Review Information
Game Reviewed Mario - The Mysterious Gem, by .M.S
Review Author CM30
Created Feb 10 2024, 7:42 PM

General Commentary and Game Overview
This was a very strange experience, since I remember playing the final game and it being absolutely nothing like the version here.

Then I checked the description again, and realised this was a very, VERY old demo of the game in question. And in that light, it's a very interesting one indeed.

Since it basically acts as a time capsule for .M.S's level/hack design work. You can tell how his journey evolved, with this game starting out as a much more 'vanilla' experience with a brutal difficulty curve before evolving into something much more stylish and modern with Play to Win vibes.

So it's worth checking out for the history lesson alone. But how does it work as an actual game? Let's find out...
Pros * A very different experience from the final game, with different levels, world themes, bosses, etc.
* Some very creative levels and ideas, with a higher difficulty level than the final game.
* Nice aesthetics, with a neat chocolate/vanilla mix
Cons * It's a lot tougher than the final game, and not always in a good way. Cheap hits are sadly more common than I'd like...
* The level design is definitely rougher than the final game, with sections that don't add much to the game and were copied/pasted from the original SMW with few changes.
* Some aspects just don't come together well in general
6 / 10
Gameplay wise, this version of Mario - The Mysterious Gem is a much more mixed bag than its final counterpart. On the positive side, it's a lot more open and action packed than that one, with lots of tricky jumps to make and tough obstacles to avoid. The levels are often longer, the boss battles a little more unforgiving and the game itself more of a challenge to get through than the super polished release one.

And it's got a lot to do as well. Oh sure, the description mentions it has 26 levels to try out, but that's only for those of us who play 100% legitimately. If you use a game genie code to bypass the end of the demo, something akin to 80% of the full game is present here, with only the final confrontation of Bowser actually being entirely unfinished. So yeah, you get a near full game experience here, at least if you're willing to look up some cheat codes or use a modified SRAM file.

That said, there are some negatives nonetheless. Most notably, the level design here is... unpolished compared to the final game, with some rather nasty traps and enemy placements that don't feel very well thought out. This is most notable in the first level, where a meanly placed Bony Beetle at the start of the area can easily blend into the background and catch you off guard, but it's present throughout the whole thing, with lots of levels that fill kinda annoying for the sake of being annoying.

Ah well, it's decently fun anyway.
7 / 10
Graphically, Mario - The Mysterious Gem is a strange beast. You've got entirely new tilesets and backgrounds in some levels, then a bunch of others which take the default Super Mario World tilesets and expand the hell out of them with a metric ton of decorations from either the Super Mario Maker series or other parts of the SMW graphic set. It's very Hacks 101 esque, and feels like the creator was inspired by the 'decoration everywhere' trend that was once omnipresent in the community back when making this.

Either way, it looks good, and has its own charm compared to the (amazing) finished one, so nice job on the graphics!
7 / 10
Musically it's okay. As with many of these games, I don't really remember much of the soundtrack, so my actual thoughts on this are gonna be kinda limited.

Regardless, if it didn't annoy me or stand out for the wrong reasons, it was obviously done rather well. So again, it's decent.
Final Words
6 / 10
All in all, this is a decent hack. Yeah, I'd probably recommend the SMW Central version over this one if you haven't played it before, given that's what the developer wanted this game to be, but it's a nice fun experience nonetheless, and a neat way to see how .M.S' game design preferences have changed over the years. Definitely one to give a shot if you want the history lesson!

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