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The good, the bad, and the Mario.

I’m reviewing this game as part of a review trade with seiromem, which is fine with me as I’ve been looking for some reason to force myself to start writing reviews again. I don’t normally check out SMBX projects, but I tended to like some of seiromem’s levels in previous iterations of RMN Bros, so I was pretty happy to check this one out.

The premise of the game is the sinister Dr. Toadly has asked Mario and Luigi to recover machine parts from enemy factories in order to complete his latest and greatest invention. Why the Mario brothers are so eager to assist the obviously evil Dr. Toadly in this task is beyond the ken of this simple reviewer. Personally, I’m at least grateful that there was at least something more to the plot than “Mario, save the princess again!” even though nothing is really spelled out explicitly.

Starting the game, we are dropped with no explanation into an unfortunately fairly buggy and incomplete looking section of the world map, with dead ends and incomplete pathways. This suggests a lack of thorough play-testing that, unfortunately, will be a source of many of this level pack’s issues, as we’ll see as I go onward.

The theme of this game is gigantic packs of enemies trying to kill you. seiromem is not shy about putting you up against large, large swarms of koopas, rexes, fish, and other difficult to kill enemies. This tends to make the difficulty fluctuate pretty wildly, as if you have a fire flower, you’ll probably mow through the levels with little effort. Without one, you’re in for a struggle, and some sections appear to be designed with the fire flower in mind, making approaching it with small Mario a very daunting proposition.

In some cases, this overcrowding leads to some interesting innovations. The very first level features a variety of koopas on very narrow platforms. However, the level helpfully provides a Yoshi and a number of yellow shells to eat. On these narrow platforms, suddenly Yoshi’s otherwise useless stomping ability suddenly became a useful asset that made completing the level much easier. I enjoyed this.

In most cases, however, there are so many enemies crowded onto such little screen real estate that progress can be difficult to impossible without taking a hit.

Pictured: Me about to play chicken with a rex.



Enemies do tend to move in patterns, however, so determining which color enemy moves in which way can be very helpful in determining your path through a level. I appreciated this little bit of consistency.

A lot of the levels, however, just feature some flat out bad design decisions. Many levels start with fireballs or large groups of enemies marching straight towards you as soon as the level begins, or at the checkpoint, giving the player little breathing room as soon as they start the level. In general, the player should usually be able to start a level in relative safety. The first castle started me with a fireball headed straight at my face!

The first castle also started me at a checkpoint with no power-ups, forcing me to face the boss as small Mario. This boss, a Birdo supported by an infinite swarm of rexes, was pretty brutal, simply because an endless swarm of large, difficult to kill enemies like rexes makes it really hard to line up a shot on Birdo.

Moving forward, there are a lot of other questionable design choices, and some flat out bad ones, such as killing certain enemies leaving the player in an unwinnable situation. In the second castle, the game at least warned me that this was the case. But in the level beforehand, not so much.

The game does offer some variety, with certain levels having secret entrances leading to “Star Challenges,” where the player had the option to attempt a very difficult challenge in order to win a star. Finding all the stars allegedly unlocks a secret bonus world. However, the challenge involved scaling a vertical shaft lined with bullet bill launchers, using only an ice flower to create platforms for myself. This would be a neat challenge if it was a single section of a much larger obstacle course, but to make an entire level out of this is just mind-numbingly tedious. The fact that the level helpfully includes a suicide option for players who run out of patience is telling.

There were some good levels too, though. My favorite was a Sunken Temple level, which was not only really cool-looking, but of pleasing difficulty and included a Ghost House-style maze of doors which was surprisingly painless to solve. Pyramid Peril featured a Metroid-style escape while being chased by a rising tide of lava which I found to be just the right level of difficulty to make a challenging escape. Each level tended to have its own thematic elements and enemies, and generally stuck to these conventions. The level layouts are usually well-designed, often making use of moving layers, and are generally good about using coins to guide the player where the game wants you to go. The only misstep is the relative rarity of power-ups compared to the huge numbers of enemies.

So what did I think overall? Well, this game has issues. There are a lot of really good ideas at work in this project; enough to carry a game, certainly. But the game is bogged down by the kind of carelessness that tends to plague the RMN Bros games. Not enough careful play-testing seems to be a major factor here. Some levels don’t have checkpoints, the bosses aren’t challenging so much as tests of your endurance, enemy placement is sometimes obnoxious. There’s nothing overtly wrong with the game, but there are just enough little frustrating factors over time building up to leave the player feeling irritated rather than exhilarated as they clear each level.

It’s a game with some really great overall design elements which is unfortunately dragged down in its execution. With a little more dedicated testing and refining, I think there’s a decent game here, it just needs more work first. This pack might be worth checking out, as long as you're willing to take the good with the bad.

Suggestions for improvement:

-Make sure that the starting area and checkpoint of each level are relatively free of immediate dangers.

-Be more generous with power-ups. Each level is brimming with bad guys and having to face that many foes with just a mushroom is a difficult prospect.

-Make sure the player has at least a mushroom before facing a boss, especially a boss that’s going to require a lengthy battle.

-Take it easy on spawners, its easy for screens to become flooded with enemies in very short order if they are abused.

-Take care to make sure that in every level, you can either clear the stage or die at any given point. Don’t ever allow the player to get stranded with no way to win or die. Don’t say “it’s the player’s fault if they do that!” because situations like that should not be possible at all.

-Not every ledge needs an enemy standing on it!

-You used red and blue coins decoratively. I’m generally of the opinion that these kinds of coins should only be used to indicate something significant (such as collecting 8 gives a bonus.) This is more of a nitpick than a design flaw but it’s one that bothers me.

This is the least sexy beach party I’ve ever been to!


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Seiromem
I would have more makerscore If I did things.
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Never said thank you for some reason so I'll say it now:
Thank you for doing this!
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