glad I didn't start at the deep end. It kicked off with a simple stage, then progressively upped the nastiness with each subsequent level. The shift in difficulty from one stage to the next was smooth, as if the game wanted me to mature, hone my skills, play for longer periods, and addict myself to the mayhem, thereby causing me to cough up as many quarters as possible. Well played, Mario Bros. Well played...

Mario Bros. screenshotMario Bros. screenshot

Unfortunately, there's a little magic that's been lost between Mario Bros. and me. It's mainly because I can no longer view it, or any arcade game for that matter, the same way I did circa 1988. Back then, almost every new game was mysterious and wonderful, terrible and frightening. I had played so few titles then that I still viewed fresh rule systems and mechanics with youthful ignorance. This game will never feel cutting edge again, but at least I can take solace in knowing that this game created unforgettable memories like the awkward yet incredible moment when I first discovered the game. Sure, I can never experience that again, but maybe that's what makes the memory special.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (November 30, 2012)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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