Everybody knows Mario, Luigi, and the test of the Mario Brother regulars. Nobody's gonna be surprised to hear they've got a new game for the SNES, but everyone's gonna be surprised when they see just what kind of a game it is! Can you spell, E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N-A-L! OK, so education's a dirty word to most gamers. Educational=Boring. Right? Well, in this case the answer is yes... and no!
Mario's missing! Bowser sent an army of Koopas across a side-scrolling world to snatch priceless artifacts. Even worse, he kidnapped Mario. In this one-player, educational adventure, you're Luigi. With Yoshi in tow, you crisscross the world in search of Mario and the missing artifacts. As you search, you get to learn a thing or two about history and geography.
Plumbing the Portals
Where do you begin? You start your search by sneaking into the portals of Bowser's lair, which zap you to various cities across the world. You then roam the city streets looking for renegade Koopas. When you hop on a Koopa, it sometimes coughs up an artifact. You can also talk to people you meet in the streets to figure out where in the world you are. Then use your Globulator to call Yoshi and guide him to that locale on a world map. Once on board Yoshi, you ride on, returning the missing artifacts to their rightful places throughout the city.
- To travel faster, take a shortcut through the city's sewer pipes. Just remember to backtrack through the areas you skipped, or you'll miss out on some important city sightseeing.
- Call Yoshi as soon as possible. You can travel faster on Yoshi than on foot.
To replace each artifact to its proper place, you must answer a question about it. Then, if you are correct, leave the portal and seal it up. As for points, you earn them based on how long it took you to clean up the problems in each city. A password enables you to continue from the last portal you've cleared. The game ends when all the portals are sealed, and Mario is rescued.
- Every action you take costs you some time. Avoid randomly going back and forth into the Plumber's Toolbox.
Mario Misses the Mark: Graphics & Sound
The graphics and sounds in Mario Is Missing! are primitive by Mario standards. The sprites are small and simple with minimal animation, and the backgrounds have nowhere near the graphic complexity of those found in Super Mario World. The soundtrack is merely the same tune played over and over with slight ethnic touches for each locale.
Mario Is Missing! is geared for gamers ages eight and up. None of the Koopas you encounter along the way will do you any damage, so the game is totally won or lost on brain power. The answers to the questions about the various artifacts are present in the brochures you find. Anyone who can read can easily find the answers to the questions. Although the interface is a simple two-button job with different menu options, it's complicated enough to require a good read of the manual.
Mario Earns a C+
Successful educational games sneak the learning in with the fun. Mario Is Missing! teaches factual information, but isn't as effective as simulation-style, educational products, like Sim-City, where you learn by doing. Similarly, it's not as sophisticated as Carmen Sandiego, which is gonna earn this game a poor grade on most gamers' report cards. However, if you've gotta learn your history and geography, doin' it with Mario is more fun than reading a textbook. Try it, you might like it.