Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap 😍


Simeon and Scott boot up this 8-bit Master System game, remade into a beautiful hand-drawn sidescroller. We reviewed it when the game first came out for Switch, but this is more of a casual Let’s Play format!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Donkey Kong Country 3 – The Threequel!


You know the drill! Our viewers love the Donkey Kong Country series, but Simeon and Scott are lukewarm on it. We feel all alone on this, out there playing to the beat of our own konga drum. But never fear! We find plenty of things to appreciate about the series and this Dixie-specific outing.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Super Mario Bros. 3, the Pinnacle of Mario?


The game that MANY would consider the best title on NES is here: Super Mario Bros. 3, the greatest platforming threequel.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Pole’s Big Adventure (Japan Only)


This mysterious WiiWare game was annouced by SEGA and seemed to go mysteriously quiet. What really happened was they released it in Japan only and never localized it! Pole’s Big Adventure looked like a super fun and quirky spoof of beloved 8-bit platforming games. We’ll let you know what we missed out on stateside!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Apes of Summer

While the King of Kong scandal, centered on the alleged cheater Billy Mitchel, is heating up, Donkey Kong is yet again taking center stage in a port on the Nintendo Switch, and the timing couldn’t be better for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. If you know anything about me, you probably know that I am an absolute sucker for playing games at certain times of the year and this one is a perfect game to pick up in the summer. It starts out in the tropics and the player progresses into the later levels that slowly transition into dark and wintry which feel oddly dystopian. Tropical Freeze happens to be one of my favorite Wii U games. While this statement may not seem that earth shattering (sorry, Wii U), Tropical Freeze puts on a master class of what a platformer should be. It’s a challenging game and when player gets comfortable with one thing, the game throws in something totally new and unexpected. It took everything that was right with Donkey Kong Country Returns and amped up the experience tenfold.

First off, the game is pure beauty. The tropical vistas have never looked better, and the water effects are top notch. For me, the thing that sets this game apart is the ambiance. This is something that is hard to get right, and many developers still haven’t figured it out. It’s amazing how Retro Studios captures the ominous feeling of a dark and scary storm approaching on a clear and beautiful day. This game has the player experience the environment through the use of genius shading, intricate detail of the environment, and what seems to be a real life simulation of weather changes and other natural disasters. Whether the player is swimming deep in the ocean while there is a thunderstorm looming overhead, running through a scorching wild fire, or even bracing through a tornado, there is never a dull moment. What sets this apart from recent Mario side scrollers is that nothing is blocky and linear, it all looks like natural environment and from a development perspective, there is no noticeable copy and pasting of environmental textures going on.

Of course, the ambiance wouldn’t be possible without the music. David Wise, who was the composer for the original DKC Trilogy, captures the same magical feeling through his sweeping and oddly calming scores. Playing through the game, the level that actually gave me goose bumps was Grassland Grooves in the Bright Savannah. This level starts slow and builds up to a grand climax of cheerful music and visuals. It’s not all pleasant though. Some of the music also matches the fear of a raging thunderstorm and it only adds to the intensity. If you don’t believe me that this game has intense music, go ahead and Youtube “Vikings Island Theme” and tell me that isn’t one of the most adrenaline inducing songs you have ever heard.

Like any game, however, it does have some flaws. My biggest gripe is that there isn’t really enough variety between characters. Cranky Kong’s “Duck Tales” pogo-cane technique is fun, but the game never really forced me to utilize it so I usually wound up using Dixie Kong for her twirl technique. I do want to note that it never really subtracted from the gameplay. The other issue with the Wii U version was load times. These were downright awful. Loading a level could take upwards of half a minute, and sometimes it felt even longer. Lastly, some people critique the challenge in this game. Personally, I have no issue with it, but I can see where it would be challenging for newcomers of the series. The Switch version seems to have a solution for every one of these issues. For one, Funky Kong is now a playable character and should take some of that difficulty edge off. I’m not sure how much I will use him, but it’s nonetheless a neat addition. I’m expecting load times to be better based on the new hardware, but that is to be determined.

