Review Information
Game Reviewed Super Mario Bros. MMXXI, by G-Rex Studio
Review Author AveCoo
Created May 13 2022, 3:08 AM

General Commentary and Game Overview
Super Mario Bros. MMXXI is a feature-filled game that seems to get held back by some annoying shortcomings. It’s worth having a go at this game to see the intent and charm in action, but can be quite hard to stick with for a good time.
Pros - The design and appearance is faithful to the SNES Super Mario Bros.
- You can choose Mario or Luigi, and they feel a bit different from one another.
- Generous checkpoints.
- Lovely graphics and attention to detail in the underwater levels.
- LOTS of levels with a level select screen to boot!
- Controls are shown on startup AND in the readme.
Cons - Very stiff controls with lack of variable jump height.
- Level design quality can be thrown out the window at seemingly random intervals.
- Level design neglects Luigi’s control properties and makes him the objectively inferior player character here (my poor boy!).
- Music can be laughably bad due to a variety of shortcomings.
- Lack of polish with small details.
4 / 10
The overall design is very inspired by the levels of Super Mario Bros. In fact, the game ends up feeling somewhat like a remix of the original levels and format which, of course, is never a bad thing. Seeing that G-Rex was inspired by the Lost Levels to an extent too got me a little worried as the original game was far from tightly designed, but I went in with cautious optimism.

I have to say, the SMB1 feeling was great but, as I feared, the Lost Levels inspiration drags it down. Within the span of the first level, there is a breadth of challenges ranging from beginner obstacles to get you accustomed to the game feel (very nice!) to single tile width jump gauntlets (not so nice!). These single tile wide jumps appeared near the end of world 7 in the original (from memory) and were easily the most challenging part of that game - so why do they appear in LEVEL ONE here? In fact, those two challenges feel vastly different as the original game was light and floaty feel, while this game has the exact opposite feel.

The controls are WAY too stiff. Mario and Luigi start gaining momentum like me trying to pedal my pushbike after forgetting I left it on max gear. The top speed leaves a lot to be desired as well, being noticeably too slow. There is also another major problem in the lack of variable jump height. It was very frustrating hitting my head on a firebar in the castle levels after trying to short hop through an obstacle. Some of the level design feels like being able to perform a small jump was almost the intention, which I gather is the inspiration from SMB1.

There are other parts of the levels where the fixed jump height seems to play into the level design which, of course, is excellent. Some blocks and obstacles are placed at a good height above the player’s head to avoid any unnecessary hiccups. This is where the game is at its strongest currently and can be quite fun.

Choosing Luigi however almost destroys this tighter level design. It’s almost as if his physics remained untested. You remember those ceilings and hazards I mentioned in the last paragraph? Luigi hits them all. His jump height seems to have been increased a little over Mario meaning he now hits every castle level ceiling, firebar and lakitu (who is soooo needlessly fast and therefore impossible to dodge unless you jump OVER every pipe). The best plumber has now become the least viable which is a real shame.

Otherwise the game seems to work all as intended with the water sections being especially good. The level select and checkpoints are generous and nice additions for quality of life. One little oddity is how the game saves at the start of every level, so when you get a game over just return to the title screen and catch up from the level you left off at.
7 / 10
This game remains largely faithful to the SNES version of Super Mario Bros 1. There are well captured details with the font being the same and smaller animations, such as the fireworks, being added as a nice visual flair. There was obvious care put into the graphics and capturing the original game’s feel, but falls short in some seemingly odd areas while excelling in others.

Upon beginning the game, something seemed a bit off. I had to cross-reference some graphics from the All-Stars SMB1 and I figured out what I saw was off… Small Mario’s head was moved back a pixel! Doesn’t sound bad on paper (or screen), but with 16x16 sprites it changes his posture quite significantly. It honestly looks like he’s straightening his back unnaturally to (for a lack of more eloquent wording and analogy) hold in a fart. There’s a variety of these little changes which really affect the overall presentation of the game. The waterfall background doesn't animate and the score text is very off center for stomping an enemy, for example.

It’s just so odd to see backgrounds that should be animated be static, but so much effort in the underwater backgrounds. There is some sort of sine displacement to give them a natural sway and rippling water on top of the whole level. For a lack of better phrasing, it just looks flat out good. So why was this level given so much polish but others were not? It’s just an oddity worth mentioning.

Overall, the graphics are more than serviceable with some nice little additions.
3 / 10
The sound effects are all on point and fit their role. There are some small problems with things like the firework sound effects being cut off by the level transition, but otherwise things are solid.

The music however… The music is a bit of a trainwreck. I was initially surprised to hear the SMB overworld theme with a new instrumentation (the original has always been a bit on the weird and not-so-good side - hot take of the week) and was initially impressed. Then the harmony line came in. I don’t think it would be more possible to pick a more detuned synthesizer if anyone’s life depended on it. The harmony veers almost half a semitone either way from the initial note and makes the music sound so off it’s funny.

Other stage themes suffer from other different issues. For example, why is the castle theme an 8 bar loop? That’s like 12 seconds MAX, grating doesn’t begin to describe it. Such a shame too, cause that arrangement was far more solid than the other ones showcased here.

At least the underwater theme still sounds decent. The instruments being in key helps a lot cause that song will always be one of the best compositions in SMB1 (Hot take number two, perhaps?).
Final Words
4 / 10
The inspiration and intent is more than solid and can verge on great, but gets held back by stiff controls and some unpolished aspects of the presentation. Just like trying to reach the top of the flagpole in this game, it all falls a bit short due to these shortcomings.

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