Super Mario Land (Game Boy) review
"Nintendo might have simply taken their classic Super Mario Brothers game and shrunken it down, stripped it of its colour and some of its depth and dubbed it Super Mario Land, and GameBoy owners would likely have been happy. Instead, the big N decided to give their then fledgling handheld unit a sort of Mario gaiden, and the result was very special. "
Nintendo might have simply taken their classic Super Mario Brothers game and shrunken it down, stripped it of its colour and some of its depth and dubbed it Super Mario Land, and GameBoy owners would likely have been happy. Instead, the big N decided to give their then fledgling handheld unit a sort of Mario gaiden, and the result was very special.
Super Mario Land feels a lot like that first Super Mario Brothers game, but it's quite a bit different. It's small. Mario himself is tiny, even when he acquires the mushroom that makes him Super Mario, from one of the special power up-bearing blocks that hangs in the air above his head. His adventure is small: it is comprised of four worlds, each holding three small stages within, for a total of twelve levels.
But for all the smallness of Super Mario Land, the joy it brings us as we tote around our GameBoys is not. Whether you're on a short road trip or sitting down for a number two, Mario will entertain you as if he were at his full size. Spurred on at friend Daisy's kidnapping, he'll take you on a road trip of a different sort, through flat plains where Koopas drop bombs, rather than shells for your use!
You'll notice that the flagpole touching exercise that concluded levels in other Mario games has been replaced by a jumping exercise where you either make it across the top of the screen to a door in the sky, or fail, and fall down to the door at the bottom of the screen. The bottom door simply grants you passage to the next stage; the top door allows you to play an easy bonus round where a flower (for shooting power!) or extra men can be earned.
From the bonus round you go, your life count newly padded, through dark, stalactite-lined caverns crawling with hanging spiders and packed with difficult jumps. With the conclusion of area two comes Mario's first foray into battle in his submarine craft. Here, the game becomes a horizontal shoot-em-up for a spell, and an angry seahorse awaits at the threshold to area three.
Mario will go where no plumber has gone before in this miniscule installment, accompanying you to a world from the future complete with spaceships in the background, and robots with heads that leave their bodies to chase you. Moai heads and totem poles serve as the singular themes for area three, while boulders serve as your transportation to carry you safely across rows upon rows of spikes that line the ground.
Ultimately, area four introduces a new, Oriental-tinged tune and a sort of leaping ninja who can be squashed only temporarily before leaping back to his feet! When the end is near, Mario will take to the air in his plane, old-fashioned war helmet donned, care thrown to the wind! The evil conspirator is at hand, and so is your beloved Daisy.
If Super Mario Land has any weaknesses other than its small size and relatively simple challenge, it's the control. The going gets a tiny bit slippery at times, especially in the later levels when you're trying to get Mario to land on little blocks while you look on, eyes squinted at the blurry GameBoy screen. Also, when you guide Mario to fall off a high platform, he falls straight down; his forward movement strangely does not carry him forward at all as he falls. This will take a bit of getting used to.
Aside from these minor nitpicks, only the scope of Mario's adventure can be held against him. Some may find the littleness when paired with the ease of play to be a two-fold weakness - after all, Castlevania: The Adventure was short, but not at all easy. But I'll take the short and easy combination for play on the GameBoy any day, because it lends itself to the on-the-go medium.
Besides, the simple, clean beauty of Super Mario Land, the absolutely classic tunes, the infusion of newness to the old formula, and the smallness of the quest lend to lots and lots of road trip replays. Four quaint worlds will beckon you and Mario over and over, their absolute charm enticing you, and you'll struggle not to take him.
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 10, 2003)
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