keskiviikko 25. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Mario's Time Machine (1993)

Genre(s): Edutainment
Released: 1993
Available on: NES, PC, SNES
Developer(s): Radical Entertainment, The Software Toolworks
Publisher(s): The Software Toolworks, Mindscape
Players: 1

I can't think but of one sentence to begin this review with: some people just can't enough of playing shitty games. Let's take me, for example. I already knew educational Mario games are all but a waste of time - I thought Mario Is Missing! would keep me from even trying another one of Mindscape's so called Mario games, but then I figured: hey, might as well complete the set on the behalf of this blog, and who knows, maybe it'll be kinda fun. Well, it's shit. No surprise there. But it's not completely unplayable shit. So, I guess it IS kinda fun. Kinda. Yet, not nearly as fun as it is for me to review it. Unleash the beast!

Did you know German reunification depended on just one sledgehammer? Well, now you do!

In 1993, Bowser builds a time machine he christens the Timulator. He uses the Timulator to steal precious artifacts across time, and build the greatest museum of all time. As Mario and Yoshi investigate the museum, Bowser takes the latter captive. Mario must return the artifacts before history is irreversibly changed, and rescue his partner from Bowser's clutches.

I have stated before (in my review of LucasArts' excellent adventure game Day of the Tentacle) that writing a story about time travel and applying it to a video game is pretty much failsafe. Well, I had forgotten all about Mario's Time Machine, and now that I think about it like the most dedicated wiseass, I can't think of any good game based on a movie about time travel, either. So I'll take back what I said, which I don't do often.

The graphics are the same as in Mario Is Missing! - Super Mario World's sprites in an NES game, except Bowser, whose sprite from Super Mario Bros. 3 is recycled instead. The weird thing is, when he retreats into his shell and starts rolling towards Mario, his sprite suddenly changes into a Koopaling's sprite from that same game, with Bowser's colours. The environments don't look quite as horrid as in the previous game, however the stages are very short and straightforward, which have might something to do with the slightly better graphical display. The music is terrible, which is not surprising at all. Just for the fun of it, I did a little portfolio check on John Korsrud, the guy who wrote the music. You'd never guess, there's only one game he ever wrote the music to in addition to this one. You don't have to be a genius to figure out which game.

The good news is that when it comes to gameplay, Mario's Time Machine isn't exactly Mario Is Missing!, part deux. The games do have a lot in common - they both suck, for instance, but that's not what I mean. Let's start with that retarded icon on the top of the screen. This time you won't have to use it a whole lot, only to use the artifacts which you collect. There's also a map which shows which stages you've already beaten, but it won't make a stinking difference to you, and I'll tell you why in a bit in my commentary. Also, this game ends in one of the most disgraceful battles against Bowser ever, preceded by a pop quiz on random things you've learned about history so far. That's about it, since Time Machine is even fun for a while, whereas Mario Is Missing! wasn't.

I think the best way to break this game down is to write a sort of a play-by-play commentary I did in the case of Home Alone, since the game was so short. I've handpicked three stages from the game to give you some examples of basic frustration in this game, and will go over the intermissions and so called "high points" of the game.

Looks eerily familiar. Less fun, though.
So, the game begins with Bowser snatching Yoshi and you're taken to the lobby of Bowser's museum. Entering any door in the lobby will put you in a boring poor man's game of Mario Bros., in which you'll have to bump a few Koopa Troopas entering the room through pipes down and kick them out of the playfield. You can't take damage in the entire game; if an enemy hits you, Mario will just duck and stay put for a couple of seconds. There is close to no collision detection in this "minigame". You'll just have to keep hitting those bricks straight underneath the enemies until the game decides to incapacitate the enemy. Kicking them out of the field can be quite damn difficult too, since Mario is quite eager to randomly do his spin jump carried over from Super Mario World, which prevents him from jumping too high. As you're trying to get to the downed turtle, he will probably come to and you'll have to try getting rid of 'em again. Oh yeah, and guess what else? Run too close to the pipes and the game will just assume you're trying to exit the room, which makes no sense since all the rooms are alike and the items you're trying to get appear randomly. You're taken back to the lobby entrance, which will really start to drill through your temple when Mario starts nailing the doors shut in order from left to right. You'll be seeing the lobby many times on other occasions as well.

