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Not much more than a game for occasional playing By KR155E

The “Clash Tower” has been invaded by some bad guys, and now it is up to Mario to clear them out. With this banal background story, packed into a short but quite nicely orchestrated intro, Mario’s second Virtual Boy trip after Mario’s Tennis begins.

Mario Clash is a 3-dimensional remake of the NES classic Mario Bros. (note: not Super Mario Bros.). Instead of just one vertical plane, there’s now a second one behind the other, and these are connected to each other by pipes. The goal is to defeat all enemies in a level, of which the most important and seen-in-every-level representative is the Koopa. After jumping on one, his shell can be picked up and thrown. All other enemies, like Para-Goombahs, Big Boos or Snakes, can only be knocked off by being pelted with these shells. Also, some enemies can only be defeated by throwing shells at them from the background into the foreground or vice versa; most have to be hit several times, etc. Ghosts, for example, are only vulnerable when they are visible. You also have to evade fireballs and, at the same time, pay attention to the mercilessly ticking down time limit. Moreover, in some levels, slippery icy grounds and falling icicles make life difficult for you.
Once all enemies in a level are knocked off, you proceed to the next higher level. Before that, however, you still get awarded bonus points, if you have been particularly fast (Time Bonus) or if you pulled off a particularly good maneuver (Technical Bonus), like knocking off several foes at once with one shell. At the beginning, the levels are still very easy, but they continually become more difficult and are extremely hard to master by Level 40 at the latest. In between some levels, a “Bonus Chance” awaits you, in which you have to collect coins flying towards you in a nice-looking 3D arena. Thus, bonus points and – with a perfect game, so if you get all coins – an extra life can be earned. The first 40 levels are already selectable in the main menu, but theoretically, the game continues forever. After the 99th level, the game jumps back to the first, but this time in a harder version with a higher number of enemies. So there’s no real ending to this game; the main goal is to collect as many points as possible.

Mario’s handling is, unfortunately, a bit sluggish and imprecise and can quickly lead to frustration in dangerous situations. So for example, Mario’s jumps take some getting used to and often let you inadvertently lose a life on the back of an enemy. You move Mario with the left control pad, L lets him run, R and B make him jump, and A is used to throw Koopa shells. These can also be thrown directly to the left, right, front or back using the right control pad.

The graphics are on a high level and offer a simple but cool 3D effect. The sprites and animations of Mario and the bad guys are nicely drawn and are in no way inferior to the usual quality of other Mario games. Sadly, the levels don’t differ all too much from each other, neither graphically nor in their layout.

The sound, for the most part, doesn’t know how to be convincing at all, unfortunately, so the background music tracks are almost always nerve-racking, and most sound effects are a bit out of place. Why, for example, does Mario, in everything that he does, sound like a squirrel whose tail you stepped on?

Another big loss is the missing save function, thanks to which your high scores go to nirvana each time you turn off your Virtual Boy. Why Nintendo was stingy here in the wrong place, which thereby reduced the main goal of the game, collecting high scores, to a farce, is beyond me…

Sadly, Mario Clash is not much more than a game for occasional playing. Although the gameplay of Mario Bros. was intelligently ported to the third dimension, nevertheless, the missing save function, poor sounds and imprecise controls get on your nerves.

6 / 10

Rated: Jul 15, 2003 • 17:20