Words fail me.
You see, in order to ‘justify’ the time children have spent on video games, Nintendo decided to release games that were somewhat educational. In many cases, Congress was practically demanding it, in light of more violent video games like Mortal Kombat (which is what spawned the rating system we all know today, actually).
Be it an order of the US Congress or their own volition, Nintendo decided to subcontract Software Toolworks’ developer Radical Enterprises to create a series of ‘edutainment’-based Nintendo games.
You know, ‘edutainment.’ The idea that games could be based entirely around non-violent encounters with history, geography, grammar and even math. While the few games were made for the PC (Mario Teaches Typing, anyone?) often found their way into classrooms, most of the ones that were unfortunate enough to reach the home consoles were often pretty bad. This game is one of them.
Mario’s Time Machine is based around a rather simple idea: Mario’s rival and enemy, Bowser the Koopa King, has gone back in time and stolen many important items in History. Bowser then went and put all of these items in a museum in order to… um… run a museum. I guess Bowser got tired of trying to take over the Mushroom Kingdom all the time.
In any case, Mario goes to visit the ‘BOWSER MUSEUM’ – with Yoshi being his transportation. Once Mario gets to the Museum, Yoshi charges in ahead of Mario, and then Bowser comes out of the entrance and ‘razzes’ Mario by making several screeching noises.
Mario assumes the worst – picturing Bowser holding Yoshi in a tiny cage dozens of feet off the ground and connected to a chain and pulley system that keeps Yoshi there. So, Mario jumps into the museum to kick ass!
…or would, if this wasn’t an ‘edutainment’ game.
You see, Bowser is keeping Mario from reaching the room where Yoshi is held captive. With a simple stop sign that screams ‘stop.’ Like I said before, its edutainment. Sense got checked at the door loooooong ago.
So, instead, Mario leaps into one of seven doors strung along the hallway, and the behind each door is a mini-game. Remember the ‘Mario vs Luigi’ mini-game from ‘Super Mario Bros 3’ on the NES? Maybe the arcade/Atari 2600/NES game ‘Mario Bros.’? If you remember either of those, then you know what’s coming up next.
In a room that has a similar layout as those games; Mario must kill three Koopa Troopers – the last of which holds one item from history. However, much like the Mario Bros. game of old, Mario is unable to stomp on top of the Koopas – instead, he must hit them from below.
Once all three are gone, a historical item pops up where the last one was. It will range from Sir Isaac Newton’s apple, to a dinosaur’s egg, to Magellan’s steering wheel. There are even two different flags, neither of them looking like the country the game declares they’re from.
Once the item has been retrieved, Mario then leaps into the green pipe in the middle of the room – the titular Time Machine. From there, the player scrolls left and right to choose a time period, ranging from prehistory to 1989 AD. Of course, there are only 14 slots on the machine, otherwise it would be a long trial-and-error process for the poor player.
…and here’s where logic hits the wall running.
You see, once Mario goes back in time to the period chosen… if it’s not the correct time period for the item (such as trying to match up a dinosaur egg with 1989), then the player must jump back into the time machine and start the process all over again.
Even if it is the proper time period, though, then the player may still have to start all over again!
You see, Mario must gather clues from three ‘?’ blocks scattered about the time period. There are between 4 and 6 clues – some of them ranging from trivia about the person or thing the time period revolves around (such as Abe Lincoln in the 1860’s), and others being mind-numbing blatant clues that literally tell you what is missing from the time period… and those clues often try to make it into a random joke at that.
Even if you know you’re in the right time period…
…and have the right item…
…you can still fail. And it’s not because of Bowser’s minions running amuck in the time periods.
You see, Radical Enterprises thought it would be ‘radical’ if Mario had to find the exact right pixel in order to place the item in question. In some levels, it’s blatantly obvious. The propeller goes on the Wright Brother’s plane, of course. However… most of the clues are far more misleading than even the most incorrect Jeopardy answers.
With Sir Isaac Newton’s apple, for example, the clues all scream about how it fell and was seen at the bottom of the tree… but the place for victory? The TOP of the tree.