Yeah, that one egg must've helped a plenty.
Your new password is... "VAGINAL"?
Anyway, when you're done with this sequence, you get a random artifact as a reward for your troubles. For my first of three examples, I'll choose the sledgehammer. What an artifact, huh? The famous, rusty sledgehammer that changed history and couldn't possibly be replaced. The world is in for a paradox. Yep, yes siree. Well, the next thing you'll have to do is enter the time machine in the middle of the room. The stages have no descriptions, just years, ranging from 80,000,000 B.C. to 1989. I choose 1989, perhaps the sledgehammer can be used to do some irreversible damage to Milli Vanilli. However during the "smooth, astounishing übergalactic transition through time", in other words some generic animation with an equally generic sound effect, I remember that the game's purpose is to preserve time as it is, not change it - that's Bowser's job. Damn. Oh well, I got the year right - it's when they started tearing down the Berlin Wall, and they NEEDS THIS ONE SLEDGEHAMMERS! I MUSTS RETURNS IT!!! I choose the sledgehammer from the menu on top, and... a bird flies in and takes the hammer away. The game says that I got the location to use the hammer all wrong and should read all the clues to figure out the correct spot.

Oh well, back to the time machine, through the lobby to the first door, and another dull Mario Bros. session later, I get something... but it's not the sledgehammer. It's a stovepipe hat. Only one important historical person I know used a hat like this, and that's Honest Abe Lincoln. I check Wikipedia for fast knowledge on when Abe did something important (I really can't bear running down the lobby and doing that Mario Bros. thing any more times than I really need to, if I jumble something up), and it states he held the Gettysburg Address in November, 1863. Well, 1863 is not found on the list, but 1862 is, as the only year on the list that President Lincoln was alive to see. Well, it's not related to the Gettysburg Address, but it is something... wait, it IS related to the Gettysburg Address! Imagine that. An educational game, and they fucked up. Ha. Well, it's not that bad of a fuck up, so let's just leave it at that. It seems that President Lincoln was so depressed over the loss of his beloved hat that he couldn't make the Address. Now that's plain ridiculous, but let's carry on anyway. Well, now that we spend a little more time actually playing the game instead of just using the item we're carrying right away, let's go over the basic gameplay.

That's a lamp, and it needs a light bulb. Or so
you logical bastard would like to think.
It sucks. Unlike Mario Is Missing!, Mario's Time Machine is disguised as a traditional Mario platformer, with hourglasses and clocks standing in for bricks. Some of the hourglasses can be broken with the spin jump, or rotated so you can jump through them, by bumping them from the beneath. Like I said before, Mario is a bit too trigger happy with the spin jump, but that's not all, his jumping distances vary and if they're not a problem enough to get to a destination, there are the enemies which respawn by a nanosecond. Again, they can't harm you. They're just there to annoy you. They are of no use to the game. I have to wonder why they even bothered to put enemies into the game. Probably just to fuck with the player, OR to make this look like a game from some angle.

We have no clue of where to use Abe's hat, so let's force ourselves to a clue block placed among a horde of annoying enemies, tons of hourglasses and a few indestructible clocks. It's hard, but finally one random, here-goes-nothing jump accidentally lands us right underneath the block. It says something about the U.S. Civil War. Yeah yeah, we know about that, give us another clue. "Abraham Lincoln was known as Honest Abe". And that's all. GOD DAMN IT! Oh well, to the next clue block, which is in plain sight and easy to reach. It says something like "The ADDRESS isn't on the GATE". Oh, so it's that gate then, with the big Gettysburg sign on it. Let's use the hat. BINGO! Abe is now Happy Abe and can finally make the speech. It's a bit odd that the crappiest "clues" were seemingly worth the most trouble in the developers' minds. Well, that's OK since in some stages, neither the clues OR the solutions make any sense at all. Stay tuned.

