perjantai 11. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Mario's Time Machine (1993)

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

Playing Mario's Time Machine on the NES, not to mention seeing it to the end, was one of my less proud moments as a gamer over the times I've been one. Although I initially refused to do a review of the SNES version, I guess I already somehow knew I'd be forced to return to it at some point. So, here I am, laughing off another game's stupidity and forcing a virtual screwdriver into my head at the very same time - here's Mario's Time Machine in 16 bits.

A whole different approach to being ridiculous

I know who you are, dude. I played Day of the
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. Mario storms Bowser's castle to retrieve the artifacts and return them to their rightful owners before history is irreversibly changed.

(The odd thing once again is, that no one ever stops to think that if history was to be changed, the artifacts would lose all their true value in the future. Sure, history would change - but if Bowser's agenda is to build the greatest museum of all time, he's off to a bad start.)

It should not be much of a surprise anymore, but most of the elements that have the slightest to do with the Mario franchise are carried over from Super Mario World. The graphics are really not that bad. The cutscenes look almost decent, and the dialogue screens, although perfectly stationary, are well drawn. The soundtrack is once again a collection of remixed Super Mario World tunes - repetitive, and nothing out of the ordinary, but nothing out of the deepest end either. Could we finally have a decent educational Mario game here?

Here I am, thinking that perhaps it's best if I took a similar approach to this version as I did to the NES game. I'll go over the first 45 minutes of the game (or so), play-by-play, to help you cop a feel of what it's all about and share my feelings with all its situations. OK, so after I make the difficult decision of pressing Start, I'm taken straight into Bowser's castle. The very first thing I realize is that the game is very different from the NES version, and that is because all the artifacts - or the ones in the first floor - are laid straight in front of me on pedestals. I don't need to play that retarded poor man's Mario Bros. game, I guess I can just pick up an item and go. So first, there's an apple. Yep, it's Isaac Newton's, again. There were supposed to be different items in this game, and there are, I guess they just ran out of ideas at some point. The second thing is, that Bowser must have done a lot of field work and seemingly unnecessary calculations to pick the exact apple. Whatever, let's just take it. Nothing happens. The thing I notice at this point is that the button scheme is all messed up, so I take a little time to see what every button does.

I pressed the R button, and a book opened, blatantly giving me the correct time and place I should go to, and telling me all about Isaac Newton... but with blank spaces. OK, I guess I have no choice but to come up with the words that fit, from a list of words that covers the whole game, apparently, since there's stuff about Mozart and Julius Caesar as well. It's going rather well, but I've never been good with numbers, so I jumble one spot up enough times to get the book close on me. Well, OK, what happens then? Nothing. I open the book again to get another three chances! What was the point of having three tries if I don't get any punishment for it? All the words that I just filled the book up with are still in place, just the number is missing. OK, so eventually I find the right number, it's not like there would be a lot of logical choices left for me anyway. The blank spaces are now filled up and a sound effect plays. The first thing that comes to my mind is how was I supposed to know the answers? Granted, they were easy as hell to figure out by simple logic, but just to be sure I won't have to rip my balls off out of frustration in the future, it would be nice to know where I can search for the answers. The second thing is: what the fuck was that sound effect all about? Nothing happened. Well, this game isn't obviously the least cryptic one around, so I just keep pressing the buttons. Holy hell, a time machine! Now we're talking! I still have the apple, so naturally I'm going to Cambridge, 1687. Hot wire the DeLorean, and let's go!

