Review by SethBlizzard
"Oh, the humanity"
Right from the opening theme, I had a feeling that Mario's Time Machine would not be a pleasant gaming experience. Long live instinct. An educational game licensed by Nintendo for Software Toolworks to develop, not only is it a very tedious and unrewarding experience to play, it also completely negates the spirit of the Mario games.
The premise is thus: Bowser has built a time machine and used it to travel to the past and swipe many important historical artefacts, from Cleopatra's throne to Lincoln's hat. He has then put these artefacts on display in his museum. This of course makes no sense, and violates an important rule in storytelling; never cross the fictional world with the real one. Software Toolworks evidently didn't differentiate. Upon arrival at this museum to put a stop to Bowser's plans, Mario watches Yoshi being kidnapped right before his eyes. Bowser gloats in the doorway at him with a sprite ripped from Super Mario Bros. 3. And that's when the fun ends.
Games, educational or not, should be fun. And this game just isn't fun. There are 7 doors in the poorly-decorated museum for you to enter. Every time you do, you enter a mini-game loosely modelled after the arcade Super Mario Bros - meaning that it's a lot less fun. Once you defeat the three Koopa Troopas, you are rewarded with an artefact. All you are told is what it is. Then you can access the time machine to return the item to its rightful time. And this is when it gets even less fun. You are given a choice of years. End of story. Suffice to say that it's impossible to know which year to travel to, and why, unless you know your history. Or until you've visited each year.
Each year has a very limited, Mario-esque platform section to itself. I use the term Mario-'esque' because A: the enemies cannot hurt you, B: there is nothing inspired about any of it, and C: see A & B. The areas are remarkably empty and dull. There are a number of exclamation mark blocks (groan) that give you information about the year you have arrived in and what happened. The only enemies aside from those Koopa Troopas are strange, hammer bro-like koopas who keep punching the air and, even worse, a weird tulip-like enemy with sunglasses (I really wish I were kidding). But no worries, 'cause none of them can hurt you, only stun you. Yes, and that negates any kind of feeling of challenge to the game.
The most annoying thing about the gameplay itself is the fact that once you go to a year, you can't go to another until you go back to the museum and defeat more Koopa Troopas. This becomes terribly tedious after a while. Yet still not as much as the rest of the game. Once you finally get the appropriate item to the appropriate year, it's a matter of putting it where it belongs. And this isn't always obvious. Usually it's in the proximity of a horrible caricature of a historical figure walking around (and which those bashing hammer bro koopas ironically often beat before you can get to them). This isn't always so, however. Should you drop an item in the wrong spot, a bird comes and steals your item. This means that you must go back to the time machine again, back to the museum and beat more Koopa Troopas to get the item back. This is no fun at all, believe me.
Once you've finally completed the arduous task of putting all items where they belong, you can go meet Bowser. Well, first you must answer three random questions from the clues scattered around the various years. Should you make a wrong choice, you are sent to the beginning of the museum as usual, but that's hardly a punishment as you just have to return to the door and try again. When you get into Bowser's dungeon, he engages you in battle. As if the spirit of the Marion games weren't insulted already, this battle involves - get ready - jumping on Bowser's head. This negates the entire image and presence of Bowser in the games. He is the ONE prominent enemy you CANNOT jump on - you can only beat him by using your head. Not in this game. His animations are ripped from Super Mario Bros. 3, with a fun shell-spinning cycle added; that's the very best thing to come out of this game. Once you beat Bowser, you free Yoshi and watch Bowser cry over his defeat - seriously (and his hair has mysteriously turned green).
I knew this game was bogus when I first tried it, and that impression only gained firm ground with me upon completing it - which took an hour at most. The music is just like the game - vague, uninspired and irritating. Mario's Time Machine is, quite frankly, a mess; a bastardised attempt at selling a shallow educational game using the Mario name. I won't even bother reviewing the other Software Toolworks Mario games because I don't want to put myself through playing those to the end like I did with this one. Please, if you are a self-respecting gamer and/or a Mario fan, stay well away.
Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 05/29/09, Updated 01/14/13
Game Release: Mario's Time Machine (US, 06/30/94)
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