As regular readers will know, I’m not one to abuse the exclamation mark, and just so you don’t think I’ve gone off my rocker*, I should mention that the official title of Mario Is Missing! is Mario Is Missing! That’s right. With an exclamation mark. Years before Luigi’s Mansion became the butt of jokes for jerks wondering aloud for their empty-headed cohorts why anyone would bother playing a Mario game without Mario in it, the unsexily named The Software Toolworks let loose their educational wonder on an unsuspecting, unprepared and largely uninterested world. What’s that you say? You’re ready for another well-researched, scantily-illustrated and ultimately needless (hey, in the grand scheme of things) blast of PAST? Cherished reader, read on.
I first encountered Mario Is Missing! about a decade ago when a friend of mine inherited a yellowing Super Nintendo from his cousin (she didn’t die or anything, I just like the word ‘inherited’, or really any word when used in an ever so slightly inappropriate context) alongside the requisite classics and the justifiably unappreciated Dr. Franken, which I will never write an article about as long as I’m possessed of sanity or will. That SNES now lives in my attic in the Gaming Graveyard (forgive me purists, I just hate the way RF looks on a HD telly) but the copy of Mario Is Missing! has itself gone missing. Pleasantly ironic, that.
I suspect a particularly masochistic Borrower made off with it and has spent the ensuing years struggling with its relentlessly fun-free learning manifesto and counter-intuitive physics. Make no mistake about it Blast Processors (or maybe we’re the Blast Processors and you’re the Blastees…yes, I’m sticking with that, congratulations on the new nickname, the Internet. You’ve earned it), Mario Is Missing! deserves its place amidst the mists of time, half-remembered with a mix of nostalgia and passive loathing. Indeed, though at heart a historian (ha), I’m really only writing about it to vent my spleen and forever damn this cart from hell for having the gall to try to teach me something at the expense of rotting my brain/ entertaining me whatsoever.
|Coming up with an exciting logo, or even FONT, is clearly beneath The Software Toolworks|
As I’ve hinted at already, Mario Is Missing! sees Luigi traipse about Europe on the hunt for his abducted sib, whose transferral from the Mushroom Kingdom to our own world is left unexplained but likely has something to do with Bowser and time dilation spaccelerometers etc. The opening video unforgivably uses the sprites and music from the still-peerless Super Mario World and as such sets you up for some sort of decency. Then Mario falls through a hole, and then ANOTHER hole, and Luigi says “You stay here, I’m going to go look for him” and walks off in the opposite direction much to Yoshi and anyone in the world ever whose appreciation of direction is at least basic’s annoyance. Read that again. I swear it makes sense.
|“Oh, a CALCULATOR? Sorry, I left my calculator at home, but you can bet your bottom buck I got my GLOBULATOR with me”!|
Anyway, players can guide Lou from one end of the screen to the other, occasionally with the option to head down the middle of the screen to another street in any one of the game’s selection of cities, and are encouraged to ask the locals about the area in a not-at-all disguised effort at shovelling some THINGS into your ungrateful mindtank. Gleaning knowledge from the peasantry, one is able to correctly (if they’ve been paying attention, of course) answer questions about the locality and enter the nearest castle to do battle with the Koopaling stationed there who, upon defeat, will surrender something presumably nicked from a museum for Luigi to requisition to the rozz, but instead he uses it to gain entry to another castle and is at heart no less a thief. That’s how I remember it, anyway. The battles I just mentioned involve stomping on the testudinarian terrors as they scoot about the floor (as in SMB3) but with no regard whatsoever for the principles of gaming (chiefly that it should be enjoyable and be based on some level of skill rather than bare luck).
It is this thankless progression that makes Mario Is Missing! such a bloody bastard of a thing, this reward of near-unplayability for the task of active participation in the expansion of one’s mind that grinds my goolies the most. That, and the music and graphics and sound design and artwork and THAT exclamation mark. Honestly, Blastees, that “!” damn near derailed this train before she left the station…
|Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Mario Is Missing! didn’t take much longer by the looks of it…|
Now, where the game fails is not in its ambition to sell a Mario game to parents who want their kids to learn something other than how to skip from Worlds 1 to 4 or which musicians Bowser’s kid are named after. It’s its ambition to be a good game, period. Total failure. Its bluntness is not only joyless but potentially misleading (I know I wouldn’t want my nonexistent kid brother asking the locals of a city full of strangers about their cultural identity and history), and to top it all off it looks fugly and plays badly. But I said that already. Just look awreddy, willya? Oh, and I apologise for the commentary in which Youtube maven Octanblue describes the game as “random” (grrrrrrrrrr) but there exists no footage of the game online without overlayed description that I could find:
I guess there’s enough footage in that clip for you to make your own mind up about the game, as there’s not much more I can offer by way of barely-recalled ramblings, though the crumbling to dust of the Koopa Troopers must not go addressed: what, as they say, the fuck? I guess you can take Luigi out of the Mario game, but you can’t take ANYTHING ELSE FROM THE GAME WITH YOU, THE SOFTWARE TOOLWORKS.
Seriously gang, I hate Mario Is Missing! I wish it was missing from my brain.
*Going off one’s rocker in this case referring to the accepted use of that phrase to equate chair-related misfortune with the onset of dementia
For more misappropriated anger at hardly deserving subjects, check out Rambleast at your own risk.