So if you can’t tell by now, I’m pretty pumped to play this game again. It should be a huge success on the Switch and will give those that didn’t want to get near the Wii-U a crack at a game that was already near perfection. By nature, platformers are great “pick up and play” games, so it should adapt perfectly to the Switch. Up to this point, I haven’t used the Switch portable feature much, but I predict that should change upon release of this game. Though the price point may seem a little steep for a release of an older game, if you have never experienced the joy that is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, do yourself a favor, pick it up, and go bananas. (Sorry!)

The Cuphead Influence

Cuphead was one of my favorite games released in 2017. Everything about it I adored. From the 1930 cartoon style visuals right out of the old Fleischer cartoons to the big band jazz ensembles to the cutthroat difficulty, this game has it all. Alas, it’s not on the Switch, or any Nintendo console for that matter, so you may be wondering why it’s appearing here. The reason is I believe that Cuphead would be an amazing fit on the Switch, and I hope it opens the door to other creative talent to hit the Switch in the future. Before you comment, “But Matt, Cuphead will never come to the Switch because Microsoft helped Studio MDHR fund the game”, I’m aware, so please don’t. The focus of this blog is to simply discuss why Cuphead would be a great fit for the Switch and what sets it apart from most other Indie titles.

It doesn’t take one long to figure out that there are a plethora of Indie titles on the Switch. Unfortunately, for me at least, it’s like wading through a dumpster trying to find jewels. I’m not saying that Indie developers should be discouraged from putting games up, nor dissing any one game in particular. But the majority of the games posted seem as though the developer put almost no thought or effort into the art direction, and some of these games even carry a $20 price tag. It baffles me that someone can put time and effort into something they obviously care about, but aren’t willing to go the extra mile to make it great. I know that indie developers have to deal with an extraordinarily reduced budget, and they don’t have a lot of time to work with. I really do get that, but there is no excuse for some of the games I have seen.

Every boss battle is fresh and meticulously crafted

What makes Cuphead stand out? Well, for one, the level of polish is evident. It looks and feels nearly perfect. Never have I thought that I would enjoy playing a 1930’s cartoon so much. Even though it’s old, it’s new. It’s a fresh concept and they took a risk that paid off. Whenever the debate arises whether or not videogames are art (this discussion warrants its own blog), it’s games like Cuphead that I think of.  Next, the difficulty. Yes, to this day, I have over 400 deaths. That is what it took for me to complete my expert run, and not once did I get upset. For every single one, I accounted for a mistake that I made. Once I corrected my mistake, I moved on until I made the next mistake, where I learned and moved on progressively until a boss or level was defeated.

So what is my point? Simply put, Quality > Quantity. I would rather have one game that takes 3 years to complete than 100 games that take 3 months to complete. I’m not saying that all developers need to remortgage their homes, or draw everything frame by frame like the Moldenhauers of Cuphead, but just a little more time on the presentation and polish go a long way. My hope is that Cuphead will encourage developers to try unique art styles and better yet, follow their dreams. Gamers want quality games where passion is oozing out of everything seen on screen. Unfortunately, Cuphead will likely never see the light of day on the Switch, even though it would be a phenomenal addition to a fairly lackluster Indie library. Nonetheless, hopefully game designers are inspired and this will translate into better quality games. Perhaps you agree, or alternately you’ve been eating up the Switch eShop and loving it. That’s fine too. Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that gamers will always appreciate the extra mile. Hopefully Cuphead and Mugman will pave the way for the future, without dealing with the devil.

