Friday, April 27, 2012

A Super Mario Summary

Video games have come a long way since the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES, yet they always seem to wind up returning to that one, iconic game. (Understandably so - SMB is hella fun.) Nowhere is this more true than with Flash programmers, and, thus, we have yet another SMB-esque game: A Super Mario Summary.

A Super Mario Summary was created as an entry for the Ludum Dare competition. The goal is to make an entire video game in 48 hours. That's a tough prospect for even the strongest programmers, assuming those programmers actually care about playability.

This little entry tackles a rather novel idea: it compresses the levels of SMB into single-screen puzzle platformers, forcing the player to guide Mario to the flagpole on the right side of the level. Each screen is an homage to a level in the original game, so expect to find the same hazards as you would in SMB: goombas, koopas, bullet bills, whirling fireball chains, Bowser... the usual. It's a groovy enough concept, and for a game created in 48 hours A Super Mario Summary is rather impressive...

... but, overall, this isn't the best Flash game in the world.

When he's just walking and jumping, Mario controls well. Smooth controlling allows for precision jumping, and precision jumping is kiiiiinda important for a Mario game. It would be nice to just hit up rather than the Space bar to jump, but that's a minor complaint.

What irked me most about the controls was the rebound factor. Take the springboards as an example: you need to hit Space at exactly the right moment to make the damn things work. Like, EXACTLY the right moment. Otherwise, Mario performs a tiny hop and flops to his doom. The same goes for bopping off the heads of enemies to reach new heights, which is ESSENTIAL for beating one of the levels. Grr.

I should also point out that Mario is a little glitchy. He likes to lodge himself in walls every now and then, and occasionally the pint-sized plumber vibrates uncontrollably, as though he's performing a bunch of teensy jumps. Hardly game-killing, but annoying.

The visuals here are charming. I can't think of a better word to describe the experience. They're better than the original Mario in that they allow for more detail, yet they're rendered with a minimalist eye. I would have liked a bit more animation for some of the enemies, but, meh. No biggie.

Bop, ka-ching, beeooooo. Yep, A Super Mario Summary is all about sound effects. There's no music anywhere. The lack of background music seems to deflate the experience, turning an otherwise decent Mario game into a hollow experience. I hadn't realized how much I relied on the classic Mario tunes to enjoy the game. And, yes, it would be damn difficult to compose all new tunes in 48 hours, but why not just ask for permission to use somebody's remixes? Or, hell, stick the original songs in the game? I know rights are always an issue, but it's not like Nintendo seems to care about Flash programmers using their property. If they did, Super Mario Bros. Crossover surely would not exist.

Challenge Rating
Theoretically, A Super Mario Summary should be about as difficult as SMB. And, to an extent, this is true - but only if you try and collect every coin in the game, as well as hit the top of every flagpole. Performing both of these tasks without getting hit is fiendishly tricky. Especially when jumping off enemies is so hard. (I'll be honest, it seemed impossible to collect some of the coins. Maybe I just don't spend enough time puzzling over puzzles...?)

If you just want to see all the levels, however, A Super Mario Summary is pretty dang easy. There are a couple challenging bits, but for the most part it's just a matter of running and jumping to the other side of the screen. In some late levels it's ridiculously easy if you ignore getting the coins up top, 'cause the challenge was clearly balanced just to make the coins hard to collect. A little more balance in the other direction is advisable.

A Super Mario Summary looks better than a game created in 48 hours normally would, and with some tinkering it could easily stand among those titles that took months to program. As it is now, it's more a fun novelty than a super-awesome game. Still worth playing if you enjoy SMB, however.


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