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There's Neo Way

  • Frogge
  • 02/14/2019 11:16 PM
  • 163 views

Neo Retro Super Mario Bros by Ratty524
Length: ~2 hours


If there's anything I'm hyped for right now, it's the upcoming release of Super Mario Maker 2. How could I not be, have you seen how fucking dope it looks? It's like the Super Mario Maker I always wanted its predecessor to be. But of course, long before Super Mario Maker was even a thing, we had an engine just as powerful, Super Mario Bros X. So this is my second review of a SMBX game on the site, and I am by no means a Mario expert, so I don't know how reliable this review will really be, but I do have a couple things to say about it.

Neo Retro Super Mario Bros is precisely what it sounds like from the title. Neo instead of New almost feels like a typo here because of how much New would actually fit this game. It's basically like a combination of the first Mario game and the New Mario Bros series. I think Ratty, for the most part, actually does a pretty good job of matching the style of level design that the main series has. There's levels that are a lot more akin to that of the original, very plain and straightforward, but there's also the New Bros type of levels that introduce a gimmick early on into the level and then build the rest of the level based on that. Ratty is a level designer who usually has a good idea of what he's doing. Emphasis on usually. Sadly, Neo Retro features a ton of bad design choices scattered across too. I realized almost instantly that Ratty made this game when he didn't have his full grasp of Mario level design just yet because a lot of things present here are design choices that would absolutely get the level points redacted in the SMBX contest Ratty later went on to host. There's pipes that straight up drop you off at points where you can die if you're not quick to react and multiple blind leaps of faith. It's not too bad for most of the game. That being said, I'm sorry to say this, but the final world is absolute garbage. Like, the entire final world. Not the final level that's called final world. Yeah, it's a bit confusing, I know, so I'll just say the final five levels. The tank level is super difficult and the only time in the game I ended up getting so frustrated I ended up using cheats (and to be honest with you I died so many times I got kind of fed up and just kept godmode on for the last two levels as well), but even then, it's not a badly designed level. Unlike the first two levels of that world. Holy fuck are those two bad. The first one in particular is much worse as the enemy placement is absolute bullshit and makes the level near impossible to travel through. It doesn't help that the game hides its powerups in ditches that have multiple enemies for the first level, and I never managed to get out of the ditches without losing the power up, rendering it completely useless. The game kinda just throws every single enemy at you at the same time. No, seriously, you have to deal with bullet bills, a hammer bro, a jumping goombda and a lakitu at the same time, and all four appear while you're trying to get a powerup, and you can't even take your time and carefully take them out because the damn lakitu fills the entire screen with spinies in no time. The second level of that world isn't as bad, but still has the same issue with enemy placement. Honestly, I was really enjoying the level design up until the last world, and the only reason I didn't rage quit was because I had already played too much of the game to miss out on the makerscore by not writing a review.


Oh look, another leap of faith. Just what I wanted!


Luckily, while the final world is horrible, the rest of the game isn't that bad. The only other complaint I have is with the castles, some of which have jumps that are straight up near impossible without a leaf. The second world's castle was also horrible for its moving platforms in tight spaces and the insta kill lava. That was the only level I hated outside of the last world. The worlds themselves are rather short, only being three levels each, and there's a grand total of about 7 worlds (if I'm remembering correctly), so this isn't a particularly long game. It's not too hard either, and I actually never ended up running out of lives any time except for one castle before the final world. I did die at least a good hundred times in the final world to make up for it, though. I guess the game's a bit challenging because powerups are really scarce in most levels, but I managed to get through most of them without taking damage just fine. One thing I wish the game had was more secret exists and maybe a few skips. It feels so weird to play a Mario game that doesn't have a single secret exit because pretty much every main series game has those. There's a good bunch of secrets to find, but most of it either leads to a 1-up or just a bunch of coins. Some of them are really obscurely hidden too, so it feels so weird to me to stumble across a really well hidden secret vinestalk going up into the sky only to discover it's just an area filled with coins. I suppose coins are pretty useful for extra lives since 1-ups, while easy to find in this game, are actually kind of hard to obtain for always being located near pits where you can easily lose them, but like I said, the game's fairly easy save for a few levels, so you never end up having much need for them anyway.

The worlds are kind of cool though. There's nothing too out of the ordinary here, just your typical grasslands, snowscapes, deserts, et cetera, but in comparison to the actual first NES Mario game, there's still plenty of variety here. The visual style is basically that of Mario All Stars, which is SMBX's default visual style for the SMB1 tiles. There's a good bunch of new tiles, sprites and backgrounds to shake things up, though, and it blends together pretty seamlessly. Even Mario has a skin more akin to the style of All Stars. I like how he does a little peace sign when he's spin jumping, it's a cute detail. Levels themselves are designed in ways that are pleasing to look at and there's hardly anything I thought looked ugly.


My lifelong dream.


The only other thing to bring up here is the story. And, well, it's a Mario game, there's not really a whole lot to bring up. You're thrown into the game with no idea as to what's happening, but you do find out a little bit as you progress. I kind of like this concept, having Mario uncover the story as he goes along rather than just get an intro cutscene and then no story at all for the rest of the game like most modern Mario titles do. The concept here is that you're collecting parts of a giant crystal ball that can grant wishes. Kind of a big missed oppurtunity to have a twist villian here, because I was genuinely predicting that by the end it would turn out that Peach is evil and she was actually the one who destroyed the ball to grant her own greedy wishes. Of course, that was just wishful thinking on my end, it's actually just our good buddy Bowser who's behind everything as usual. Most Bowser fights in this game are just the default SMB1 ones with you having to jump over him to hit the axe and destroy the bridge. I kinda just ended up damage boosting through every single battle. He does change in the final levels, though, but then he just becomes the default SMB3 Bowser boss. I'd have appreciated more variety in the boss battles, but to be fair, boss fights in the main series Mario games have always been really plain and way too easy, so nothing new here. I do like that the actual final boss is a custom one, and not against Bowser, though. The most memorable final bosses in Mario games have always been the ones that aren't against Bowser for me. Sorry, BowWow, you've just gotten cliche at this point.

Neo Retro Mario Bros is a decent game, all things considered. It's not particularly outstanding game, but there's levels well worth playing. It's just a shame that some bad design choices and an absolutely horrible final world gets in the way. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to find out Ratty actually designed this game backwards and learned how to make good Mario levels as he went along, because the entire final world feels like someone's shitty Mario Maker levels. I think there's room for improvement, but you could give this a go if you're looking for a fairly short, decent SMBX experience. Final verdict, three balls out five.

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Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12637
I too would like to get all the balls.

Anyway, thanks for the review! Iirc I was trying to make things Nintendo Hard towards the end and wind up putting in a lot of cheap design choices for the sake of "difficulty" that honestly brought this game down, in hindsight.
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