I'm in the year 1879, with the light bulb. I take some time to check out the map, to see what I've got left, 'cause its obvious the light bulb belongs here - I'm in a dark living room with oil lamps all over the place. As I whip out the map, I realize something. You can't use the map in the only places it does you some good, which is the lobby or the Mario Bros. room. Only in stages. So, if I accidentally went back to 1862 when I actually wanted to go to 1879, I'd have to enter the time machine again, back to the lobby, and back to the Assrapin' Troopas minigame to get another random item to use in some other time. "Damn, I have to use this steering wheel in 1520. Well, I'll remember that other one later." You take the steering wheel to its place, then rape those Troopas until you get the light bulb, and then: "Uh, which year was it again? Damn, can't check the map while I'm in here. Eeny-meeny-miny-1862. D'OH!" And so the circle continues. This didn't happen to me - anymore at this point, anyways - but it's possible.

Well, as I was saying, I'm in 1879 with that damn bulb. I read the clues and there's NOTHING useful. One of them says "You can just feel the electricity in the air". Well, the first thing I try is jumping into the air and using the light bulb. Well, it doesn't work, items can't be used while Mario is in the air. Well, there's an electrical testing device on the table. Nope, it's not that either. God damn it, how could I miss that empty electric lamp on the table? I'll just snap this in and... here the bird comes again. Bye bye, light bulb. It's kind of symbolic, since I'm all out of ideas after that empty lamp. That does it, now I'm using the Save State option on my emulator. I've refrained from it this far, but enough is enough. Well, the correct place to use the light bulb in is in front of the gramophone. Get it? Music in the air? Electricity in the air? FUCK YOU, SOFTWARE TOOLWORKS! FUCK YOU AND YOUR MOTHER!

Hats off to ANYONE who can figure out what's
going on this game.
Well, it is all done. All I have to do now is hurry to the end of the lobby and enter Bowser's humble abode. The game tells me to hold on a damn minute and answer three questions based on the clues throughout the game. It's all the same to me at this point, I've waited many damn minutes for something to happen in this awful "game". Well, by knowing which Roman general had the hots for Cleopatra, which was the biggest and baddest dinosaur of all time and which dollar bill has Abe Lincoln's face on it, I'm in the clear. First of all, I've read all Asterix books worth reading, secondly I've watched Jurassic Park a million times plus I'm not stupid, and thirdly, I'm very good at guessing. The clues had nothing to do with this, I didn't even read them all at least in which the correct placement of the item was already obvious. I can now fight Bowser. Yay?

Nay. As a Bowser fan, I find myself double revolted. The Mario vs. Bowser setting has provided us avid players with some epic battles back in the day, this is something just indescribably retarded. It's like a battle against any Koopaling in either Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, only a lot more generic, slow, easy and simple. Bowser explodes after the third and final jump on his head, then miraculously appears again in the credits, CRYING. This fuckin' does it... so, where's the next game? This was fun.

That's debatable.
Seriously though, this was luckily the second and last game in The Software Toolworks and Mindscape's educational series. Other companies who were selling Mario as Captain Obvious at the time, teaching kids irrelevancies, were respectable enough not to disguise their games as traditional Mario games and force parents to buy their children crap - they came out straight with their educational purposes. Mindscape did the exact opposite and did their best to market their games as "not quite official, but full blooded" Mario titles. What they got in return was a lot of shit, and for a good reason. Mario's Time Machine is a simple, frustrating "edu" game without the "tainment" part. It's not QUITE as bad as Mario Is Missing!, more like equally useless. Bearing it's the challenge. Even if it's not exactly its point (I don't know what is), you will have to have a huge fuckin' hole in your brain to not be ABLE to beat it. 'Cause you know, you'd be dead, if you had a huge fuckin' hole in your brain. There's education for ya. If you found this small piece of info new or interesting, maybe this IS a game for you.

Graphics : 7.2
Sound : 4.5
Playability : 5.0
Challenge : 3.7
Overall : 4.9


GameRankings: 60.42% (SNES)

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