Name: Mario & Wario
Format: Super Famicom
Region Reviewed: J-NTSC
Year of Release: 1993
It's time for this blue lovin' reviewer to see red again! By that, of course; I mean that I – Olly023 – the one with a Sonic bio picture; tackles a game from the rivals. Basically, its a Super Famicom review. Not just that, but one from the Mario franchise at that. No, the sky isn't falling, just yet at least!
Mario & Wario is arguably one of the more quasi-obscure subsection of video games the Big N have released featuring their iconic plumber. Both titular characters appear (Wario as non-playable villain of the piece), along side Peach and Yoshi, with many a cameo strewn throughout for good measure. By why so remotely obscure? Well, that'd clearly be down to the fact that (to my knowledge at least), it's original release was local only to Japan. Being a Super Famicom exclusive obviously doesn't allow for as wide of an acclaim in the hive mind of the average Joe gamer. Of course and most typically though, the game isn't even in the Japanese language, but in English – thus instantly becoming perfect import fodder for those out there of that particular persuasion. A kind afterthought, perhaps? Or purely coincidental? Most likely the latter. Derp.
Something noteworthy in all this that'd be a crime to not mention in this review, is that Mario & Wario is a GameFreak game! Yes!! If you are unaware of GameFreak, then you be crazy. But for the two readers who have no idea what I'm chatting about here: they made bloomin' PokeMon. Continue to do so, too. But when Nintendo don't/didn't have them locked in a basement with intention of only allowing them to birth another Pikachu related cash-cow fresh for milking, they actually made other games. Mario & Wario is one such game. It's also not their first Mario spin-off for Nintendo, as they had already developed Mario & Yoshi (simply known as Yoshi in the States, or Yoshi's Egg in Japan), a poorly received (critically, at least) puzzle game on the NES and Game Boy. The studio's figureheads all had their hands in this one, too. From the Miyamoto-mentored Satoshi Tajiri heading up the design, to the acclaimed Junichi Masuda composing the music. The game up for review has even been referenced in PokeMon and other Nintendo titles by the hand of HAL, no less. Pretty, pretty good.
But Olly, what's it all about?! Yeah, fair point. Enough random trivia, history and gushing...
Mario & Wario in short is a side-scrolling puzzle game with a simple point and click interface. While that doesn't sound like the most exciting thing in the world when said out loud – trust me, hang in there. The game requires the use of the mouse accessory to play, the very same popularised/closely associated with the Mario Paint bundle. For those looking to own and the collectors amongst you, you're able to easily find a bundle edition of this, too (ie: the game and mouse in a box). Your beloved joypad gets a rest on this one. You get the choice of either Mario (medium speed), Peach (slow) or Yoshi (fast), that all impact on the game play in their own way by their effect the challenge of each level. The player doesn't actually control one of these Super Mario series stalwarts, instead you take control of a fairy called Wanda.
You guide Wanda around with the mousey mouse and utilise the left button to have her bust out magic from Wanda's wand. Yessir. The right button pauses. Blech. The wand either acts as a weapon to end the lives of enemies obstructing the walking characters path, or to set up blocks for them to walk on (which you can erase by smashing back into oblivion) that are made obvious by the outline of where it could/should be. It's all rather intuitive and very nicely designed, in my opinion at least. It adheres to the basic non-scriptured commandments of typical GameFreak game design. Easy to learn in a way that guides the player without the need of a tutorial. As such, the difficultly level never comes as an unwanted spike but with natural progression, presented within Mario & Wario as additional hazards (and enemies) with each subsequent level becoming a tad more sprawling and/or mind-bending. Worth noting, you can even have a sneak peak of the layout before pressing the button to start at the beginning of each stage, so you're never heading in blind (pun intended). Think of this as a bolder variation on the core Lemmings mechanic and that would have you best set for what to expect when firing the cart up.
Wario enters the fray by adding the component most important for why you're guiding folk in the first place, as he drops something (a bucket, an egg, etc.) on Mario/Peach/Yoshi's head(s), thus eliminating their ability to see. Instead of them just taking said item off (which would render the game non-existent, but this is a video game with video game logic, deal with it), they wander about aimlessly in their quest to meet up with Luigi at each levels end. That's the goal, here. After each section you can bonk Wario's noggin as he's flying about the screen in a clickity-click boss battle bonus to collect up some coinage to go toward points and one-ups, the latter of which you're gonna want. Enemies within the levels include angry birds, bats and the like that are defeatable (as mentioned, bonk them and they go away), alongside the more hazard-like spikey balls, fireballs, etc. As you move through each stage through the worlds you'll encounter beds of spikes, springs, breakable blocks, timed magic blocks (and untimed, which are the first), smaller blocks, escalator-like ladders, etc. If you hit the stars before the character walks into them, you'll gain a points boost, so that's a pro-tip and to gain the coins from the coin blocks it's just a case of clicking them repeatedly. Mushrooms are also collectable. Each new hazard you encounter comes naturally, as you progressively become more proficient and skilled as a result, all skills needed in the much trickier 9th and final unlockable world (or “Level” as the game puts it).
