Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Peak of the Mario Franchise

I have no idea how to discuss 2-D platformers. We all play them. We play them a lot. Sonic, Kirby, Commander Keen, etc. But what am I supposed to say about them? You can engage in an intensive breakdown of the design elements but the problem is that the first rule of a well-designed 2-D platformer is that you should be intuitively sensing the spaces and actions. Any content analysis of this style of game is going to be dubious at best for the same reason. The purpose of a platformer is that you’re using a set of abilities to engage with environmental puzzles that impede your progress. Obviously I love yapping about content if the game’s design actually works with it or it’s relevant to progressing in the game, but the 2-D platformer has more in common with Tetris than it does a brawler, FPS, or RPG.

My pick for Bestest Mario Game Like Evar is Super Mario World, but that’s because I still play the game obsessively when I’m upset and need to not think. It’s a detox game to me, one that I come back to every couple of years and play from scratch to 100% completion. Mario games were a good place to figure out why this title drew me in and others did not because there are so many styles and variations. They always change the games, but just a tiny bit each time. What I concluded was that because of the way the powers and Yoshi were a bit unbalanced, I ended up enjoying the game because it let me choose how I wanted to engage with the environment. Mobility is always the power under debate in a platformer and I liked Super Mario World because it didn’t try to limit my freedom.

This post bothers me because I know there are rough edges present, but I’m not sure where they are. That’s the annoying thing about the critical process. If you want to propose a new approach, there isn’t much chance of getting it right the first time. You just have to dive in and hope for the best.

People will let you know what they think of it soon enough.

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