Be honest, if it weren't for that one stage in smash bros, would anyone remember this game? This feels like the only obscure piece of mario history that never gets referenced again. Ever. Granted, maybe there is some obscure reference to it someplace that's almost obscure as the game itself. I remember seeing somewhere that parts of this game were the inspiration to kid Icarus, so at least it has that going for it.
On a separate note, as soon as I was done with Donkey Kong 3 I was getting ready to play Super Mario Bros until I looked at the chronological order of games in the series and saw this one. I was legitimately debating if I should play it or not, but in the end I rationalized that it DOES center around a character from the Mario universe, so technically it qualifies. Thus, here are my thoughts on Wrecking Crew.
But before I begin, as the title says, I'm giving my thoughts on every mario game that I own. While this definitely doesn't include all of them, it still includes a fair chunk of them. Ever since I was young I've always enjoyed Mario games and I always felt a certain sense of nostalgia when playing them. So i'll just say don't worry, i'm still gonna talk about a pretty big chunk of them. And also, sorry if your favorite doesn't get talked about. Also just warning you, there are some parts of my ramblings where I talk about my nostalgic connection to some of these games. If you're not into that, skip maybe the first paragraph or two.
Don't get me wrong, I always knew this game existed. I just never really bothered to play it or look at gameplay footage of it. As a matter of fact, my first time not just playing the game, but beating it as well was when I did it for this review (speaking of which, that's why this one took so long because I had to actually beat the game first.) I only ever actually gained access to this game after getting N.E.S. Online. I may have played bits of it out of boredom in this past, but this is the first time Ive ever actually beaten the game.
The game centers around the day to day life of Mario and Luigi working at a construction site and destroying parts of an old building that needs to be taken down. The player takes on the role of Mario or Luigi depending on if their player one or player two. Pretty straightforward, nothing to add.
The game consists of 100 original levels (or phases as this game calls them) to beat. After beating all 100, the game loops back to the first one. Each phase is beaten after every block in the phase is destroyed. This is easier said than done however, because each phase in it of itself is a puzzle that has certain blocks needed to be destroyed at a certain time and/or a certain place. The best example of this being ladder blocks that are used to traverse up and down the stage. If they are destroyed, the player cannot use them anymore. Other blocks like the regular ones can be destroyed at any time and nothing would really happen. This puzzle element is really what keeps the game interesting and fresh. While the first phases of the game are a cakewalk, later phases really had me scratching my head wondering what the hell I was supposed to do. Undoubtedly, this is the best part of the game. The loop I mentioned earlier is clearly just meant to make sure the game is simply replayable, as it adds nothing else.
The next challenging aspect of this game is the enemies. There are several types of enemies in this game that approach the player in different ways. There's the gotchawrench which will constantly attempt to make its way towards you, climbing up ladders and using the wrap around screen to do so, then there's the eggplant man which doesn't attempt to make its way towards you, instead just climbs up the ladders aimlessly at a faster pace. These guys can actually be trapped in a couple of different ways though, but usually at the sacrifice of being able to move around freely. For example, there are barrels that enemies can be trapped under, but block the player's path as a result. There's also a door that the player can open which can have enemies walkin into it and temporarily be avoided and are sent to a different place in the level where they can't hurt the player.
The other two enemies are a bit different however. The first is Foreman Spike, a character who looks identical to the player and while cant hurt him directly, will attempt to push the player down to the bottom of the level if he breaks a block that the player is standing near. However, this is actually necessary in some of the phases to beat them. The second is the fireball, which actually returns from Mario Bros. The fireball will appear if the player spends too long on a certain level of the phase. It will move from left to right or right to left attempting to damage the player. It can be ducked under through precise pixel perfect timing, but only then. While personally I think that the gotchawrench and the eggplant man were good enemies, they really should've just stopped there. While yes, Foreman Spike does provide an extra way to get yourself out of tight spaces as well as being necessary in some phases, he's just pretty annoying most of the game. Maybe he could be better if his functions were altered a bit. The fireball on the other hand should be removed entirely. It does nothing but screwover the player and just add unnecessary challenge to what is already a really challenging game.
Speaking of the Mario Bros aspects returning, this game also includes the wraparound screen from Mario Bros. Its importance serves to provide an extra escape from enemies and adds other ways to solve puzzles, and unlike Foreman Spike, it's not annoying at all. In fact, I think it's an underrated mechanic nowadays and really makes the player feel not confined by the screen itself.
Something I should note here is that despite the game claiming you only have 5 lives, the lives in this game are actually unlimited due to the game saving itself once you beat a phase. This was clearly done in an attempt to balance out some of the screwover factors in some of the phases, but then why does it claim that the player only has 5 lives? Why not just come out and say it's unlimited? I didn't really understand that, but once you realize that the lives are unlimited it doesn't matter.