Kid Icarus: Remember to Hold “Up”


Kid Icarus was forward thinking for its time, but it never really earned the title of a great game. It’s fun to play for a little bit, but Simeon and Scott will be pointing out some of the game’s glaring shortcomings, and stick around for the end to discover why the NES Classic Edition version is potentially the worst!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Celeste: Scaling The Mountain


Celeste is a beautiful new indie game available now on the Switch eShop. In this pixelated platformer, you play as Madeline as you attempt to scale the treacherous Celeste Mountain. With a stunning musical soundtrack, a compelling storyline, and tough platforming challenges, it seems this game might just have it all.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Super Meat Boy Review (Switch)

Super Meat Boy is a classic indie game, finally slurping and splashing its way onto Nintendo Switch.
This cruel platformer is infamous for its steep difficulty and unforgiving level design. Sounds like my kind of game!

The first time I hit the jump button and felt Meat Boy’s insanely high amount of aerial mobility, I thought I’d never get used to the controls. But I was wrong! The game does a great job of onboarding the player, teaching tough platforming techniques gradually.

Whether you’re playing in Handheld mode, with a single Joy-Con, or the Pro Controller, the control scheme feels great. Running and jumping are the only two button inputs, and you can opt to use a variety of face and shoulder buttons if your grip gets tired.

Which it will, because the moment-to-moment gameplay is intense. Your goal is to navigate Meat Boy between buzz-saws and bullets, and over gigantic ravines and pits of lava in order to get to Bandage Girl. The game’s antagonist, Dr. Fetus, is always one step ahead of you, so you’ll have to overcome multiple unique worlds with plenty of challenges before your final showdown.

The difficulty in this game is inherent, but expert players can challenge themselves further in scoring an A Rank on every level by completing them under a specified amount of time. You can also search out hidden bandages in hard-to-reach locations, but because the User Interface doesn’t indicate when a level has one to find, you’ll have to turn to the Interwebs to complete your collection.

Speaking of collecting, there are a bunch of playable characters to unlock as well. Some have to be found, and others must be earned with bandages. Each character has a unique ability, like floating or double-jumping. It was awesome to see Commander Video from the Bit.Trip games, and other heroes from indie classics like Braid. On the other hand, some of the characters are too similar to Meat Boy to be very compelling.

Music in Super Meat Boy is pretty good, with an energetic soundtrack that will fuel your long and frustrating (yet rewarding) play sessions. Unfortunately, these aren’t the tunes that shipped with the original release on Xbox 360, preferred by many.

Load times are very quick, and once you get into a level, there’s no delay between death and your next attempt, which makes it easy to apply what you’ve learned from past mistakes and try, try again.

The game’s visuals are pretty simple, with a no-frills, grungey aesthetic. It was a treat to find the occasional level that put a spin on the art style, whether it was using backlit silhouettes or old arcade graphics.

During cutscenes, the game’s age and budget showed a bit, although it didn’t detract from the story being established: Dr. Fetus is a really bad dude, and Meat Boy is determined to stop him and rescue Bandage Girl.

As a timed exclusive for the Nintendo Switch version, Team Meat added a local multiplayer Vs. mode. The screen is split in half, and players race each other to complete a certain amount of levels. This mode was tense, and a lot of fun, but undeniably rough around the edges. The stage-selection menu was unintuitive, the character selection screen was visually squished, and worst of all; game-breaking crashes occurred about every 10 minutes. Suffice it to say, Vs. mode could use a few bandages of its own.

In conclusion, it’s wonderful to have this grossly charming hunk of meat join the Nintendo Switch lineup. This was actually my first play-through of Super Meat Boy, and I was compelled to complete the whole thing AND go back and get 100%. If you’re a fan of platformers, don’t miss this title as you prepare for the auto-running sequel to launch later this year!

Super Meat Boy gets an 8.5/10.

