This game detournes the assumptions of the platform genre that Lab 14
engaged generally and brings them home specifically, to run-and-jumper ground zero with an environment that uncannily echoes the game that broke the genre, Super Mario Bros 1
. There are unimportant distinctions -- for whatever reason, plumber Mario seems to have been replaced by a white bipedal cat-creature, and the enemies are various species of white cloudlike ovals... but like in SMB1
, it is not their devious AI that will be causing the player problems. Instead, it is the very geography of the playfield that trips up the player -- lulling us into a false sense of security with a backdrop that's played before us thousands of times, it savagely wrenches things into a skewed nightmare Mushroom Kingdom more akin to movies of "unplayable" ROM hacks
than to any gameplay from our actual experience. The very laws of physics we have learned and internalized strike against us -- solid ground falls away unexpectedly; pipes fatally launch us into the sky; platforms unhinge and crush us by surprise; the very flagpoles marking the ends of levels duck and weave out of the way or, worse, shoot suppressing cover fire, as jarring and final as the squishing foot in Terry Gilliam
's Monty Python
animation. The star of invincibility is fatal to the touch.
The only way to feel out where the environment will betray the player is to be let down by its apparent safety, over and over again.
There are four levels, modeled with sadistic fidelity after the four areas of SMB
world 1, periodically studded with necessary half-time savepoints. Despite its intentional brutality, however, the game can be finished, and for those who found the too-tough-to-be-released-in-the-West Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
a cakewalk, this might satisfy their hunger for senseless failure.
- "Cat Mario" -- Informal name
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