There are ways to “mold” the phase itself so that the player can move around easier, like for example, destroying some of the pillars holding up parts of the level so that the player can move around more and bombs that destroy entire lines of items, prompting calculation before actually committing to the act. Again, a nice way to add some more strategy to phases and will be necessary down the line.
The last aspect of the phases that I want to talk about is the power ups. I've played this game for ten days now, played 113 phases of this game and two custom phases, and I have yet to actually get the majority of the powerups. I know there's one that allows you to destroy things faster and one that lets you destroy things in one swing that normally takes two or three to destroy. I only ever got these two times and while the second one was gone before I knew it the first one lasted me about 3 whole phases or so. I saw one powerup that looked like some kind of suit, but I decided not to pick it up because I would've created more work than it was worth. Apparently how you're supposed to unlock these is by breaking certain blocks in a certain order, indicated by the letters M-A-R-I-O (you're allowed to destroy blocks in between them, but those 5 have to be destroyed in that order.) that only become seeable after that block is broken. As you might guess, this is why I never really found them, and the biggest downfall of this mechanic. Something else about this that just came to mind is that of course now we know why you would have to destroy the blocks in the order of Marios name, but depending on how popular Mario was back then, the player might have had no idea that it was supposed to spell someone's name and wonder what order to destroy them in, let alone what blocks to destroy. Yeah, not a very good way of implementing this.
Occasionally, there will be a bonus phase. In this phase, the player and Foreman Spike are trying to find a coin hidden in one of several blocks. They compete against each other and the person who finds this coin wins the round. As well as that, the more swings you take, the lower the reward will be if you find the coin. Kinda like the powerups, it's almost completely luck based and doesn't really offer anything to the game, only a slight score boost if you care about that sort of thing.
There is a two player mode, where player one takes control of Mario and player two takes control of Luigi. The two alternate turns when one of them dies. I mentioned in Donkey Kong that i'm glad that this method is used as opposed to two players playing at once, and that definitely applies here. There would be so much level cheesing going around it wouldn't even be funny. In and of itself it's not a bad way to get friends in on the fun.
Lastly the game comes with its own level editor where the player can make their own phases. Now trust me, I LOVE level editors!!! I remember counting down the days until Super Mario Maker and when Super Mario Maker 2 was confirmed, I was ready to explode (btw you're all invited to my funeral the day Super Mario Maker 3 is confirmed. Cause of death, excitement.) So when I heard this game had a level editor why was I only kind like “…oh ok…” I think its because the way I see it, there are two kinds of level editors out there, the ones about the product, and the ones about the experience. This is clearly a kind of level editor about the product. Yeah, if you have an idea about a phase that you wanted to see in the game you can make it here, but it's just not very fun to just…mess around in like Super Mario Maker and its sequel. The process for selecting what piece you want is kinda redundant and if you make a mistake when its done, you have to cycle though a bunch of other dumb cutscenes untill you can go back out. Granted this IS a game on the N.E.S. So it's kinda unfair to compare it to level editors today, but that's just why it's not great today and definitely not worth buying the game for unless you're really into that kind of stuff.
In conclusion, I think the gameplay takes a good premise but mixes it with okay and straight up bad premises. I'm sorry but I don't see the other factors saving this.
I know this is an N.E.S. game, so of course it's not gonna look perfect, but this game is hard to look at. I'm sorry, there's just too many ugly shades of green and yellow. I'm convinced somebody could throw up on the screen that the player was playing on and it would just look like the screen glitched out or something, that's how ugly this game looks. There are some nicer pieces, like I thought the eggplant men were kinda good, but it doesn't distract from literally everywhere else in the game.
There's only one song that plays the entire game and a jingle that plays as the level is beaten. Aside from that, there are only just a couple generic sound effects and that's it. The song serves its purpose, and its by no means bad. I also like the cartoony sound effect when Mario or Luigi falls in the game. But yeah not even I can write an elaborate long paragraph for this section.
Do I think this game is bad? No. There definitely show some promising elements here and there and I did have fun solving the puzzles of this game, especially towards the end where I was really scratching my head wondering what to do. But I think there are just one or two many screwover factors for me to not see why this game was quickly forgotten about. Maybe just get rid of the fireball and make the graphics a little better, and maybe I would view it differently. But for now, im gonna give Wrecking Crew a ⅖.
Ways to play this game today
.If you own an N.E.S. and a copy of this game, you can play that way. But assuming you don't have that, I would eliminate this .If you have this game downloaded on Wiishop you can play that way, but Wiishop is closed in 2021, so you'd have to have it already downloaded .If you have a WiiU or 3ds, its available for 4.99$ plus tax. While I dont think id be willing to pay that for this game, I cant think of a better price. I think that this is probably the best way to play if youre solely looking to play this game alone. .Its on N.E.S. online for Nintendo switch, although I definitely wouldn't buy it solely for this game, its rewind feature is the best way to avoid random screwups for this game. (This is how I played it)
So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Id love to hear your thoughts! That gonna be it for this, and happy gaming.
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