Review Information
Game Reviewed Mario in Space, by Thunder Dragon
Review Author Vitiman
Created Jun 24 2020, 10:03 PM

General Commentary and Game Overview
I have heard a lot of mixed opinions (mostly within the "negative" sphere, don't be mistaken) about the old default Clickteam platform movement engine and how it affects the playability of vintage, early 2000s fangames. Me specifically, I've always been able to grit my teeth fairly easily and accept the trappings of the programming. When I do, usually I'm able to find something underneath that's worth harking back to - something from almost 20 years ago that's actually worth remembering.

But even I have my limits. Sometimes a game is designed to be as antagonizing to the player as humanly possible, even when you consider the awful physics at play. Sometimes a person has deliberately programming something so outwardly malicious and evil that one shudders to think what this person is up to nowadays.

...the hell do you mean it's the guy who made Psycho Waluigi?
Pros + The premise proves to be as charming as a lot of older fangames
+ Graphic clash is extraordinarily out of this world - fitting for the premise
+ Trying to use Mario assets to create the planets in our beloved solar system is a magical visual
+ I really love the music choices a lot, I do
Cons - Default platform engine is probably at the worst it's ever been in this game
- I will personally hunt down every Venus flytrap in real life and make them extinct as an act of vengeance for how Piranha Plants behave here. Considering I dislike insects a lot and this is the main diet of the Venus flytrap, this should tell you how much I hate them in this game
- The auto-flying stage in the first area can, and I usually refrain from vulgarity in my reviews but please pardon my French, go f**k itself
- Really, any interesting ideas and mechanics are executed so badly in this as to induce rage, and probably abrupt tears
2 / 10
Your goal in each level is pretty simple: get to the end. The way you do this varies - sometimes it's the end of the screen, sometimes it's a pipe, sometimes you even deal with a (poorly programmed) boss, but that's not really what I'm getting at here, oh no. None of that is remarkable in the slightest compared to how held back the game is by its own design choices.

Piranha Plants that periodically (every 3 or 4 seconds, all at once if there are more than one on-screen) fling fireballs at you that are practically unavoidable. Need I say more? You have a proper HP bar in the game, but that's meaningless when things like spikes and enemies can deal repeat damage because there's no invincibility frames to recover from. Getting stuck in stuff is very easy too, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise given what we're dealing with here.

Really, a lot of enemies have timed attacks that are unavoidable, it's not just the Piranha Plants. Wily Capsules (???), weird goblin CG monsters, the list goes on. Thunder Dragon must have thought it would add a challenge or some degree of difficulty to his unflattering level design, but all it has done is create a nigh-unplayable game that takes "exercise in frustration" as a call to arms and, presumably, an excuse to go to the gym and bulk up on horrible mechanics, poorly-implemented gimmicks and an obtusely crafted coins-as-ammo system.

Yes yes, you read that correctly: coins as ammo. The coin counter won't reset upon death, so if you lose a life in a particular section that doesn't have enough coins to stock up on (they'll carry over between areas in contrast, for some reason), then you're basically screwed and have to reset all over. Considering how fast and easy-to-miss your shots will tend to be as you waste them, the coin counter will deplete quicker and quicker as you progress through this travesty of a game. Did I mention this is your only way to fend off the bastards that make up the enemy gallery? Not super surprising, but this is yet another old fangame that does not allow Mario to use his trademark jumping mechanic to stomp some Koopa Troopa arse... which is a complete shame, because this game could use something else to compliment the coin laser shooting stuff; really, anything else would have been ideal.

I could go on, but I think that about covers the general stuff about why this game is awful to play. I tried making it through the third world (Jupiter), but that level introduces an absurd heavy-gravity mechanic - a cute idea in theory - that ultimately made me quit for good. Maybe I'll come back to it, but only if I really get an itch to hurt myself.
6 / 10
The graphics are objectively flawed put together, but there is a very amusing charm going on here. Thunder Dragon's attempts to recreate planets using largely Mario-only assets makes for a very surreal and mid-'90s computer experience. It kind of reminds me of stuff like the really old "Magic School Bus" PC game, the one that takes place in space. That's a specific kind of aesthetic I don't usually find people deliberately calling back to, and I guess in this case it was probably an accident.

Generally though, I think the graphics are fun and part of the amusement in playing these really old fangames is seeing the graphic clash. I think it adds to the experience, myself!
7 / 10
Some great music choices here, and because I was playing this in a Windows 95 emulation (sending my praises to PCem, a wonderful piece of software if your computer can handle it - and you know how to set everything up yourself), I got to enjoy all of the MIDIs in an actually pleasant way for once, rather than in an ironic sort of way. That is to say, I got me some of that Sound Blaster action going on, and it made for a surprisingly competent sound set for the instruments to play through. Some of the instruments were still a bit corny, but there was more realism in them than I'd give any credit for under normal circumstances.

I suppose that's a tangent I'm going on. After all, that's not really the game's doing, that was something I did myself... and would theoretically apply to any MIDIs playing in this emulated machine. Try it if you're crazy enough like I am! Authentic experience all over, not just with the sound chip!
Final Words
2 / 10
Mario in Space boggles my mind at how poorly made it is, even for its time. Even if you put aside the buggy default platform movement, the game is designed almost deliberately to tick you off; from obnoxious enemies that fire unavoidable projectiles at you to your own projectiles and only source of defense being sourced from finite coins.

Unless you want a laugh or an attempt to play one of the most unfairly challenging fangames I've ever attempted to try, I'd avoid.

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