At last, I can be done with the CD-i. Yes, I'm aware of Zelda's Adventure, but as the game hangs when I try to move to another screen (perhaps warning me of my horrible decision), it's safe to say we can end things on Hotel Mario. And what a game to leave the system on. Oh, I don't mean that in a "this game's horrific" sense, but more in a "I genuinely enjoyed the time I spent with this game" sense. DID I JUST TURN YOUR WORLD UPSIDE DOWN?
I know what you're thinking, somehow: how can a game about opening and closing doors possibly be any fun? Fortunately, Hotel Mario isn't actually about opening and closing doors. Your world just keeps spinning, doesn't it? Yes, you're opening and closing doors, but it's more complicated than that. Jumping into enemy taint will kill Mario on the spot, but getting a face full of monetary genitalia is just fine; elevators defy spacetime itself at the sound of the bell; power-ups are hidden behind certain doors and thin-air. There's a lot of shit going on at one time, and you have to be one step ahead of it all if you want to come out victorious.
And therein lies the charm behind Hotel Mario. There's a very loose, puzzle-like quality behind each stage as you try to manage these various elements, and it's really fun to outsmart the designers and finally finish one of their levels. This only becomes more apparent when considering each hotel's unique quirks, like ice floors or ludicrously huge ghosts. None of that may sound fun, but trust me: it is. Granted, I used the term "loose" because half the time, the puzzle-like quality feels like an accidental result of exploding enemies out of every orifice the game could find, but whatever, results are results. Especially so when most of the levels are short enough that you don't have to invest much into them to get said results. Besides, for those of you utterly beholden to Mario canon (did I seriously just type those last two words?), this game still has those classic Mario mainstays we've all come to know and love. I saw a Starman once, and if you play your cards right, you can get your hands upon the utterly game-breaking fire flower. What more could you want out of a game?
How about ball-busting difficulty? Oh, did I not mention that? Come Hotel 6, prepare to die a lot. Enemies leave their rooms more often and open doors at the least convenient time; loose hit detection allows enemies to kill you by being hit; coins, rather than giving life, now cruelly take it away at the laugh of a cruel trickster god; that same trickster god now switches the elevators around at his arbitrary behest; and, perhaps worst of all, all the levels are now twice as long. Why? Who thought this was a good idea? This adds nothing to the game but time, not just in the sense that the levels are twice as long, but also in the sense that I'm more likely to die and have to replay the now-needlessly-elongated level. And unlike the previous paragraph, this doesn't feel legitimate or enjoyable. It's lacking the sense of control and planning that all those previous levels managed to fake. The game just throws a billion enemies at you at the worst possible times and thinks that's a smart challenge. It isn't. It's crowded and annoying. Infinite continues help, but not by much, especially when you have to reject them in order to save your game. Also, you can't pause. What the fuck?
Speaking of what the fuck: the story. What the fuck? Before Princess Peach was inviting plumbers over to her house for cake, she was inviting them over for spaghetti (presumably). Unfortunately, Bowser captures her ass so he can replace the Mushroom Kingdom with a corporate empire of his own. Only an obsessive-compulsive maniac and his psychotic racist brother can save the Princess now. Thoroughly confused? Well, that's because the story isn't the main appeal of the....story. Look, I'm trying to say that the game looks good, OK? Sure, the technical limitations shine through (especially on poor Peach), but the art style still accomplishes a lot within those limitations. It's vibrant, colorful, festive, upbeat, and a bunch of other words that you'd normally associate with a good cartoon. Overall, a very good reason to check this game out if all that gameplay stuff before wasn't. It's not a bad game, you guys. What else has the gaming community been hiding from me for all these years? Maybe I should check out another "traditionally" bad game to see if the trend holds.
- Hooray for quick puzzle-y action!
- Boo for stupidly difficult final levels!
- I am still undecided on the spaghetti (or lack thereof).
- I'm only just now discovering that there were hidden cutscenes (probably depending on what doors you entered or something like that)?
