Platforms: PC (Linux, Mac OS X, Windows)
A non-profit, built from the ground up release that in all likelihood could be sued by a list of huge names in the industry sounds like an unusual sell, and for all accounts Mari0 is just that. Fusing together stalwarts Super Mario Bros (1983) and Portal (2007), has allowed developers Maurice Guégan and Sašo Smolej to create a postmodernist view of the evolving nature of the platforming genre.
The gameplay is doubtless the reason Mari0 emerges as an enticing prospect for gamers, first and foremost allowing veterans to see the advances the genre has made from the simple side-scrolling linear nature that the Mario franchise popularised, to the challenging physics based puzzler of Portal. With Mari0, players get to see these advances first hand, as the player is given a portal gun, thus opening and subjecting the world of Mario to the rigours of the player’s imagination.
Every player, grizzled or fresh-faced, has the same expression playing a Mario game, that harmonious mix of smiling and frowning, delight infused with the knowledge that something as cheap and cheerful as a strolling turtle can end your hard earned level. This feeling only intensifies when handling the portal gun. Every playthrough can be totally different based on the player’s whims and ideas.
The developers have recreated a loyal and impressive version of the eighties benchmark; it is remarkably clean and crisp, with minimal glitches or lag time, all of which seem to have been ironed out via rigorous fan testing. Along with developer StabYourself’s other nostalgic parody Not Tetris (another physics based jaunt), we can only hope that they will continue their inspired ways of looking at videogame past to promote its future.
From a co-operative standpoint, Mari0 rivals the recently released New Super Mario Bros. for sheer crowded action. Half the fun is realising your own short attention spans will need to work together, with the other half devoted to the mishaps of having four people being able to defy the laws of linear momentum on the same screen. Added to that developed Portal style vistas and level building options, Mari0 boasts a surprisingly long shelf life.
The full depth of Mari0 can take a while to sink in, as it can be argued that one could merely play the game without using the intrinsic portal gun, thus portraying the game’s face value to full effect, and StabYourself have done justice to the Miyamoto brain child. The graphics and vistas have been lovingly recreated, and the charming 8-bit soundtrack will melt the heart of even the most adamant Sega sympathiser.
Questionable developer name and obvious breaches of copyright aside, Mari0 is a lovingly realised concept, and is a fitting ode to thirty odd years of platforming evolution.
By Jack Walsh