Come at Me, Super Meat Bro


Super Meat Boy is an older indie game, but it’s brand new to Switch AND has an exclusive Vs. mode for Simeon and Scott to try out. They’ll be racing, split-screen style, to see who can reach Bandage Girl first. Also, they might discover a few bugs and glitches along the way… but no matter what, be sure to enjoy the rage that’s induced by this incredibly difficult platformer!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Bomberman Hero That Was a Thing

Let’s talk about Bomberman. Introduced in 1983, the Bomberman series has established itself as one of the iconic franchises of gaming, and for good reason. Nearly every system under the sun has at least one entry in the franchise. Moreover, the series has garnered a reputation for its simple, fast-paced, top-down puzzle gameplay and is best known for its frantic multiplayer mayhem.

Bomberman Hero is a single-player, third-person, action platformer. Developed and published by the now defunct Hudson Soft, the game was released for the N64 in 1998. As with any departure from formula, fans are split on whether or not this game is any good. So why the out-of-left field platformer game? Well, as it turns out, Bomberman Hero originally planned to be a Bonk game.

As with any departure from formula, fans are split on whether or not this game is any good.

You know, Bonk the Caveman? Anyone? No? Well, now you see why they decided to go with Bomberman instead. Point is, the Bonk series were platformers, so this game’s a platformer.

I rented this game several times as a kid, and I remember having mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I greatly appreciated the fact that—unlike Bomberman 64—I could jump freely, a hang-up I developed from my mostly platformer diet at the time. On the other hand, I remember the game feeling cryptic, alien, and everything in the game’s environments feeling just a bit off. It was both fascinating and a little off-putting.

I actually made it pretty far in, though, which was unusual for me back then as I usually stuck to the first few levels of games. Unfortunately, I never could quite beat it, getting stuck on the boss of the penultimate world. I never forgot about it, though. For whatever reason, this game stuck around in the back of my mind since my childhood. Then, just a few months ago, I stumbled across it in my town’s GameXchange for a mere ten dollars.

Ten bucks for closure? Heck yeah!

Plot

The story begins with Princess Millian and her robot companion, Pibot, escaping their home world, Primus Star. The Garaden Empire, who have recently invaded Primus Star, are hot on their heels. Turns out the princess has stolen a data disk that contains information on…something important, I’m sure, and the empire wants it back. She gets captured, but before that gives Pibot the disk and instructs him to seek the aid of Bomberman.

So it’s basically Star Wars. Yeah, I take issue with this. Not so much that their referencing something popular, or even outright copying it in places. It’s just that everyone parodies Star Wars. Basing a plot on Star Wars isn’t just plagiarism, it’s clichéd plagiarism! In the end, I suppose it’s ultimately harmless. No one’s going to play this game for its story anyway, and besides, who doesn’t love Star Wars?

Basing a plot on Star Wars isn’t just plagiarism, it’s clichéd plagiarism!

Where was I? Oh right. Pibot’s ship crash lands, leading Bomberman to go investigate and learn about Garaden Empire’s activities. From there, Bomberman and Pibot travel from planet to planet trying to rescue Princess Millian, only for her to be whisked away by the empire at the last second. Rinse and repeat a la Super Mario Bros.

Yes, I did find sprites of Bomberman, tracked down a font that looked like the one used in SMB, created a custom sprite for Pibot using hardware accurate colors, and edit all of it into a screenshot from Super Mario Bros. just for the sake of this throwaway gag.
Yeah, something like that…

Presentation

In regards to models and textures, the game is on par with most games of the era, and the simplistic nature of Bomberman’s design works well with the graphical limitations. The environments convey the intended mood quite well for the most part, but rarely have much in terms of personality.

The real issues are technical. The game’s frame-rate dips often, especially when there’s multiple explosions on screen, which, considering this is Bomberman we’re talking about, is often. Pop-in is also a noticeable issue for levels set along the Z-axis. Such levels aren’t terribly common, however, as most of the level design is either horizontal or vertical.