Blink and you'll miss that mushroom. And hit
those spikes.
Oh... now I get it. They replaced the Mario Bros. minigame with the poorest Mode 7 sequence ever seen, which features Mario on a surfboard. I have a feeling this ain't going to be fun, and it isn't. You see, your objective is to... shit, I fell into a whirlpool. I'm back at the castle, let's try again. So, your objective is to gather ten mushrooms, and beware of spikes, since they reset your mushroom meter. The biggest problem is that the graphics twitch so bad, both the mushrooms and spikes keep appearing and re-appearing on the screen like an epileptic's nightmare. The mushrooms are unnecessarily hard to collect, and the spikes are unnecessarily hard to dodge. But, finally, I've got the ten mushrooms. What then? Shit, fell into a whirlpool again. Let's try one more time! Once again, I gather ten mushrooms... then collide with spikes and they reset my meter. FUCK! What the hell am I supposed to do after collecting those damn shrooms? Well, what else is there but going into the whirlpool? But it takes me back to the castle. Oh... 1687... Before Christ. Thanks for cutting me some slack, and embarrassing me. 1687 A.D., back to the surfboard. Ten mushrooms, into the whirlpool. I'm finally at Cambridge.

Still remember the book I told you about? Good. Keep that in mind, would ya? So, first I have no idea what to do here. It's just the university courtyard, with one path leading to a garden or something. A garden would probably have apples, so I go there. The screen cuts to a first-person view and I see a pixelated Isaac Newton standing in the middle of the garden. It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining and Isaac Newton tells me to fuck off. What's wrong with this picture? I try to offer him the apple again and again, and he just tells me to leave him the fuck alone with his ego. I don't know why, but I first think of the book. I read it again, but there's nothing out of the ordinary, all the stuff is still in place, and no clue would help me since the bastard won't even talk to me. I run around the courtyard like a maniac pressing all sorts of buttons until I realize that the X button is a dialogue button and I need to go to people's doors to talk to different NPC's. Talking to the NPC's, I realize that they are the ones that have the information for the book. A thought of going into the book a bit too early crosses my mind, but then I think to myself that hell, at least I won't have to do it later, or even listen to these assholes - dialogue is once again as boring as its always been in an educational game, even moreso. What's strange is that they speak of Isaac Newton as if he's already discovered the laws of gravity, even though we're here to make that possible in the first place. Hmm.

Yeah, I bet you welcome a lot of strangers with
questions... could this guy creep me out any less?
Well, the NPC's give me some sort of sidequests and I'm guessing I need to help them out, by delivering key items from person A to person B. Very exciting, especially since you've got to talk to person B about everything to be able to offer the item to him or her. Finally, everyone has been delivered whatever it was they wanted, everyone's told me everything they know, and one of the guys is specifically telling me to go to Newton. FINALLY! So, I go to Newton. It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining... and Newton still tells me to fuck off. What the fuck is going on around this place? I've done everything I possibly can! This is like in the NES version, when I was looking for the correct spot to place that light bulb in. I'm sincerely hoping the solution to this problem wouldn't be as retarded. I just can't figure it out, so I use the time machine to leave. I go to another place in time, I learn something new, I actually finish that stage and then return, seeing red. You know what the problem was?

The problem was that the book's blank spaces need to be filled for you to be able to return the key item. I know what you're thinking: they WERE filled, right? Filling up the blank spaces in the book BEFORE going into the corresponding time and place to get the clues to do it, triggers a glitch that makes that stage impossible to beat for the time being. With "for the time being" I mean, that you need to leave that stage, put the item back, do some other stage and then try again. All the spaces are blank again! So, in other words, I filled up the blank spaces in the book in the beginning of the game for absolutely nothing. I didn't even have any clues, so shouldn't I deserve an award or something? Nah. Even doing those damn half-baked sidequests isn't necessary, you just need to fill in the gaps in the book at the correct time. Oh yeah, and now you do get punished for making those three mistakes. You guessed it: if you jumble up a single gap three times, you need to do the whole stage all over again, complete with the minigame. It wasn't until one of the final stages in the game that I accidentally entered the main NPC's room right after my arrival and a bubble saying "COMPLETE HISTORY BOOK" appeared. Yeah, well, thanks for the early notice.

