Monday, April 1, 2024

Game 408: Wrecking Crew

Mario and Luigi's final outing in their prehistoric, pre-SMB era is weird. In two months time they'd settle on their lifelong careers as a plumber brothers, but first they'd moonlight as a demolition team in a puzzle platformer not a little reminiscent of Lode Runner, with perhaps a bit of Door Door thrown in. There's even a Lode Runner-style level editor, though the save/load function requires the Japan-only tape deck peripheral.

Your goal - demolish 100 buildings by destroying all of the gray walls and ladders with your hammer and whatever dynamite is lying around the site. Your opposition - sentient wrenches, killer eggplants (not the first or the last time Nintendo would vilify eggplants), errant fireballs, and the foreman Spike (Mario & Luigi are non-union).

The main puzzle element comes from figuring out the logical order of element destruction - you have to knock down everything gray, including the ladders, but destroying a ladder or support pillar too soon could leave a wall or two inaccessible, making the level impossible to finish. This isn't terribly complicated compared to the challenges faced in Lode Runner, but the enemies make things complicated in a hurry; you haven't got many means of fighting them, and by the time you reach the early teens, you'll need to figure out ways to manipulate their movement so that you can reach tricky spots without getting surrounded. Fireballs, which periodically come shooting off the sides of the screen, can also ruin your day if one happens to spawn at a time that you don't have a route to get away from it.

Then there's Spike, who follows you around, breaking stuff with his own hammer, and loves to "accidentally" bash through things and hit you on the other side, sending you plummeting to the bottom of the site. He's usually more of a nuisance than a threat, and can even be helpful on occasion by breaking stuff or sometimes knocking you down to an otherwise inaccessible part of the stage, but he can also screw you up by knocking you into an enemy or inescapable pit or demolishing a key ladder or support beam too soon.

Eat it, hard hat.

Spike also shows up every four stages for a bonus round contest to find a gold coin hidden inside a concrete wall for some points. It's somewhat mindless luck, though not without some room for strategy - you could just try to smash the wall more efficiently than Spike and have more chances, or you could actively try to interfere.

Wrecking Crew is alternating players only, not even offering Luigi a palette swap, though Vs. Wrecking Crew would add simultaneous play. Like Ice Climber before it, you can start on any level you wish, effectively giving you unlimited continues - running out of lives has no consequence except resetting your score.

If you care about that, though, the game has one bit of arbitrary cruelty. If you get stuck in such a way that you can't die, you have to reset the game, and therefore your score. They even programmed the select button as a game reset button - why not have it just reset the level and cost you a life? This is no oversight either; they deliberately made it possible to get stuck and force a game reset; should a barrel fall on your head, you don't die, but become trapped inside the barrel. Forever. Even fireballs will not kill you.

I don't care about that, though, and I'm only concerned with completing as many of the 100 levels as I can.


Level 12 was the first to give me trouble. In retrospect it's not especially difficult, but the key here is realizing that once you leave the central area, there's no going back, so demolish everything inside first. Spike can ruin things for you, but arranging a little "accident" of your own will send him tumbling to the bottom and keep him out of your hair for awhile. The only safe way out is by knocking down a support beam near the top level, letting the ladder fall down, and using it to climb over the barrels.

19 was another tricky one. The dark grey walls take three swings to knock down, and demolishing a whole row takes a pretty long time - the Gotchawrenches have a tendency, if you stick around on one floor for too long, to flank you on either side giving you no chance to escape. Fireballs are also a threat to the player who stays on one level too long. And of course there's Spike, whose attacks will send you down to the bottom level where there's no escape, but two can play that game.

24 was the most difficult yet. Four Gotchawrenches and Spike, and only one ladder on the left side to ascend levels makes it all too easy to find yourself surrounded. And if Spike breaks this ladder, you're screwed. Smashing the ladders on the fifteen floating platforms provides you with a moment of safety... until the fireballs start coming and force you to drop down to a lower platform which could very well be a deathtrap.

I am currently on level 26 and things aren't getting any easier. I don't think that Wrecking Crew's mechanics lend themselves to the same sort of puzzle complexity as Lode Runner's - at least not without demanding Championship Lode Runner-like levels of precise AI manipulation, and I'm praying it never goes that far. But this one's going to be a multiparter, which is a first, I'm pretty sure, for any console game.

1 comment:

  1. The game where the character NAMED AFTER JUMPING, CANNOT JUMP


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