Super Mario Land review
Lime fits Mario quite well


I like platformer games. I'll eat a great platformer down like tasty cakes if I could, as they always seem to taste very good and I can't get enough of then, but if there's one I'd want with a side ordering of a huge bucket of fries and a 2L bottle of coke, it'd have to be the first Super Mario Land game for the Game Boy. As a launch game in Japan and North America, Super Mario Land was responsible for making sure that the Game Boy could destroy any future competition as far as handheld systems go. Well, it does prove to be good, but it has its share of problems that delay it from being the absolute classic that 2 of its 3 NES predecessors, Super Mario Brothers 1 and 3, were (well, technically, the 3rd wasn't made yet, but still). Its still worth playing, in fact, its well worth adding to your collection, but when stacked up with Super Mario Brothers 1, its decent at best.

Taking place in Sarasaland, an Egyptian looking place, Mario has to save a princess known as Daisy from an alien known as Tatanga. Its not much of a departure from Mario saving Peach/Toadstall from Bowser at the Mushroom Kingdom. Aside from the change of scenery and boss appearance, its about the same as it was, but since we're talking about a freaking Game Boy game made in 1989, its not worth thinking too much about... For one, it'll distract you from playing the game, and secondly... it'll distract you from playing the game, which is simplistic in design just like the story!!

As far as actually playing the game goes, its like that of Super Mario Brothers. You run, jump and flatten enemies as you go from Point A to Point B through 4 worlds with 3 levels each in order to win the prize. At the end of each world, you have a boss to take down, and whether its by passing them to get to the switch to shaft them or firing fireballs at them, you have to kill it to save Daisy..well, 3/4 end up being monsters masquerading as Daisy, and its not nearly as classic as being told by some mushroom "the princess is in another castle" while it flips off the player (WITH BOTH HANDS I MIGHT ADD), but it at least hints to Mario "oh snap I gotta keep looking" before getting in some alien cruiser, heading for the next temple. The concept works quite well as it has on the NES, but actually playing it... Its good, it has its interesting twists, but it has problems (as you'd expect).

Powerups are what keep Mario running, and in a few "?" boxes have a mushroom which makes you bigger and fatter, or a flower which lets you shoot black balls that bounce off walls at a 90o angle. The mushroom powerup is standard, but the flower powerup is actually fairly useful. Not only does it knock out enemies your jumps can't seem to, but it also collects coins well out of your reach, that is if you can fire your shot at the right spot. I have no problem with this as you don't really need to get every coin, its just a rather interesting addition as the fireball from the NES games don't collect coins and only bounce forwards, and it encourages a little more trial and error on shooting. Same would go with trying to actually hit enemies, you just have to work on the aim, which shouldn't be too hard after a while... However, if you miss and get hit by enemies, you shrink back to regular Mario and leave yourself open to die later on unless you find another mushroom. Although if you're good enough you can get heaps and heaps of free lives, its only a matter of time until you lose all your lives and have to start at world 1-1 again...

Don't think that the enemies will get hard once you're at the final quarter of the game. Try at the second half. Although there are no Hammer Bros, there are a bunch of weird alien-like enemies (among the usual Goombas and Koopas, but it seems as if the Koopas are rigged with explosives as they explode after dying) and they will get the jump on you often by rushing towards you and you have no hope in hell of escaping, or they will use the area around them to their advantage by simply appearing there and you jumping on them, with you thinking you're safe, but you head into a pit and BANG YOURE DEAD! That's right, the enemies can be downright evil at times! Not all of them, but a decent amount in the second half...worlds 3 and 4 to be exact. Not saying that the game is downright impossible, because it's actually kind of easy to get through. Just that at first, its a pain in the asshole to get through. Trial and error is the sort of approach you should use at times.

However, what will make the game "PULL OUT YOUR HAIR GODDAMMIT I HATE THIS GAME" hard has to be the awkward as it gets jumping, especially if you're too used to the NES games. Jumping is ridiculous in the sense that its random. You can either randomly overshoot or undershoot a jump, or stop in mid-air if you put less pressure on the d-pad (yes, put a little less pressure and you'll stop in mid-air, killing you most likely). It makes the game annoying to play at first, especially since most of the game's enemies require getting crushed by Mario's big bottom to kill them... Oh man, I can see where this will go with precision jumping, enemies surrounding little platforms and enemies greeting you at the other side with blasts of energy, and ON A GAME BOY SCREEN NO LESS!