"...he learned this so called "Socratic" method
of instruction from his own teacher, ???." HMM!!
Well, the whole thing with the book was partly my own fault, so I cannot criticize the game simply based on something like this, but it is stupid and ridiculous to not be able to beat a stage if you don't do everything in the exact order the game is programmed to follow. And, if this is not enough to criticize a game, how about yet another retarded minigame which you have to play at least once every time you enter a stage and it never changes, and how about the simple fact that the game is hellishly boring? Sure, it has some educational value this time around, there are some really interesting basic facts in it - but just putting in a caricature of Mario doesn't make it any more interesting as a game, or those facts any more interesting to read.

So, I've finally made it to the end. I've passed the three floors and been getting ready to whoop Bowser's ass in another unremarkable boss fight for the unremarkable ages to do away with this game forever. I enter his hall and... he just leaves. Mario stands in front of Bowser's empty throne like a retard, and Bowser is shown enjoying the sun and sand on some faraway beach like some creep that has just pulled off the most outrageous embezzlement in history. After hours of twisting my ears just to stay awake, and putting up with all those dry jokes and trying to pick up even some bits of useful information in the between, the game tells me to try again and play quicker, to get a different ending - I'm guessing getting a score over 10,000 would trigger it, and I would probably get it if I'd beat that damn Newton stage faster, since otherwise, I played real quick; I didn't really bother to read the dialogue, I just picked up keywords that I couldn't figure out by the ways of logic while filling up the gaps in the history book. Will I go for the happy end? Take a wild guess. Besides, I think that as crappy as this conclusion was, after seeing the only ending of the NES version I'm not sure I want to see the good ending in this one.

Shit, did I miss a great joke here?
Just to go over some more things in a less flattering fashion before I wrap up my whole history with The Software Toolworks' two most known games - finally - let's take a look at some of my best laughs with Mario's Time Machine on the SNES. So I'm in Vienna, 1824 - the Beethoven stage - and a music store clerk's obviously in need of some glasses. Next, I go to a hotel and I have no idea what to give to the owner. I accidentally offer him Beethoven's ninth symphony, which is the key item in that stage and he says "It doesn't have enough cultural value". Well that's a laugh in itself, but the item I have to give him is a fucking backscratcher! Now there's cultural value for you! In turn, he offers a monocle and I rush back into the music store, but the clerk doesn't need it, although he just kept talking about his eyesight and losing his glasses every chance he got. Asshole. Well, again, you don't even have to do this shit. Oh, and the fact that Ludwig van Beethoven was almost completely deaf by 1824 doesn't matter at all once you get to speak to the guy.  Finally, the game force feeds us a cheap, bad joke in just about every turn, such as "I'm having a Hamburger for lunch", which in this case means a guy called Hamburger coming over, and the guy who says it doesn't realize why Mario finds it funny 'cause we're in 15th century Germany, but he also immediately addresses Mario as "Herr plumber". I wonder how many plumbers there were at that time, exactly. Or 47 years before Christ, at that.

How about a rain check?
I'm nitpicking for the fun of it, and I've got to admit, yet again, that unlike the NES version, this game has got some good traits including the fact that it does have SOME educational value, and it is mostly about European history, not even the most obvious history - for example, I had no idea who Johann(es) Gutenberg was and I think the stage based on his efforts in the field of modern printing was quite interesting, although Wikipedia once again did a better job in telling me about him than the dialogue, which is full of those bad jokes and other irrelevant small talk which obscures the subject at hand.

As far as being a real game is concerned, Mario's Time Machine is indeed boring, uninteresting and full of flaws. It could've worked as PC freeware starring some cheap, cute characters, but no, it had to be a "Mario game", and it just had to be released on Nintendo systems for the sake of brainless capitalism. It's useless to a player, and its educational value is nominal at best.

Graphics : 7.5
Sound : 6.8
Playability : 5.2
Challenge : 5.0
Overall : 5.4


GameRankings: 60.25%

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti