Review by AWing Pilot
Surely, this is Mario's most obscure starring role?!
If you ever touched an original Nintendo Gameboy in it's prime chances are you are at least somewhat familiar with Alleyway, after all it was given away with the system for a limited time. Mario stars in what can certainly be called his oddest role and one of the most difficult games in the so called "breaking breaking" genre; lightweight gamers need not apply. Alleyway, while simple in nature, is actually quite complex and manages to offer a steep challenge from beginning to end. The final product is a game that is worth a look, even if beating it takes longer then the maximum battery life of the system its played on.
At it's core Alleyway doesn't appear that threatening a game in terms of mechanics. The basic goal is to clear the screen of all blocks by piloting Marios ship into direct contact with the bouncing ball which in turn sends the ball hurdling towards the blocks above. When the ball makes contact with a block it is destroyed and the ball bounces off; if you own a cell phone you know the idea. Each blocks is worth a small amount of points ranging from one to three and as the levels progress the blocks numbers begin to swell and they begin to move around the screen in different patterns. After every three levels Mario faces a bonus round where the block formations appear quite familiar to our hero featuring Mario himself, a Koopa, Blooper, Piranha Plant, Bullet Bill, a Goomba, Cheep-Cheep all ending with King Koopa himself. These bonus levels differ hugely from the other levels in the way the ball reacts with the bricks. Instead of bouncing back it continues right through them leaving Mario with a points bonus if he can mange to clear them all within the alloted time. Alleyway follows the pattern of three levels then a bonus level all the way to a total twenty four levels. Your reward for reaching the top is what, in my opinion, can be called the worse face shot of our hero in all his career. It's worth beating this game to see that cheese.
On a technical front there isn't that much to this game but what's here is certainly without any sort of fault even it is lacking in anything above the norms. Keeping in mind the system it was designed on featured a monochrome screen blocks appear in three different color shades to differentiate between their point value; white blocks are worth one point, gray blocks are worth two and black blocks are worth three. Marios ship appears in the form of a long cylinder and the ball itself is just that, a ball. Again it's nothing fancy but it doesn't need to be to work. Off to the right of the screen the Top score, current score, current level and remaining ships are displayed. On the audible front expect nothing astounding besides the beeps and boops that were the norm in the early days of the Gameboy and each stage loops the same cheesy albeit catchy midi tune. Feel free to turn the sound all the way down to conserve battery life.
Alleyway is certainly a fun and very challenging game for fans of the genre but will leave the rest saying "No thanks" and wondering if this really was all there was to gaming before textures and polygons. It offers nothing new but a whole lot of the "same ol' stuff" that genre driven gamers look for and that can be appreciated if you are fan. If you can count yourself in that category then it's worth a play through but be ready to sink a decent amount of time into this cartridge if you intend to add its notch to your gaming belt.
Woz came up with the recipe, Nintendo added Mario to the mix and the final product is a great gem from gaming's early days; for both fans and newbies looking for a challenge.
...besides the cartridge art is just so 80's :)
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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