December 14, 2009

New Super Mario Bros. Wii – The Jerk Factor

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:18 am

The Jerk Factor

Like most fragile and mentally fragmented individuals, I’ve developed a few strange rules to regulate my life and make for interesting conversations over the years. I don’t eat seafood because fish have sex in the water, I buy fattening treats and leave them unopened to bother others, and I refuse to play a Super Mario Bros. game when fellow gamers are in the same area.

That last point should be a golden rule of thumb, because if you’ve grown up playing from the earliest block busting beginnings through to the Yoshi riding bliss, you are a Mario expert. It doesn’t matter if you agree with that generalization or not. The truth is that there may be no other series as personal to those that grew up playing it as side-scrolling Mario titles. As a result, turning any of these games on while surrounded by other gamers is inviting backseat gaming and controller grabbing as everyone in the room feels more capable than whoever is in control.

This touches on the frustration of the series throughout my childhood, the dreaded two-player option that forced me to watch someone else play while my fingers itched for a turn and I tried to not act excited when the other player died.

The Jerk Factor
So along comes New Super Mario Bros. Wii, aiming to amend for the false and earlier promises of fun with friends by putting a wiimote in every eager hand and creating a chaotic scene in familiar environments. As far as multiplayer goes, there’s no arguing with the results. I immediately brought the game to play with my girl’s family, and playing for an hour reliably delivers an hour of laughter every time. Plenty of these laughs are at another player’s expense, whether it was my girl crying a river of tears while watching her Yoshi disappear into a pit of quicksand, or having my jump from one sand geyser to the next ruined by whoever the hell was playing as Luigi and decided to use my head to make their own jump that much longer.

Early on into these experimental sessions, it was also decided that I was a jerk. As you might suspect, this wasn’t a revelation, but it still stung a little.

It’s one thing to be at a press event and stealing power-ups from other journos who quickly decide to stop talking to you. But it’s entirely different when you’re knocking your girl’s father into a pit or pushing her off screen while rushing to the peak of a castle. It wasn’t long before I felt the slanted glances burning holes in the side of my head from all directions, and comments turned from low-key hostility toward a full and proper declaration of my jerkdom, all of it meant to guilt me into trying to change the way I play.

The Jerk Factor
It’s a difficult proposition, because when it comes to Mario my thumbs have a will of their own. That old Mario instinct, and the fact that the games have always been a very personal experience makes me oblivious to the concerns of others. When I see platforms I jump to them, and when I see power-ups I grab them, it’s as natural as taking a breath.

In my defense, the game was built for jerks, and anyone who says different should be singled out as a whiner. The stages might pan the camera back to give all four players a wider view of the playing field, but they remain identical in single-player mode sans the extra power-ups, leaving them as primed as ever for only one Mario to master them and reach the flag. Were the game more honest about this, it would do away with decency and award a ranking for biggest asshole at the end of each stage.

After all of this self-reflection I’ve decided to feel less apologetic about the entire situation and revel in my jerkdom.

The Jerk Factor
There’s plenty of other Mario musings to be had from the title. Because it is a series where my mind checks out and my thumbs take over, it’s entirely easy to fall into the formula again and again. I don’t think there’s any point in whining about things it does differently that I lament. My masterpiece was Mario World, and that will remain the peak for the series in my memory regardless of what Nintendo continues to create.

World Eight seems to deserve some special mention this time around however. While the first four worlds do little to distinguish themselves from the DS game, World Eight offers some environmental interactions and challenges that feel ever so slightly refreshing in comparison. This sensation is no doubt aided by a final confrontation with the big boss that legitimately surprised me despite the short lived nature of the sequence.

The game still proves something I find myself rushing through rather than savoring and exploring every inch of as I once did however. It makes me wonder if games can’t have deep secrets anymore, because everything has to be upfront to the point of tripping over it.

But take these thoughts with a grain of salt, because I am a jerk after all.

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