This gave me a headache for hours, to say the least.
If one is lucky enough to beat that single time period, the player is rewarded with a newspaper with Mario celebrating…
…and a password that is about 6 digits long. While the ability to record these is nice, it’s still a headache, because the player has thirteen more items to return to their proper time periods.
That’s right, 13.
Once the player is finally done with the fetch-questing those items back to their proper time periods, the Bowser’s door is finally open! Now Mario can go kick ass and rescue his friend and mode of transportation!
…wait, why is that stop sign still there?
…and why does that sign now read ‘test?’
That’s right, boys and girls – you’d better have paid attention to every. Single. One. Of those clues the game haphazardly tossed your way over those 14 stages (and at 5 clues a stage, average, good luck remembering them, too), because the game will now quiz you on your newfound knowledge of history!
Sadly, the three questions the game throws your way do nothing to actually stop your quest to… er…
…you know, by this point, I think many players are just begging for their parents to put in another cartridge – be it even a craptacular game like Hudson Hawk or Urban Champion.
In any case, with the three quiz questions finally answered, it’s time to go kick Bowser’s ass! Sadly, this fight is actually the most lame boss fight in Mario’s 27-year history (1981-2007).
As Mario charges forward, Bowser shows up and… runs right at Mario. The player has to jump on Bowser’s head three times to beat him – and after being jumped on, Bowser will retreat into his spiked shell and spin about for a minute or so.
After three hits, Bowser vanishes in a puff of smoke and a screech of pixilated noise – turning into a key.
Yoshi is free!
The poor child can put in another game!
The ending sequence is just a screen showing Mario celebrating, Yoshi looking sad, and Bowser weeping forlornly as he stares at Yoshi’s ass. And that sentence just brought up more questions than I ever wanted to ask about the Mario universe all at once.
If the player waits for more than a few seconds, the credits will start to roll…
…revealing that four people worked on the game. And one of those people did nothing but supervise. Somehow, though good games have been made with small development teams, this does not shock me one bit.
Now… for the technological chunks of the review: nothing about this game is good or positive.
While the sprites for Mario and Yoshi were taken from Super Mario World, the colors filling in the sprites are limited to the NES’ limited color palate. On top of that, the Koopa Troopa sprites all look like crayon drawings taken from a kindergarten classroom – and Bowser himself looks like a pile of brown and green poop.
The backgrounds, while some are decent, all look like some of the worst MS Paint drawings I’ve seen. Ever. And other times, the developers decided to recycle backgrounds from older Mario games – making Egypt look like Mario 3’s world 2 and Magellan’s world-cruising ship into a Koopa airship for no reason. And the backgrounds that aren’t recycled? Yeah, they’re ****, pure and simple.
Speaking of, the music in this game is far, far worse than the aborted attempt at visuals. You see, none of the music is even remotely related to the music Mario’s fans have come to love from his adventures. Instead, it sounds like someone took a street musician and paid them to play their worst music imaginable…
…and then converted it to the ‘suck’ format, rather than the traditional ‘midi’ format.
I would have ranked the music lower than ‘1’ on the GameSpot scale, but it wont’ go any lower. Shame.
“But Newtype!” the caring parent shouts, “This is an educational game! Maybe it plays well, to justify buying it!”
Well, sadly, no. Mario slides across the ground like Bowser coated his entire museum with ice – and it’s literally impossible to die. You heard me – being trampled by a Koopa Troopa does nothing to Mario except make him curl into the fetal position and cry for a few seconds before jumping back up again. Even leaping onto Bowser’s spiked shell does nothing to faze our hero.
And jumping is so inaccurate that jumping often has a better chance of succeeding when the player is blindfolded.
So, in short…
-Worst. Music. Ever.
-All fun was drained from this game surgically before testing began – it’s a scientific fact.
Honestly, this game is ****, completely and utterly. The only parents who bought this game for their kids must have absolutely hated them and the game console they played. This is the only explanation for this game surviving to be remembered on websites like this.
If you find it for free at a yard sale, it’s best to just leave the yard sale entirely.
1.2 Out of 10.