Posts Tagged ‘rom’

Romhack #1: Dismembered Mario

May 29, 2008

Looking through a certain ROM site (I do not condone any illegal activities besides my own) I noticed something. I’d been looking for the original version of a game by the original publisher, as I always had. I’d never thought to look otherwise. I’d always seen the ROMs with [hack] after them. I’d avoided them like what was contained between those square brackets was the mark of the plague. But then I took a good look at myself; I said “Nick, why are you avoiding these games? Sure, they aren’t from big software houses but they’re still created with love and care – and better, they’re built on top of already great titles. They must be fantastic.”

Sadly, I was largely incorrect, but it gives me something to write about.

Thus I came to write this short post on what could be the most inspired game concept ever. The game is essentially Mario, with one crucial difference. The novice player may not notice the subtle change which has been made to this game that makes it so brilliant. Before I reveal it, see if you can guess from this screenshot:


Can you see what it is yet? I’ll give you a clue. Look at Mario. Notice anything different? That’s right! He has no head. Or rather, his head has been replaced by two red dots because apparently the designer of this fine game (whose name I do not know because it wasn’t signed – and I wonder why) wasn’t thorough enough to erase Mario’s entire head from the sprite. Which is a shame; if the game had just that level of attention to detail it could be elevated from ‘fine’ to ‘great’.

Aside from the clearly hasty erasure of Mario’s head, I have only one other scruple with what is otherwise a pillar of excellence for other romhackers, and indeed developers in general, to aspire to, which is that Mario’s decapitation broke some code somewhere which meant that I only got to see World 0-1, a decidedly rubbish underwater level which was only intended for developers. After completing the level, a disembodied voice (presumably that’s cheaper than Toad) gives you the obligatory “Thank you Mario” speech, then the game goes back to the title screen. For this reason I was unable to find out what other enthralling and captivating things this elite romhacker had placed in this game. Infuriating, to say the least.

World 0-1, bad as it was, was not without stunning graphical enhancements (although none on so grand a scale as ridding Mario of his cranial burden). True, there was only one, but this single sprite defies all competition. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the work of a genius:

Do you not see the genius?

I am not certain as to what “Club Sin” refers to, but the mystery is enough to keep one enthralled for at least a second, perhaps more. The grey thing – for that is all it can be called – poking out of the pipe adds to this enigma. What is it? What is its purpose? Do I die when I touch it? Yes.

It is these subtle yet bold and significant alterations which truly make this magnificent. If the gameplay were extended, I imagine it would be almost bearable. Dismembered Mario is a name I am certain you will see in lights soon.

UPDATE: Through the magic of GameGenie, I have brought you the future. It is bleak. And by future, I mean the rest of the game. The artistic styling, which is actually not too bad for a romhack, continues blearily into the realms of black and orange. Goombas are no longer, for they have been replaced with some kind of orange-eyed monkey creature striking a pose.

The question mark boxes bear some resemblance to the thing that now comes out of Club Sin (I’ve decided that Club Sin is a world beyond the pipe, where everybody has a good time except Mario who’s barred due to his lack of skull) and the clouds have turned evil. The game is generally very black. Koopas are now giant slime creatures:

And I am no longer certain whether I want to eat what the fire flower has become:

Yeowch. Looks like a cross between a candle and a porcupine. I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway; I don’t have the requisite equipment to consume anything. Oh, and if I do eat it – presumably by shoving it down my gaping throat – I become suddenly able to fire axes. From where I don’t know. Maybe I swapped my head for magical axe-generating powers.

Moving on the world 2-2 (the only other world I played, for my world-jumping was quite erratic and I’ve already played Super Mario Bros so I don’t want to do the whole thing again) the colour scheme begins to slowly kill me. The water is black, the coins are now bright pointy arrow things, the fish are stylised glowing neon blobs. Not only that, but I discover that the main attraction of the game, Mario’s headlessness, disappears at the crucial moment of death. Yes, in some kind of bizarre reversal, death actually causes Mario to regain his head. What madness is this?

Playing more of Dismembered Mario has made me change my opinion of it. I once thought it an innovative, inspired work, breaking the commonly accepted barriers of normal human anatomy. However, it’s come to light now that it’s simply a poorly-altered biology-defying nightmare. From the foul colour scheme to the inconsistency of the existential condition of Mario’s cephalic region, this game is just about bad enough to be no fun, but not quite bad enough to be hilarious.

Next time: A game with some lesbians in it, supposedly.