The music is a whole other story. The soundtrack, composed by longtime Bomberman series composer Jun Chikuma, is probably my favorite part of this game! The drum and bass inspired soundtrack gives this game very distinct musical identity. Moreover, the otherworldly sound of Bomberman Hero‘s music fits perfectly with the game’s many alien worlds and bizarre environments. My only complaint is the song selection itself is pretty slim, and of the few songs some get used way more often than others. I really hope you like the song “Redial” because you’re going to be hearing that one a lot (also, I can’t be friends with you if you don’t).

The soundtrack is probably my favorite part of this game!

Between the soundtrack and the bizarre enemy designs, my initial impression that this game was weird was spot on. I’m surprised, too. Usually when I remember a game feeling surreal or mysterious, it’s just a product of my youthful imagination and inexperience; once I revisit it as an adult, it loses that mystique and intrigue. Nope, this game definitely retains that “fever dream” flavor after all these years.

Gameplay

As stated before, Bomberman Hero is a third-person 3D platformer. Bomberman can run, jump, throw bombs, drop bombs, and kick bombs. It took awhile for me to get used to Bomberman’s controls: he not only moved faster than I expected, but felt very heavy. In retrospect, it’s not that Bomberman carries much weight, it’s that he has weight to begin with. Yep, Bomberman has just a little inertia when he moves, which actually feels really good when you get the hang of it. By the end of the game, I was using Bomberman’s momentum to do cool stuff like jump in one direction while chucking bombs in another.

Here we see the Bomberman stalking his prey...
A typical gameplay moment from Bomberman Hero.

Another unexpected but welcome aspect of the game is its level design. Instead of huge sprawling sandboxes for the player to navigate, the stages are typically linear and fairly constrained, being concise and usually only requiring the player to move in one direction: forward, up, right, etc. Again, I think this works well. Each stage is bite sized and rarely overstays its welcome.

That is until you reach a vehicle stage. Bomberman Hero features four vehicles-like pieces of equipment for Bomberman to use: a jet-pack, a submarine, a helicopter, and an underutilized snowboard. While I like the helicopter alright, I don’t think too highly of the rest. They just feel awkward and a little out of place. To make things worse, the B button no longer attacks and is instead used to maneuver each vehicle in some way, which tripped me up on numerous occasions. While I can appreciate the variety they offer, these segments were a chore compared to the core gameplay.

...Except much slower and your only weapon is just as capable of killing you as it is your enemies.
If you squint really hard, it’s kind of like Star Fox…

Unfortunately, my grievances with this game’s design don’t stop at the vehicle stages. This game is very fond of “gotchas”. There are plenty of traps that only seem to exist to stick it to first time players, such as missiles that launch out of destroyed crates. Of course, traps aren’t a problem for cautious players who take their time to look before they leap.

There are plenty of traps that only seem to exist to stick it to first time players.

The real problem is it’s not always possible to look before you leap. The game’s camera mostly stays in a fixed position relative to Bomberman: angle and distance. Because the player’s view is so constrained, seeing what’s to the left or right or above and below is difficult. Remember how I mentioned most levels aren’t set along the Z-axis? That’s great if you want to hide the technical limitations of the game’s engine, but it leads to several situations where enemies can fire at the player before he can even see them. The game does offer some very limited camera controls: the player can rotate the camera by pressing the up, left, and right C buttons…but only while standing still. Seriously, why not just have the camera stay angled the way the player tells it to be until told otherwise?

While we’re on the subject of the game’s camera, boss battles are the one time the camera doesn’t stay in a fixed position. To the game’s credit, it tries to always keep Bomberman and the boss in the frame; the key word here is tries. For whatever reason, the camera is rather lethargic, not wanting to exceed a certain speed of rotation. That said, it works most of the time, with the constant motion only being a little disorientating. When it does screw up, however, you’ll be fighting the camera more than the boss.

At times, you’ll be fighting the camera more than the bosses.

