Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Check out cranky pants over here

Above: Four characters having an adventure. (Not pictured: four players beating each other to a pulp.)

My review of New Super Mario Bros. Wii is up now at I did not like it. It has all of the frustration and none of the fun of past Super Mario Bros. games. Like many people, I have a Pavlovian response to the series, especially the sounds of Mario jumping and coins being collected and all that, but in this case I also had less pleasant flashbacks to childhood temper tantrums, usually triggered by a Hammer Brother.

I noticed that the manual tries to play up the unpredictable nature of the multiplayer, sort of jokingly suggesting that you might choose to grief your allies rather than help them. This would be all well and good if such a thing were optional, but instead the experience of playing this game with somebody else is an unbroken series of cheap, obnoxious deaths. For all the good that the bubble system does -- and it does do a lot of good -- you can't account for the many creative ways this game will find to screw you.

I'm getting angry just thinking about it.


chesh said...

I was actually thinking about this very thing last night, trying to explain -- in my head -- why gaming is so great right now. To my mother. I put NSMB at the simplest end of a spectrum containing Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, and EVE Online.
These games don't seem too similar at first glance -- even the two multiplayer shooters by Valve diverge massively from one another in the experience you'll be having from moment to moment -- but they also represent one of the best things about games. While all four offer a deep programmed environment to interact with, the point of the game is ultimately the interaction you have with the people you're playing with or against. They all give you the tools to royally fuck the experience up for others (especially in TF2 and EVE, which are both deliberately competitive), but the rewards that can be reaped when you put differences aside and work together are vastly greater than what can be achieved alone.
My first moments in NSMB were incredibly frustrating, particularly the realization that the other player was actually a physical presence in the world that I could bump into, rather than harmlessly run past, but we were able to accomplish so much more than either of us would have been able to alone. Ultimately, it's the game that sold me a Wii (with a minor helping of a vicious jonesing for some Metroid).

Melf_Himself said...

"an unbroken series of cheap, obnoxious deaths"

You've missed the point of this game... This is one of the most hilariously fun gaming experiences that I've ever had with another person. The comical ease with which you can kill each other is a big part of the charm. If my carebear girlfriend can take it and giggle unstoppably about it, you must have been having a really bad day when you tried this.

Mitch Krpata said...

Chesh, I think you're right about that. It really seems like there's been an increased emphasis on cooperative play lately, and on games that need other people in them to make them whole. It's a good trend.

Melf, people keep saying things like that, but it's not the experience I had at all. My wife wasn't taken in by it, either, which is why I'm especially baffled by all the comments about non-gamer significant others and family members who have flipped for this game. (Although I'll grant that playing games with me is probably not very fun, and that might have been the problem.)

Anonymous said...

Let me preface this by saying I have not played the game, but this is EXACTLY what I thought of the game when I saw it at E3. It's why I found it so surprising how many people commented on how well it all worked.

chesh said...

Mitch, I actually completely forgot my main point. That'll teach me to post comments right before I go to bed.
In addition to being able to do more together in these and similar games, it's the stories you make when playing with other people that really make them rewarding. Even in the relatively simple framework of an NSMB or TF2 level, every experience is going to be different because of that second level of interaction with the other player(s).

Mitch Krpata said...

No doubt about it. I feel that way about the Left 4 Dead games and Borderlands. I just wish my story had been a little more pleasant in this case!

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