At the end of each level (aside from 3, 6, 9 and 12), you get to enter a tower 1 of 2 ways - the top, which gives you a chance to either increase the amount of lives you get or let you have flower power, or the bottom, which just continues the game, no is ands or buts. THIS is how you can get heaps of free lives, and I really think this is a good feature. Too often I die from missing a jump due to jumping being awkward, so this really makes it easier to finish the game.

Nintendo also attempts to reinvent the wheel by allowing Mario to control a submarine or a helicopter for a couple of levels - 2-3 and 4-3 to be exact. These play more like shoot em up games by having enemies rush to you while you shoot them, all the while the screen scrolls to the right. Both buttons shoot, but please use the A button. It can rapid-fire, unlike the B button which only shoots one at a time. These are not only fun to control as you don't have to worry about some bullshit physics, but it also adds some fun to the mix. Shooting down the bosses especially is beyond epic, especially in a Mario game. I guess Mario DOES like to branch out of simply platforming after all...

One thing that reeks of awesome have to be the levels themselves. The shoot em up style levels are laid out well, but the platforming levels are pretty awesome to play through as well. The platform layout for the 10 running and jumping levels provides some decent challenge, and if it wasn't for the jumping physics continually sodomising you, the design would compliment the game quite well by allowing you to actually have some fun trekking through the levels.

When you complete the game, you can redo it in hard mode. If you had trouble with regular mode, hard mode will kick your ass. The enemies are as evil as it gets, and jumping is encouraged more, which is...yeah, you can see where that goes. The only rewards you get for finishing hard mode is a sense of satisfaction and a level select screen. This increases replay value, encouraging you to play for it longer than just the first time, which should only be about 40-70 minutes depending on skill level, as there are only 12 levels. Then again, this IS an early Game Boy game (one of the first), so having this kind of length is acceptable...just in case it crashes halfway through.

Speaking of because its one of the first Game Boy games, the graphics are pretty simple. They come fairly close to resembling an Atari 2600 game, or at least most of the character models do. Mario and his enemies lack detail in their design and the animations border on simple to the point of little effort. For crying out loud, Super Mario Brothers looks better, and that game has really simple graphics too, but they look badass too. Super Mario Land's graphics look "nice", but are too simple for my liking. At least some of the background designs look pretty nice.

But you could always count on Nintendo to come up with a killer soundtrack. While some relate to Mario, most of them just relate to the Egyptian themes of the game's location. I wouldn't mind putting the entire soundtrack on my iPod, as they are quite pleasing to the ears, especially with some sweet headphones on, as they sound better than the Game Boy's speakers, which still sound good mind you, but headphones are better. Nonetheless, the soundtrack is full of win, as per usual for an older Mario game.

Time to wrap this up now.

Gameplay: 5
Classic Mario action on the Game Boy. Oh, and there are vehicles too.

Controls: 3.5
Mostly good. Movement controls are fluent for the most part. However, the jumping controls are fairly wonky. If you're too used to the NES Mario games, you're going to feel a little disorientated by this one's jumping controls. Fair warning before you give this a try.

Story: 4.5
Its like that of the NES games, but it takes place in Sarasaland, the princess is named Daisy and the villain is Tatanga who is an alien instead of a dragon in a shell.

Graphics: 3.5
A hybrid of Atari 2600 and NES graphics. Still looks pleasing to the eye. Even though this is an extremely early Game Boy game, I expected somewhat better graphics. Super Mario Brothers looks better than this!

Sound: 4
Some really good music as per usual for the old Mario games. Sound effects are kind of 'blah' but the music kicks ass.

Lastability: 4
Lasts for a while. There are 12 levels, plus when you finish, there's a hard mode, then once that's done, you get to select a level. A fair bit to do before you trash the game somewhere for later.

Funfactor: 3.5
I'm sorry, but the jumping physics are too much of an annoyance to make this game all that fun. It's a great game and mostly fun, but if the jumping was more like that of the NES games, it would be powerful fun. Too often I die not because I buggered up a jump on my own, but because of shifty jump mechanics. That's not too fun, now, isn't it? And that sucks because everything else, especially the vehicles, are fun as!

Bottom Line:
Super Mario Land is a good game and a great start for the Game Boy, but needs a little tweaking control-wise.


was this review helpful to you?
3 members like this


0 thumbs!
vicrabb Apr 18, 09
SML is one of my favorite GB games, though I never beat it. I remember the fun when I was controlling the airplane or the submarine but what really marked me was that the music. It was indeed a kick ass one. Good job!
In order to comment on this user review you must login
About the author
Based on 6 reviews
Write a review