Mario Calculator (DS) review
"A Mario-themed calculator, even with a surprise feature, somehow doesn't add up to a truly compelling experience."
I don't know quite what I expected from Mario Calculator, other than a calculator that was Mario-themed, but somehow my time with the application has left me feeling both slightly disappointed and pleasantly surprised in approximately equal measure.
Originally released in 2009, when only around 17% of mobile phone owners were carrying a smartphone in their pocket (according to comscore, at least), Mario Calculator allowed those who downloaded it to access a simple calculator they could take with them on the go. And there's a certain logic in that, given the market at the time. If a kid was bringing along his DSi and he decided to do some math homework but forgot his calculator, well, Nintendo could be there to save the day... assuming the child had been savvy enough to download the appropriate software.
Mario Calculator was priced to move, at around $2 USD. So really, it all comes down to how well the calculator works, and how effectively it implements the chosen theme, right?
The calculator kind of sucks. It does what it is supposed to do, I guess, which is to function as the most basic of devices. If you walk into any store and buy the cheapest calculator available, it probably puts the Mario Calculator one to shame. You can add, multiply, divide or subtract, and that's basically the extent of things.
Some fancier calculators, such as one you might get from Texas Instruments, will allow you to work with really large numbers. Although the one offered here does let you get fairly big, it's going to say "Cannot calculate" at some point as you add too many zeroes. As an example, here's a series of multiplications:
85 x 960000 x 5 x 6 x 9600
That last step will produce the dreaded "Cannot calculate" text, but until then the software holds its own. In other words, it can probably help Jimmy with his 5th-grade homework just fine.
Visually, the calculator lacks flair. You have Mario on the top screen, in the underground environment familiar from the second level of Super Mario Bros. If you want, you can use the d-pad and the A button to move him around and jump, but he quickly rebounds from a number field. Or if you leave him sitting still while you contemplate the cosmos, he'll fidget a bit. There's not much going on there, honestly, and the bottom screen on the DS just contains the pad where you can enter numbers and other prompts.
Along the right side of top screen, there is a pipe Mario can enter to appear in a second room as Luigi. This activates the software's "Unit Converter" portion, which is easily the most "fun" I had while interacting with the application.
Basically, you select the type of conversion you wish to perform, out of eight categories: length, area, weight, speed, volume, temperature, time and age. For example, let's say it is 113 degrees Fahrenheit outside where you live (which happened to me a few weeks back) and you want to figure out the equivalent temperature in Celsius (I did want that). In Mario Calculator, you would specify the numerical value of 113, tap "Fahrenheit" and then choose whether to convert to Celsius, Fahrenheit (that gets you nowhere) or Kelvin. On the top screen, Luigi then performs a hop and you find out that the temperature in Celsius is 45 degrees.
Admittedly, none of that is super exciting. It is, however, mildly diverting. I can see it providing reasonable entertainment for young kids during a car trip. When I was extremely bored as a child, my mind would turn to questions such as, "How old is my 6-year-old dog in human years?" The answer: 43.4 years old.
As you can imagine, nothing in Mario Calculator proves entertaining for terribly long. Even the surprisingly interesting conversion tools, which were a smart add on Nintendo's part, since the calculator itself is so bare-bones, only appeal for so long. There's not enough "Mario" to really feel like more than the absolute minimum, and students who need more advanced assistance with math definitely need to look elsewhere. In 2021, you can probably find all sorts of devices on your smartphone that will do everything better. Even a quick Google search will let you convert units without pulling up a specialized site. There's no reason to buy the application now, except so that you can say you have it. And as bragging rights go, that one struggles to even register on the scale. But anyway, I did buy it at one point and so I do own it.
See? You're not impressed.
Staff review by Jason Venter (July 18, 2021)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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