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Review 1: Hammer Brother Demo, Awful Game Design Personified

Posted by Nin3DS, in Fan Game/Hack/SMBX Reviews 21 October 2013 · 1,771 views

Note: This article was originally posted at the Talkhaus (talkhaus.raocow.com) under my main site/other username, CM30. It's been mirrored here for archival purposes.

Graphics

Graphically, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. Quite literally to be honest, the graphics used here were chosen with very little thought in mind and seemingly at total random, so you end up with weird clashes like NES foregrounds and Donkey Kong Country backgrounds.

For the most part, the basic style is arguably trying to be that of an eight bit NES game in the style of the Mega Man series (to the point half the foregrounds are even from the NES Mega Man titles). However, this only really extends about as far as the main character and some foregrounds, the backgrounds, some sprites and a lot of other stuff are 16 bit or above. Which as you can probably guess, looks absolutely horrible.

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It's especially bad in a mid game level that uses a Mega Man NES foreground alongside a Donkey Kong Country 3 background. Yeah, those are the most 'compatible' graphics styles on the planet! Oh wait, they clash like hell and just look weird.

On top of this are a bunch of ridiculously poor custom drawn graphics that look like they were done in Paint. And when I say these are bad, I mean it. These look worse than the MS Paint style graphics and palettes in Scarlet Devil Mario for goodness sake! Just look at this... thing...

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Above: This is supposed to be a football stadium. Presumably it's one as drawn by a three year old.

Sheesh. Idea is interesting, execution is awful.

To add to this, there are quite a few technical problems with the graphics too. Like wrong tile use, glitched graphics every now and then, and some rather bizarre oddities that make things seem unpolished. Like the weird Cheep Cheeps that someone walk around on land by flipping back and forth. Or the Mega Man helicopter like things which are actually edited Rexes, so you get hurt when you go through the (seemingly non existent) lower half of the sprite. Careless all round.

1/10

Music

Ranges between good to 'ear shatteringly horrendous. The former when he's used music from the site, the latter when he's tried to port music himself and failed miserably in the process (to the point the 'custom' themes sound a bit like a cat wailing out the tune while sitting on a garden fence). Need more persuasion? Here's a comparison between the abominations of music in this game and the ones from the real Mega Man games they're based on...



The difference is that one sounds quite catchy and entertaining, the other sounds like something from Crazy Bus. All the other 'original' songs are like this. And given that perfectly good music files for said songs do exist, it makes me wonder why these awful versions were used instead.

Still, it's not all bad. The songs that he didn't try and port himself don't sound like complete garbage, so an average score it gets.

5/10

Gameplay/Level Design

This however is where it really, really starts to fall apart. And when I mean fall apart, I mean becomes a complete car crash level failure in game design. Long story short, every single issue SMW Central's moderation team probably warn people about is here present in good supply. Basically, he took the entire list of things the site says not to do, then did them all anyway for the sheer and utter hell of it.

Let's begin with the 'don't make flat, boring levels' thing. That's a problem through at least half of this hack, in which long stretches of flat land end up placed without reason or rhyme with only a few measly enemies on them to break up the monotony. Seriously, at least half the levels in this game is just plain boring because of this and how little variety there is.

That's not all though. Oh no, you know that rule saying 'no blatant level edits'? Well this hack goes a bit further... at least four random levels are completely unedited from the default. There's no reason at all for this, they're surrounded on all sides by completely edited levels including the final one. Maybe it's because it's supposedly a demo? Who knows, but this is somehow a demo which has a new final boss, yet completely fails to edit Butter Bridge 2 and the Valley of Bowser Fortress. Where's the cut off point? Who the hell knows.

And in case you somehow expected this game to have fair level design, it fails entirely in that sense too. Indeed, in a very odd twist of both 'failing to deliver original content' and 'failing to create a fair level', it manages to reuse an entire stage from the Super Mario Bros 1 Kaizo hack Super Mario Forever. This is the second or third level in the entire game too.

Oh, and lest you think this is some one off ocurrence... it's not. Levels are littered with leaps of faith, overly precise platform, Koopa hopping, kaizo traps, invisible coin blocks, silent Bullet Bills, glitches and unfair little 'trapped forever' scenarios where the game uses invisible blocks to trap the poor main character in a tiny gap in the ground with no indication that this is the case or no way to leave. But wait there's more! You know how Super Mario Bros 1 had that weird ratchet scrolling mechanic to stop you backtracking? Well so does this thing. Unfortunately, the levels are not designed for it, meaning that someone playing normally is near enough guaranteed to be trapped and forced to die by the screen scrolling over too far and blocking the only up/down path to the next area. In some cases, I don't even think it IS possible to win, the designer just didn't take the scroll effect into account or design the level around it. Either way, it just adds to the misery.

