Product Type: Nintendo Gameboy games
Newest Review: ... in a single sitting. This doesn't actually take a particularly long time once you get the hang of it, and so this is by no means an imposs... more
Super Mario Land (GB)
Member Name: davidbuttery
Super Mario Land (GB)
Date: 09/11/11, updated on 09/11/11 (41 review reads)
Advantages: Easy to get into, catchy music, the odd nice touch
Disadvantages: Rather short, probably too easy for experienced players, no battery save
Does anybody really need an introduction to the Mario games? Ah well then, if I must... Super Mario Land is an incarnation in the long-running and phenomenally successful series of Nintendo platform games in which you control the lovable (perhaps) Italian-American plumber as he negotiates his way through a series of "worlds" to attempt to reach his goal, in this case a confrontation with the mysterious alien Tatanga. Super Mario Land was a launch title for the Game Boy handheld (being released in 1990 in Europe and 1989 in North America and Japan), and Nintendo judged their market very well: the game was a huge success and has racked up sales of around 18 million.
** Gameplay **
Super Mario Land is quite an easy game, certainly by the standards of the eight-bit era. I'm sure that part of the reason Nintendo went down that route was that there is no save facility: you have to complete the whole game - twelve levels in all - in a single sitting. This doesn't actually take a particularly long time once you get the hang of it, and so this is by no means an impossible game to complete in one session; in fact, you may eventually come to find it a little too short! The controls are straightforward, and very similar to other games in the series, although it does take a little while to be able to control Mario's jump-landing slides with reasonable aplomb, and you may lose the odd life this way at first.
Although most things about Super Mario Land are unstartling, there are a couple of nice touches to mention. When you capture a fire flower, you gain the ability to shoot enemies with fireballs - but these have a secondary purpose, as they can be used to bounce around corners and pick up tricky-to-reach coins with minimal danger to Mario himself. I also like the end-of-level choices, whereby you are offered two exit doorways. The easier simply takes you onward, but should you succeed in making the harder one you'll be offered a small bonus stage; this offers basic but very useful prizes such as fire flowers or that old standby of extra lives.
** Graphics and sound **
This being a title for the original, Game Boy you probably won't be expecting miracles of the graphical presentation, and indeed you don't get them. A machine with a tiny monochrome screen displaying at just 160 by 144 pixel resolution simply can't produce the effects available on even a simple TV-based console like the NES. This inevitably leads to a certain amount of disappointment - the background areas are hardly detailed, for example - but on a screen like this clarity is more important than subtlety, and on that score Super Mario Land rates well. Animation is smooth (by Game Boy standards) and little touches such as Mario's mushroom-induced growth are fairly satisfyingly handled.
Nor was the Game Boy renowned as a centre for symphonic virtuosity, the skills of chip-tune programmers down the years notwithstanding, so don't go expecting any orchestral masterpieces in the game's tunes. That really doesn't matter, though, as Mario games are all about bleepy bounciness and chirpy cheerfulness, and Super Mario Land manages *that* very well indeed. The other sound effects are very much secondary, and in fact on occasion the music gets in the way of hearing them, but don't worry too much about that since when you *can* make them out you'll realise that they're mostly rather generic and unmemorable.
** Buying and verdict **
Unsurprisingly for a game selling well into seven figures, Super Mario Land is one of the very easiest Game Boy titles to find second-hand. If all you want is a working cartridge and perhaps the little plastic protective case, then as little as Ł4 should be sufficient. If you're after a fully boxed example with the instruction manual, then you will probably have to double that budget. It's still hardly a bank-breaker, and although personally I'd place its sequel significantly ahead on the all-time list, this first handheld outing for everybody's favourite plumber remains very playable and quite a worthwhile investment.
Summary: Not as good as its sequel, but generally satisfying all the same