Review by Retro
"The first game that featured the famous duo of Mario and Luigi"
Unless you know your video game history, you probably thought that Super Mario Bros. for the NES was the first game that featured the unstoppable duo of Mario and Luigi. However, Mario Bros. for the arcade was actually the first title that featured the two Italians. The game was also ported to other systems, such as the Atari 2600, before Nintendo fans ever got to see the two mushroom-eating, Bowser-defeating icons.
When you play this game, Mario Bros., you'll see that there is no Bowser and no mushrooms to be found. Instead, Mario and Luigi begin their decades-spanning journey as what their real profession is, being plumbers.
The two brothers are here in a dark room with four pipes around them, one in each corner. I don't know the exact story of the game, but I guess that they want to get rid of all the creepy creatures in order to unclog the pipes, cause I certainly don't see any leaks.
If you're familiar with Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES, then you probably remember the mini-game that is only available for play in a two-player game. In that game, there is a POW block at the bottom of the screen, and the idea of the game is to turn some creatures upside down and then knock them off the platform to try and get a coin. Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600 is just like that fun little mini-game; as a matter of fact, it is that game!
In Mario Bros., you can play a one-player game by yourself or a two-player game with one of your friends. If you play a two-player game, you and your friend will play the game simultaneously. You two can either just goof around or maturely team up and get rid of all those pesky, pipe-dwelling creatures.
As soon as the game starts, you will see walking turtles. A few levels down the road, you'll come in contact with much more dangerous beings, such as scurrying crabs, jumping fleas, and mysterious ice creatures. All of these enemies begin their expedition by jumping out of one of the two pipes at the top of the screen. They then move horizontally until they fall down to the next platform. If any of these pests manage to make it all the way to either of the two pipes at the bottom of the screen, it will come back out of one of the top pipes and be twice as fast.
This game's concept and gameplay is real simple, but very fun. All you have to do is make Mario or Luigi jump up and bump the platform right under any of the dangerous critters. When you do that, the beast will turn upside down for awhile. While their world is turned upside down, you must run and touch them in order to knock them completely off the screen. It takes one hit, or bump, in order to make the turtles and fleas turn upside down, but it takes two to make the crabs turn upside down. When you bump the platform under a crab once, it will speed up a good bit, then when you do it again, it will turn it upside down.
If you don't knock an enemy off of its platform after a certain number of seconds (anywhere from about 5-20 seconds, depending on which level you're on), it will get back up and roam the level once again. You can tell when any of the brutes are about to get up and start moving again. Right before the turtles get back up, they will go from standing on two feet with their arms help up, to turning upside down again. The crabs will stand up tall on one of their claws and hold their feet out. The fleas will seem to get smaller and more crunched up before going on their famous jumping spree.
When you successfully knock any nemesis off of its respective platform, not only will it be gone forever and have to find a new home, but a square-shaped, spinning item will pop out of one of the two top pipes. Collect this four-sided item of differing colors and you'll be given a good amount of bonus points. Every 20,000 points, you get an extra life. And of course, once you rid the sewer-looking room of all its living creatures excluding yourself, you will proceed to the next level.
There are also a couple of other kinds of enemies you need to watch out for. In the later levels, you will start seeing creatures made of ice that look like tree-shaped ghosts. Just bump the platform under one of these ice creatures and it will instantly get rid of it; no upside down antics needed. This ice creature isn't really aiming to do you in right off the bat. It's wanting to reach the bottom-most platform and freeze it up. Once these frozen treats reach the bottom-most platform, it will melt, and if it melts completely, that platform will freeze and become slicker than slick.
Finally, from the start of the game to the end, there is always a small ball of fire that flies across the screen at various times on all parts of the levels. The ball of fire will start on one side of the screen and move across to the other side. Unlike all the other enemies, there is no way to defeat this ball of fire; it would be best to just steer clear of this juggernaut.
There is only one constant stage in Mario Bros. At the bottom, center part of the screen, it tells you what level you're on by number, but the level itself never changes. The pipes are always in the same place, the platforms, don't change shape, and so on. The stage will always be the same, but the enemies, especially the ball of fire, will get a lot faster the further you get into the game.
At the start of each level, you will always see a square at the bottom, center of the stage. This square is something that can help you out a lot with getting rid of the enemies. When you jump and hit that square just once, all of the creatures, whether it's a turtle, crab, or flea, will turn upside down. Of course, it would take two hits off of this mighty square block to upturn a crab, and only one hit for an ice creature to make a disappearing act.
Anytime an enemy touches Mario or Luigi just once, a life will be lost. When all the lives are gone, the game will be over without the chance of a continue.
Finally, after you pass a few levels of the normal action of knocking creatures off of platforms and avoiding the hot fire, you'll get to play a nice little bonus level of sorts. In this bonus stage, you'll be given about 20-30 seconds to collect as many of the coins as you can.
Well, that's the game of Mario Bros. for you. Whether you've ever played another version of Mario Bros. or not, just as long as you like fun and engaging video games, I recommend getting Mario Bros. without thinking twice about it. This Atari 2600 version of the game is an almost flawless representation of the game!
GRAPHICS - The graphics in Mario Bros. are some of the best for the Atari 2600. It features some of the most impressive characters (the enemies, Mario, and Luigi) both graphically and animation wise. All the characters are animated real well, and they're drawn with some good detail. The level itself and everything else such as the bonus squares or coins, are also well done. Also, there is no flicker to be seen, and the game has a good variety of colors.
SOUND - The sound isn't bad either. There are a lot of the usual 'beep' sounds that Atari 2600 games are known for, but even more impressive sounds, such as losing a life or Mario and Luigi running. All the sound effects go great with the game. When you finish a level, you'll hear some short-lasting, but memorable and pleasing music.
CONTROL - The controls aren't sluggish or overly touchy, but it is responsive. Even though it is good, it could've been a tad bit better. The way Mario and Luigi jump can take a little getting used to, as can their slight sliding on a sudden stop, but once you get used to it after a few minutes, you won't ever have anymore problems with the controls.
REPLAY VALUE - Whether I was playing Mario Bros. by myself or with one of my brothers or friends, I've always liked playing this game a lot. It's definitely one of the Atari 2600 games that I've played the most. It can be addicting to challenge yourself to see what level you can get to.
OVERALL - The 2600's Mario Bros. has some of the best graphics and some of the most classic sounds for the Atari 2600. Even better than the graphics and sounds is the gameplay, which never ceases to be fun and enjoyable. Overall, the Mario brothers go to their plumbing roots while showing gamers what was in their future in a way by jumping up and hitting platforms and collecting a few valuable coins.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/26/01, Updated 05/20/02
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