Wrecking Crew

Year: 1985
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Puzzle Action


Back in 1985, someone at Nintendo decided that it would be a great idea to have a Mario game wherein Mario cannot jump. Probably the sensible thing to do with someone who made that suggestion is to sit them down circle-time style and explain to them that when Mario was introduced, his name was actually “Jumpman,” and that if Nintendo hadn’t been late with the rent payments, they wouldn’t have ever thought to name him Mario. Then, in full sight of all the other employees, that employee should have been shot in the back of the head and left there as an example.

Instead, they made the damn game.

I consider this game a dis-continuity in the Mario universe and demand a ret-con!
I consider this game a dis-continuity in the Mario universe and demand a ret-con!

In Wrecking Crew, you are Mario, except that you have none of Mario’s abilities except the Hammer from Donkey Kong. And like the semi-useless hammer in question, as long as you hold it, you cannot jump. Unlike in Donkey Kong, however, you can’t ever put it down. Never ever. You don’t get to jump, you don’t get to do anything but swing a hammer to destroy things, which sounds far more fun than it is.When I know I’ve played a Nintendo game, but I can’t remember when, I always suspect I’m in for a real “treat” in the most ironic sense of the word. Indeed, Wrecking Crew failed in all the ways that a game should not fail! Start to finish, the whole thing is an unchallenging, unfun, unpleasant experience that immediately evoked a response that can be summarized in the phrase, “Oh, yeah – THIS game…”

You can't tell from this picture, but I've already failed.
You can’t tell just by looking at this, but I’ve already failed.

Here’s the thing – since you can’t jump, there’s no way to get higher without climbing a ladder, and on some levels, you have to destroy the ladder to go on. If you destroy the wrong ladder right off the bat, or even step slightly off the wrong platform, you cannot climb back up and, therefore, cannot complete the level. The designers realized that this could happen, but as far as I can tell only managed to take note of this toward the end of the design process. I say this because their “solution” is to make pressing the Select button return you to the title screen with the stage out of which you just quit selected (which is trivial, since you can select any level from the get-go). But when you return to the game, you have a full set of lives and none of the points you earned. In other words, getting stuck is a sort of non-standard game over that entails no penalties except depriving you of points. This is AWFUL design.

OH, GOD, NO! WRONG LADDER!
OH, GOD, NO! WRONG LADDER!

As far as the actual gameplay goes, though, and setting aside the aforementioned critiques, the game is dull but functional. You can move around and hit things. Sometimes there’re bombs, but you have to move immediately after hitting them or they knock you to the bottom and then you probably lose. There are doors you can knock open to confuse the pea-brained enemies. That’s really it, though – the puzzles are at best mediocre and the variety is at best limited.

John’s Rating: 1.5 out of 5.0. I hate this game, but I really can’t deny that it’s a mostly functional game with all the trappings of such, so it deserves a bit of credit for that. When it comes down to it, though, there’s nothing this game has to offer that’s worth taking it up on.

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