Written by Richard Wagner, after an extensive two minutes experience with the game:
Spoiler alert: it fucking didn't. Who knew that the general opinion of a game nobody's played could be right for once? Usually, these "bad" games either turn out to be alright (as was the case with Hotel Mario) or at least have something vaguely worthwhile teeming amid the mediocrity (the ZeldaCD-i stuff, Sonic Shuffle, etc.). This game, however, is unrepentant crap. Bubsy II has absolutely no aspirations for being a good game. It's more interested in doing everything in its power to grab my attention than it is in actually providing reasons why I should pay attention in the first place.
For instance: the story. I have absolutely no clue what it is. Our titular bobcat's just wandering around levels doing things, he fights a robot pig, and then the game ends. The only thing I know for certain is that it takes place in a museum, and I had to look that part up after the fact. You guys don't have to be the next Sophocles, but you still have to give me some context so I know just what the hell is going on. But instead, the developers chose to focus on puns and attitude (which, coincidentally, is the name of my upcoming autobiography). The attitude explains itself: it's whacky and trying far too hard to grab your attention. What's more interesting are the puns, if only for how far they miss the mark. They're not funny and they’re very rarely relevant to the situation. For example, one of the plane levels in the game is titled "The Great Goatsby". This is despite the fact that there isn't a single plane anywhere in The Great Gatsby, and the level doesn't feature goats at a greater rate than other levels. The only reason somebody wrote this was because they thought the letter O was hilarious. And that's all with a pun I could understand. Happen upon a reference to something you haven't experienced? Tough shit, because there's more where that came from.
Now for some good news: the worst the game has to offer is behind us. The bad news? What it's offering still isn't good, even if the premise itself isn't offensive. It's just a regular platformer where you stomp enemy brains in until you happen upon the exit. Hell, you even get some non-linear level design, which is exactly the game's problem. Half the time, I have no idea where I'm going. Most of the levels look exactly the same, and the game doesn't point m-OK, to be fair, it does give you an idea of where to go from time to time, but given how often the visual cues lie to you (I once saw two nearby arrow signs pointing me in opposite directions), this still hasn't solved our problem. I still don't have any clear sense of direction within a level. I still end up wandering for far too long in a level, traveling in circles in search of progress. It's like I have no control over the situation and it's entirely dependent on luck whether or not I find the exit. It's clumsy, at best, and many mean words at worst.
Speaking of mean words, the controls! I have a lot of mean words for them. Loose would be one of them. Others would include slow, sluggish, unresponsive, imprecise, slippery, unenjoyable, unfair, hindrance, dense, slutty, moronic, I think you get the point. Now as it is, these various elements are simply bad. What makes them truly awful are the game's focus on speed. Speed without precision is a recipe for repeatedly crashing into enemies and walls. Take note of how both those elements abruptly interrupt the flow and thus completely prevent the speed from actually working. The occasionally wonky collision detection doesn't help, either. But does this game focus on fixing those problems, or even acknowledging them? Not at all. Its time is (apparently) better spent making every little thing in the level animate and make a noise and hold your attention at all costs. Under better conditions, it might sound charming, but after spastically jumping about a level in search of purpose, it quickly becomes grating. Doesn't mean the game's gonna stop, though.
And so we come to the issue central to all the game's problems: it doesn't care about you. Bubsy couldn't give less of a shit about your own existence. It's only interested in forcing its clearly brilliant jokes and scenarios upon you, thinking they're gonna be strong enough to carry the rest of the game. Obviously, they aren't. They aren't enough to make me forget about my complete lack of goals, context, or control throughout the game. If anything, they only amplify whatever animosity I'd already held for them. The only genuinely kind things I can say are that the mini-games are a marginally fun distraction and that the whimsical circus music is alright. Those aren't exactly compelling reasons to play a game, now, are they?
- I have no idea what's going on.
- No, seriously, I have no idea what's going on.
- There's also this feature where you essentially play the game twice over for no evident reason.