MARIO - The game I owe my Keratokonous (Well that perhaps is another blog post altogether) to... :P But, Yup.. the game of my childhood. This time seeing it from the eye of a Game Designer who is playing it for the first time..!
SUPER MARIO BROS
Mario the legend in video games or if I may put it as Mario – a synonym for video games which every child or adult has at some point of time associated with the game whether figuratively by being glued to the monitor or passively seeing others play. A mention of the video games doesn’t go without the mention of Super Mario Bros. It’s been more than three decades since the creation of the character, but till today the legend lives in our hearts and minds.
Not being a game freak myself, Mario of course went unheard. It was the buzz word of the days of my childhood. Taking game design as a part of my course curriculum has given me an opportunity to analyze the game from various aspects - conceptual, design, and technical with a critical eye.
GAMING SESSION 1:
Mario and his younger brother Luigi, both plumbers from Italy live in the mushroom kingdom reigned by King Koopa - a dragon like figure. Mario’s aim is to save the beautiful Princess, Toadstool or Princess Peach, who is kidnapped by Koopa. He has to successfully cross eight worlds to finally reach the “damsel in distress.”
En route, each castle is protected by dragons (minions) with super powers like shooting fire balls. Mario gathers all energies and powers by eating various kinds of mushrooms while finding his way out of sewers and tunnels.
Mario collects coins which add up to an additional life with every 100 coins. To get rid of the enemies, i.e creatures coming out of the dirty sewers, Mario jumps on them smashes their head and keeps going. The journey of the little boy is very exciting with a different theme of each world like the water world, ice world and of course the fire world etc. and Mario strives through it all.
With nothing as sophisticated as the PS3 Dual shock, I was all geared up for a headstrong start of super Mario with my Logitech game pad…
Select : 1 player game
“…..tdd tt dd…”
I had only three lives to begin with. How on earth was I supposed to cross 8 stages and save the beautiful Princess with those ugly creatures coming from every nook and corner of the kingdom?
But Thank God! There were at least some things in my favor too. Yes….the gold coins among the brick walls and the mushrooms. Yes, they made Mario bigger and equipped him with firing abilities. I was enjoying every jump, every smash but…. there came a pit and I fell into it. L
Left with just two more lives. I started all over again. But this time was better. I accidently bumped into a brick wall and there came out a slightly different mushroom. Eating that up gave me another life…Wow! That was cool stuff. I was beginning to unfold the mysteries of the mushroom kingdom…J
But there came a pit again and I couldn’t manage to jump over it
“…doop….” I fell again! L
Giving it yet another try, this time with extra level concentration and adrenaline flow, I managed to master the moves and crossed the small pits on my way. Did that mean that it made my life easier? Naah… there came bigger pits and uglier creatures. ”…Doop…” I was doomed again and this time for a Sunday breakfast to one of the ugliest turtles that came out of the tunnel Land there it went…
GAMING SESSION 2
Huh…. did that mean I gave up? No way… I was finally living my childhood and Mario was undoubtedly addictive. I didn’t think even once before starting the game again and this time with a lot more enthusiasm. Also, being totally engrossed in the game I had forgotten that I was playing for an assignment and needed to look at the game from a game designer’s point of view.
The controls of the game are simple with forward, backward, jump, fire and speed buttons on the game. With such easy controls of the game, the challenge lies in the adept of moves and timings and finding the mysterious shortcuts and way outs from various stages.
The second session was equally intriguing as the first one. The manner in which the mysteries of sewers and tunnels or the hidden “One up” mushrooms and coins were unfolding at each accidental step was amazing. The absence of a map in the game created the ambiguity and added another level of fun to the gaming experience. The originality and unfamiliarity of the new enemy characters made the game special. The goofy looking characters like turtles, ducks and frogs added to the comical background.
I had finally crossed the first world, when I experienced something totally unexpected. Treading through the wonderland, happily eating mushrooms, collecting coins and shooing away all the ugly enemies, I entered a tunnel which led me to the water world. Mario was now swimming instead of jumping around. That was so cool! I was excited to see the all fresh background and creatures. They were getting better and prettier. Turtles and ducks were replaced by jelly fishes and flying fishes. The music score changed too and it was an altogether new experience.
The innovative ways of defeating the enemies by climbing on their backs or eggs than actually killing them as it would be in other stereotype game plays, adds to the fun.
Even though the game sticks to 2D, the design team has done a great job in making it lively and vibrant. The background is simple and flat with a play shadow and gradient at some places like tunnels and sewers, to give it a 3 dimensional or rather 2.5 D effect. Seeing the gaming scenario of today’s times, the graphical effect of Mario can be improved upon even though remaining 2D is not a problem. We can enhance the backgrounds perhaps with a more glossy look to keep the legend alive for the generations to come.
The animation of the figures accentuated by the sound effects for every jump, bounce, spin or power up, is very basic yet powerful. This is another arena for improvement with the latest and high tech animation software’s and techniques.
Nintendo Wii recently produced the New Super Mario Bros. that too in 2D. Contrary to the massive 3D development in the gaming and film industry these days, 2D won the rounds in this case with the launch the game which won the best game title recently.
During the two gaming sessions, I found that I was playing the same levels over and over again, but I continued to find them equally interesting, difficult and as fun as they were in the first round. There aren’t many games that provide the level of fun or replay value of the Super Mario Bros.
Playing Mario for the course has given me an assignment for submission and a favorite past time for after school hours and weekends. J If the New Super Mario Bros on Wii is a testament to the lifespan of our favorite Italian plumber, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see him living for another 25 years!