Ending

So after traversing four planets, Bomberman finally catches up with Princess Millian. She asks Bomberman to return the disk that he apparently obtained from Pibot and was carrying this whole time. Bomberman obliges only to find out the Millian he’s talking to isn’t the real Millian and you totally saw that coming didn’t you? Well, the bad guys take the disk and use it to revive their leader, Bagular…whoever that is. Cue one more world, a boss rush, and kicking Bagular’s butt. The game ends with the princess giving Bomberman a medal and a “thank you” kiss while Pibot expresses envy.

Well that was underwhelming…If I didn’t know any better, I’d say there was some sort of secret, unlockable, true ending…

Wait, there is? Okay, now we’re talking! What do I have to do? Find all of the collectible bonus items…and get a perfect score on every level of the game?

To YouTube!

In all seriousness, it’s only worth your time if you really like the game and have the time to 100% it. The true ending amounts to nothing but a non-sequiter plot twist that extends the game by a scant three levels, one of which is a…jetpack stage. While the ending cinematic for beating the true final boss is slightly cooler, it doesn’t add anything to the overall narrative.


In the end, Bomberman Hero is great platformer that feels distinct from its contemporaries. The game’s by no means perfect, but most of the issues it has were more the result of the time it was made than poor design choices on the developers’ part, most notably the camera. Aside from the vehicle stages, the game feels very focused, with its tight controls and concise level design. In my debatably humble opinion, this is a game that deserves a spot in any N64 collector’s library.

I’m really glad I shelled out those ten dollars: finally having closure on this bizarre blast from my past is more than enough bang for my buck.

Mario, Sonic, and the Economy of Motion

Super Mario Odyssey is out and—surprise, surprise—it’s good. As expected, Mario’s as athletic as ever, with a myriad of moves and abilities that not only elevate his already impressive jumping skills but greatly extend his lateral movement options, as well. One of my personal favorites is Mario’s new ability that allows him to curl up into a ball and roll along the ground like some sort of armadillo or hedgehog or something. It’s like some sort of…spinning dash!

After putting so many points in jumping, it only makes sense he'd take advantage of the tumbling synnergy bonus.
Mario doing his best tumbleweed impression.

Wait a second…Great Gunpei’s Ghost! Super Mario Odyssey is the best 3D Sonic game ever!

Between the rolling technique and how Mario can preserve his speed through precise platforming, there are portions of Super Mario Odyssey that feel like the classic, momentum-based 2D Sonic gameplay in three dimensions. This is especially noticeable in timed segments such as the Koopa free-running missions where obtaining and maintaining Mario’s forward momentum by achieving fluidity of motion is essential. Much like classic Sonic, Super Mario Odyssey has a great sense of flow, which is something most 3D Mario titles can’t really boast.

There are portions of Super Mario Odyssey that feel like the classic, momentum-based 2D Sonic gameplay in three dimensions.

What is Momentum?

Okay, so before we can understand how Super Mario Odyssey achieves such an excellent sense of flow, we need to know what momentum is. In physics, momentum is the product of an object’s velocity and mass. In terms of video games, this means games that feature momentum-based mechanics have a few elements:

  • The protagonist has mass.
  • Mass implies the character has inertia.
  • Inertia implies the character does not instantly accelerate and the character does not instantly decelerate. Moreover, the greater an object’s momentum, the more difficult it is to alter its course.

Some games that exhibit these traits:

  • Asteroids: One of the earliest examples of momentum-based mechanics. The player’s ship does not accelerate instantly, but gradually, and continues to move even after the player has stopped using the ship’s thrusters. Moreover, altering the path of the ship requires substantial effort at high speeds.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Mario accelerates quickly, but not instantaneously. He either jogs to a stop if he is running too fast or skids to a halt when trying to change direction.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic carries a lot of inertia. He accelerates slowly and must either skid to a halt or let his momentum slowly peter out.

