Sunday 30 November 2014

Super Mario Land (Game Boy review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1989

Super Mario Land was a launch title for the Game Boy and the first Mario title developed without input from creator Shigeru Miyamoto.

It takes place in various regions of Sarasaland and your job is to rescue Princess Daisy who has been kidnapped by an alien called Tatanga. You won't find the usual Mario enemies in here; instead you'll face spear-shooting bees, giant flies, fire breathing lions, robots and hopping stone heads. It still has the signature levels that the series is known for where you have to jump on enemies and work your way safely across platforms. The Fire Flower item is here but it isn't as useful as it was in Super Mario Bros. (NES) as you can't really take out enemies from a distance due to the way it shoots at a 45 degree angle and ricochets off the floor. To use it effectively you have to get close to an enemy which defeats its purpose. At the end of each level there are two paths to choose - the bottom path will take you straight to the next level by walking up to the exit; the higher path requires some effort as you need to jump across temporary platforms to get to the exit. Successfully doing so will take you to a bonus stage where you can earn extra lives or power-ups. This is a nice idea as it rewards skilled gamers who want an extra challenge while not deterring the more casual player. The developers also added a couple of side scrolling shooter levels at the end of World 2 and 4. These are the highlight for me and it's just a shame that they're so brief and simplistic. The main issue with the game though is its length as it only features four worlds with three levels each. It's a breeze getting through the majority of the levels and after only 25 minutes I was already facing the final boss.

Despite its short duration Super Mario Land is still lots of fun to play. Each world feels unique and the music and enemies perfectly capture the mood of the environments. It's so different to the usual Mario platformers yet somehow it works. It's too brief an adventure but it has a simplistic charm that's undeniably Nintendo.

Random trivia: The musical theme from World 1-1 was remixed by an artist called the Ambassadors of Funk (featuring M.C. Mario) and released in 1992. Amazingly, it reached no.8 in the UK singles chart and even featured in the 'Now That's What I Call Music 23' compilation!

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