Nowadays, the buzzword for simplistic, near arcade-style, self-contained games such as Mario & Wario is “casual”. It's a casual game, for casual gamers, if you will. But, that's not a bad thing, that's a good thing – no – that's a great thing, actually. Why? Well, when it's done right, it's bloody fantastically addictive. As such, it is one for everyone. Quite literally, everyone! Pick up and play at its finest, monies and/or emulation knowledge permitting, that is. Yet that doesn't mean its a breeze, the struggle is real. For that, I applaud. Not always do you need complex game design to have a complex game, which Mario & Wario showcases beautifully through its brain-teasing level design over complicated means of input. Hell, as it's a mouse game, you can play it literally one handed. Win. If you're burnt out on frustrating action or tedious RPG, this is the perfect route to travel.
I am personally a fan of the chosen art style of Mario & Wario. Keeping with the simplistic design, it's bright, bold and most definitely kid-friendly. Each zone-style world (“Level”) has nicely detailed backdrops which is where the majority of the aforementioned cameos can be found, from Blue Yoshis and so forth. The animation is smooth and everybody has a nice cartoonish outline. Mario et al actually look more appealing here than in the main series' Super Mario World. At least in my humble opinion, that is. Sure, there's no over the top Mode 7 or anything, but graphically it complements the gameplay just enough so that it's not acting as a distraction but neither is it really pushing the SFC's technical limits by any sense of the notion. Everything pops and is lush, even if it isn't doing any Konami-esque craziness with the visuals.
The music here is samey and repetitive, while complimenting the graphical elements to a tee. It sounds all a bit Disneyfied, or so is the best I can explain it. Think of riding “It's A Small World” multiple times and you'll be along the correct line, I feel. It's catchy, it's jaunty and adds more than subtracts, but again most definitely is repetitive which may grind over time if and when you fail a level over and over, which may well have you reaching for the remote. It didn't bother me and I was humming along in no time, but that's that. Any additional sound FX are few and far between, if honest, but fit the Mario mould as one may expect.
There are cons, as you may expect. There is the occasional moment where the limitations of Nintendo's mouse become glaringly obvious with the need of pin-point precision. Something that can be overcome with emulation and a more contemporary mouse, of course; but for the purists out there it's just something that'll have to be overcome to enjoy (and y'know beating the game). With the addition of choice with the challenge is an obvious pro in my view, so that works. Overall the challenge is fair and fun, with the increase in difficulty emerging when necessary and expected, rather than blind-siding you with an out-of-nowhere BOOM! IN YO FACE!! The kiddie exterior may sucker the player in, but this is far from a game just for kids, as already explained in this review.
Essentially, the longevity of Mario & Wario is purely down to how much you click with the game, because of its nature of arcade design. For me, it's always a fun diversion from the more “epic” tomes in the form of video games that the SNES/SFC presents the majority of the time. Like a great beat-em-up, you're back for more simply through want to crash boredom. Or, alternatively nab them points, beat yourself by beating your previous score and/or speed. Think of it like golf. Yeah, that'll do for an analogy. All very subjective.
Overall, I love Mario & Wario! Buuuut...That conclusion may have been clear by this point. It's a game that should never have been confined to Japan exclusively (which the mouse accessory in general was more widely accepted anyway, to be fair) when you consider the likes of American releases such as Mario's Time Machine and other such edutainment ilk. If the whole world got the ho-hum Yoshi's Safari to back the SuperScope, why not this for its own peripherals catalogue? I mean, I understand dicking over Europe, it's what Ninty loved to do after we all embraced Sega in the 80's – but the North American market didn't get this?! It's so strange to think. That said, the internet has thus opened our eyes to possibilities beyond strict region sales, so now the time for Mario & Wario is to shine! It'd also make a great release and/or remake on something like the 3DS or less likely the Wii U. In fact, it may even be best (relating back to the casual gaming talk) as an iOS release worldwide, with the player using the tap-a-tap interface over a mouse. Then again, this is Nintendo. That would be a tad too logical, I guess...That said, you could make the argument that this was the precursor to the Mario Vs. Donkey Kong series that are similar in fashion to this. That said, shut up coz Mario & Wario! Yeah!!
Verdict:- Yeah, the scores do seem a bit uneven by the time you hit the overall, but the Playability really does take over and truly cannot be understated. Plus, it's my review! So, there!!
But seriously, I absolutely adore/d Mario & Wario for exactly what it is. That being a very nice looking, well designed puzzler with simple yet strong mechanics. It's addictive enough to return to and easy enough to pop in, blast through a couple of stages, switch off and so on.
The perfect "casual" game and totally overlooked in Mario canon. Don't overlook it yourself, because this totally gets Olly023's seal of approval.
Second Opinion:- Bzztt... Welp, seems Olly023 does it to Transbot again!! How many times does this robot have to signal that he don't do puzzle games!!!
That said, he can get a pass for this one as much as he did with Pac-Panic, because much like that this is a strong puzzler for puzzle people. So, if you want something other than Tetris with a cool gimmick? Nab this and give it a go, why not..?
It's aiiight by me doe...
Transbot Scores:- 7 out of 10