Momentum as a Resource

In platformers like Mario and Sonic, the majority of the game’s challenge comes from executing precise acrobatics to navigate through the game’s various stages and their respective perils. Not only does the inclusion of momentum-based mechanics give the characters a satisfying sense of weight, but it adds an extra element of challenge. Because the character doesn’t move at top speed right away, building enough momentum to cross large gaps, find secrets, and ultimately complete the stage is an integral part of the game’s challenge.

So basically, in games that utilize momentum and inertia as mechanics, momentum is not only useful, but also—to some extent—scarce. This essentially makes it another kind of resource to be managed, much like health, ammo, or money. If you don’t mind the forced metaphor (all for the sake of a really cool, if not somewhat pretentious sounding, title), momentum is the currency of movement in Mario, Sonic, and similar games.

Essentially, momentum is another kind of resource to be managed.

Running with the fiscal metaphor, the value of this currency is different depending on the game: in Mario games, for instance, momentum is less critical in most situations than it is in Sonic games. That’s not to mention Sonic’s slightly slower acceleration and worse traction means manipulating his momentum takes more effort without the aid of outside forces or Sonic’s signature spin-dash—producing a greater scarcity of the desired momentum. This means that the plumber’s economy of motion has a higher saturation of momentum that has less demand than the hedgehog’s momentum, thus Mario’s momentum is generally less valuable by comparison.

Flow

With all of that out of the way, I can start unpacking what I meant by Mario Odyssey’s sense of flow. Flow—for the sake of this discussion, at least—means the smooth transition from one state of motion to another. Flow is important to games, even those that don’t heavily utilize momentum-based mechanics, though not in the way you’d think. People typically like flow, so when the player character takes damage, their flow is interrupted. This brief moment in which the player loses control and their character’s momentum suddenly shifts subconsciously communicates to the player that they’ve made a mistake.

Flow is the smooth transition from one state of motion to another.

This is why it’s typically not advisable to interrupt the game’s flow for something positive. Mario is a bit odd about this as many games do pause momentarily when the player snags a power-up, but the fact that the player’s momentum isn’t lost and instead continues a half second later may have something to do with why it’s not typically seen as an issue. But that’s really a minor nit-pick compared to the plumber’s more egregious violation of these principles: most notably the star-spin from Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel. Mario’s momentum completely stops as he lifts a short distance upward, leaving him with little ability to steer himself. This is awkward when combined with normal jumps, but it completely breaks any sort of flow when Mario is using a technique like the long jump. Mario goes from flying forward to barely having any lateral movement what-so-ever; it feels like running head-first into a wall, to be honest.

An attack enabled by a cute mascot character who rides around on Mario's head? It's a new spin on an old idea.
At first glance, these two moves seem similar, but they’re very different in practice.

Super Mario Odyssey does away with this in two ways. First of all, Mario doesn’t lose much—if any—forward momentum when throwing Cappy. Secondly, Mario can immediately launch himself forward with his jumping dive maneuver. Between these two factors, it’s possible for a skilled player to utilize Cappy as jump-assistance without losing his forward momentum. As mentioned in this article’s introduction, this is used to great effect in the game’s timed missions and Koopa races, where Mario has to build up speed using the rolling maneuver and then hold onto to it through precise platforming and clever use of his aerial repertoire.


While Mario Odyssey is by no means a perfect game, the controls and Mario’s own acrobatic aptitude are spot on. In true Mario fashion, the mere act of moving is fun, especially when you get into a good rhythm and can bound across the game’s colorful locales uninterrupted. It’s also interesting to see Mario take a page from Sonic’s playbook and adopt a rolling maneuver that allows him to travel faster than he can on foot at the cost of control. Hopefully someone at Sega is paying attention, because that’s an idea worth stealing back!

P.S. In case you’re wondering, this is the actual greatest 3D Sonic game ever.

Slime-San: Are we Sold?


Slime-San is an indie game for Nintendo Switch. It’s got a unique art style, interesting physics, and a steep challenge. There’s a demo available for free, and Simeon & Scott give it a spin to see if it’s worth the buy.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/