Mario to Wario (SNES) review
"It's a beautiful day, and you're out taking a pleasant stroll and communing with nature. But your whole day is about to be ruined, as some douchebag decides it'd be absolutely hilarious to drop a bucket on your head. Due to your stubby and useless arms, you just can't get that thing off. Blind and helpless, what do you do? Sit and wait for help, act nonchalant about having a bucket stuck on your head, call out? Not if you're Mario, who feels the best course of action is to blindly walk forward i..."
It's a beautiful day, and you're out taking a pleasant stroll and communing with nature. But your whole day is about to be ruined, as some douchebag decides it'd be absolutely hilarious to drop a bucket on your head. Due to your stubby and useless arms, you just can't get that thing off. Blind and helpless, what do you do? Sit and wait for help, act nonchalant about having a bucket stuck on your head, call out? Not if you're Mario, who feels the best course of action is to blindly walk forward in hopes of finding his dear brother who will remove the bucket for him. Seems pretty stupid to you, especially in the hazardous world of videogames, doesn't it? Well, it'd make more sense if you had a guardian fairy following you who can manipulate environments and smack you around, guiding you towards your goal. Welcome to the bizarre world of Mario and Wario, a sadly overlooked puzzle game that is unique both in its setup and execution.
Remember Lemmings? The game's rather similar, except you only have to control one person and get him to the goal. Also, you change the world around Mario rather than changing his jobs. Mario will blindly walk forward, turning around only when he hits a wall or gets smacked by you. He will fall off any ledges and climb any ladders along the way. Your goal, as Mario's guardian fairy, is to cause blocks to appear and disappear, hit him at the right times, and generally point him in the direction of Luigi. You do this by the SNES mouse, moving this cute little fairy around and spreading your magic with a click of a button. Blocks are either blocks that can only be destroyed once, blocks that can be destroyed and recreated, or timed blocks that only appear for a few seconds. There's also the aforementioned ladders and trampolines to get you up, and spikes and simple enemies that will wipe you out. Grab some coins for extra points, or take some detours and grab all four stars per level to receive an extra life. But don't dawdle, as time is short and you must get Mario to Luigi before said time runs out. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?
Of course, it's not always simple. Like all good puzzle games, M&W starts off quite simply, merely giving you clandestine tasks to get you acclimated to the game's rules and style. In fact, the first 15-20 levels should be a breeze once you know what you're doing. What, that's too many for you? Don't worry, as there are a total of 80 levels in this game, split up into 8 different worlds. So the easygoing simple levels barely make up a quarter of the entire game, and will be over before you know it. Soon you'll have to start thinking things through, and thoroughly looking the level over before deciding what to do. A moment's forgetfulness or indecision may cost Mario a precious life, and a wrong move can be equally deadly. Yet still, there were only a couple levels within worlds 3 and 4 that gave me pause, made me think things through one step at a time. But once you start getting into the later levels, you will be forced to plan even more thoroughly, forced to make every second count. Indeed, M&W understands the need for a steadily progressing challenge, as each world still feels more difficult than the last.
And if you want to complain about the fact that you have to suffer through so many wussy levels before getting to the real stuff, forget it. The game allows you to start on any world you want, so feel free to start off at level 8 if you must. Such a setup also eliminates the need for mucky saves and continues and so forth as well. Likewise, you can further modify the challenge by picking your character based on their speed - Peach moves along much more slowly and carefully than Mario when she has a bucket on her head, while Yoshi just zips along without a care in the world. So yes, there are enough options to make the game more difficult if you'd like.
On the other hand, the game's not entirely difficult to begin with. But that's only because this is a Nintendo game, and something as simple as just getting to the goal is far too boring. More often than not, the true challenge is in getting all four stars and grabbing all the coins. The idea of a variable challenge - allowing the game to be as difficult as you want through your own choices, is one that is never a problem when done right. And don't worry, because Nintendo hit the nail on the head here. The four stars will often require you to take numerous detours, and mapping out a route to grab all of them and still make it to the end of the stage in time ends up bringing an entire new dimension to the level, completely changing the style of your play. Rather than merely figuring out how to get to Luigi, you must use all items and overcome all the obstacles in the level, a task that will force you to think before you act. Which one do you grab first? How do you get to the second star after reaching that first one? Will you still have time to reach the end before Mario suffocates under that oppressive bucket? And will you remember all of the 30 steps you have to take as Mario weaves his way through this crazy maze?
Moreover, this game also tends to increase the emphasis on timing, speed, and dexterity, something rarely found in the world of true puzzle games. You have to insure that you can whack Mario at the right time, hit those timed blocks at just the right moment, scramble over to the coin block and smack it as many times as you can before Mario needs your help again, etc. Many of the later levels are filled with perilous traps and enemies, and you will have to keep Mario safe while setting up his path. This involves frantically bopping Mario before he falls off a cliff or gets near a deadly enemy, flying back to the path you must create, and then guide Mario through it without getting killed. It can get pretty harrowing at times, and the frantic clicking and rushing around may make you forget all those pretty extras - which is exactly what the game wants. Does this added element of challenge mean the puzzles are weaker than Lemmings or most other true puzzle games? Probably. But it also means that you will have to concentrate more throughout the entire length of the puzzle, not just in the beginning when you're planning your actions. You must improvise, constantly replanning for every mistake or every change in enemies you encounter. And that's something you just don't see too often.
Although it's a game that is limited to a select few - the required use of the mouse guarantees that - this game can still offer its own charm to those seeking something new to the puzzle genre. Yes, Mario's cutesy little face (or bucket, in this case) shows up in yet another charming and fun game, providing some fresh new ideas. Besides the crazy scenario, the strange combination of variable challenge through extras and timing issues bring this game to prominence. On the other hand, the lack of challenge and the somewhat annoying and imprecise use of the mouse means that this game never quite reaches the highest pedestal around. But that's ok, it does what it does well, and I'm satisfied with that. Sometimes stumbling around blind is just what I need.
Community review by mariner (December 09, 2007)
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