That said it's not all bad. I mean, it's got a sort of... soul to it. In the most basic sense possible. At least the guy was sort of trying to make something 'epic' that wasn't 'Super Mario Bros 3.5'.

However, it goes wrong simply because of one thing:

He just wasn't good enough to pull it off. The game could have been good if someone who was decent at graphics, decent at music and decent at ASM was the one working on it, but the person who made this seemingly sucked at all three. The result is a game that just can't live up to the ideas present within, and that feels like a poor man's version of Brutal Mario. Oh, and by that... I don't mean it's on the level of Mario LD or a couple of other gimmicky hacks that try and copy Brutal Mario. Heck, even on the level of my own game. Basically, if there was a nice heirarchy of SMW gimmick games, it'd probably go:
  • Brutal Mario/Mario Fantasy
  • Mario LD
  • Scarlet Devil Mario
  • [various other stuff]
  • Ore World 2
  • This hack
  • Super Mario Bros Crossover the hack Azentiger played
It's on that end of the scale. The 'good ideas marred by absolutely horrible execution' end.

A great example of this is the 'Mega Man' level in Star World. To a degree, it looks like it's blatantly trying to copy the third Mega Man level in Brutal Mario, complete with the Doc Robot gimmick. Unfortunately, the designer knew zero ASM and didn't figure out how to implement the actual sprites or gimmicks carol used, so he ended up using a bunch of static images and newbie boss sprites in a pretty bad attempt to pull off something slightly resembling the original. You can also see this with the VIP 4 Abyss of Death clone too...

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In case you're wondering, here are the levels he so badly tried to steal:





If you maybe squint while drunk out of your mind, you can just about see a similarity.
Other examples include a level with the Mega Man 2 Mecha Dragon (which was obviously trying to copy the one from Brutal Mario, complete with same tileset and 'design'), and one with the Mana Beast from Secret of Mana (as a shadow), which was probably inspired by both Brutal Mario and Drama Mistery 1. But as I mentioned above, there's none of the ASM or fanciness that makes this stuff 'entertaining' in this version. Just static images, fairly static platforms and scrolling sequences. It all comes across a bit like The Asylum or Video Brinquedo got their hands on Brutal Mario and wanted a piece of the action.

Did I forget to mention how some levels are unwinnable? Yeah, some aren't possible to win simply because the maker used either the wrong pipe tile (in one case) or the wrong block for 'Bowser' to break through (in the SMB 3 Bowser clone battle). There are also not many reset pipes or ways to restart puzzles and sections you failed, and sprite memory also despawned at least two platforms and a Fire Flower from other areas, making those impossible to beat too.

It's a bit of a shame really, because the odd original idea the creator had were pretty good (one level was seemingly trying to mimic the Pokemon Tower from Pokemon Red and Blue and the urban legends based on it (complete with a 'boss battle' against that Buried Alive thing featured in some creepypasta). And there was a basic theme of 'that ghost Missingno thing' being a villain of some kind that this Hammer Bro had to stop from destroying the world. It's just that a lot of it was seriously let down by a mix of bad level design and lack of technical ability.

So gameplay and level design wise, it's pretty poor unfortunately. Probably would give it about 2/10, with the 2 points being for some sparse moments of creativity littered throughout.

Overworld

What overworld? It's the Super Mario World default overworld. Except for whatever reason, Bowser's Valley has been completely nuked out of existence and replaced by a void... with the same levels placed in the same way and the same layer 1 tiles as before visible.

0/10

Other

OUt of all the levels in this game, two are stolen from VIP 4, the concept of one is nicked from VIP 2, three or four levels are cloned from Brutal Mario, both Super Mario Forever and Kaizo Mario World have their first levels duplicated and (sigh) Donut Bridge 2, all four switch palaces, Valley Fortress, Chocolate Secret, Donut Secret and the last two special world levels are unedited from the original Super Mario World. Additionally, a lot of other levels are blatant attempts to clone stages from Mega Man 2.

Overall

All in all, this was a pretty damn poor attempt at a Super Mario World hack. With bad and clashing graphics, some horrendous music ports and some of the worst level design (and plagiarism) I've seen in years, Super Hammer Bro 3 or whatever it's called is an absolute trainwreck that's probably going to get removed the minute someone bothers to moderate hack submissions again.

I give it a 2/10 score for simply being an epic fail in every way possible, and I say that this is the nearest thing to a SMW My Immortal level bad work in years. Avoid it at all costs.