Remember when Mario and Luigi were just Mario borthers? There was nothing super about them; they were merely two plumbers making an honest living. That's the story behind the original Mario Brothers game. Sort of. Well, a very big sort of.
I no longer have the manual for the 2600 game, Mario Brothers so I'll retell the story from how I remember it. Mario and Luigi's pipes have been infestated with terrible, horrible creatures, and they must exterminate them. Well, my story might not be as snazzy but it will help you through this review. It certainly was not as intricate a plot as Nintendo would weave with Super Mario Borthers, but, hey, it was a start for the two brothers.
Is it possible any longer to objectively judge 2600 games for graphics in the age of Nintendo 64s and Voodoo 3D chips? I'd say yes, when you have enough other games to compare it to. I have quite a few 2600 games and feel that I also have a good memory of what I thought back then there 1983. Was it that long ago? Ack.
To be honest, though, my first memories of this game were after the great video game crash (of that very same year) and it was with a friend. The NES had already been crowned king of video gaming but my poor friend still had the venerable 2600. So, we plugged it in, grabbed two joysticks and stepped into our roles of Mario and Luigi. And we had some pipes to clean.
The graphics really are great for a 2600 game. Some vibrant colors, little flicker, and some great details. The animation of the borthers running are especially well done. All of the enemies are also well-drawn and the fireball which harrasses you at every turn is also a neat effect. The characters in this game are a far cry from the Nintendo version, but they still are great. The only disappointment graphically, for me, is that the coins are merely square blocks. Neatly colored blocks, though, so its okay.
It is hard to judge the sound of a 2600 game. As far back as I remember, I had to have a record player nearby to drown out the incessant beeps of the 2600. Yes, that's right, a record player. With vinyl LPs (Long Playing, kiddo) like Men at Work. Whatever happened to them, anyway? Oh well.
The sounds in Mario Brothers are mediocre. About the only thing you'll hear is this strange buzzing sound of a fireball and the screeching stops of the brothers which gets old really quickly. Why does the fieball buzz? I don't know; I didn't write the game. Don't buy this game for the sound. If you truly need a representation of a 2600 that did sound correctly, grab a copy of Moon Patrol. It is music to my ears even today.
This is what sold 2600 games, right? They really deserved to sell Mario Brothers. It is a blast to play, especially with two players. It starts at a pace that anyone can keep up with and soon turns into one hectic game.
The monsters get tougher and tougher as you go along, as you might expect. Unlike Super Mario Brothers, you don't simply jump on an enemy to dispatch of them. You must jump up and hit the platform above you while an enemy walks by to flip then over. Then, you must jump up to that platform and kick them off into the water below. Turtles, the first enemy, take one hit to flip them. Crabs take two and they speed up after being hit once. Some flying creatures are only vulnerable when they are on the ground. Firthermoe, the fireball continually gets faster to the point where it is a little ridiculous. If you're toward a side of the screen, watch out! There is little you can do to avoid being fried.
Another really neat feature of this game is an icicle-like enemy that melts and freezes platforms which causes your player to skid further. Once you get used to the extra distance it takes to stop, it isn't too much of a big deal but it still adds a bit of "nifty" to the game.
Again, though, play this game two players. You'll be competing for kills and coins. The game is nice in that you can push your brother around the screen. You don't just go through each other. Like Joust, things can get nasty really fast.
There is even a little strategy to contend with in Mario Brothers in the form of a POW button in the middle of the screen. Jumping up to hit this button will result in flipping all enemies on the screen. But you only get to use it three times in three stages so plan carefully. When you're playing with a friend, again it is sometiems hard to cooperate.