One of the spawn from Nintendo’s ill-fated deal with Philips Electronics, Hotel Mario frequently holds court on “Worst Games Ever” lists. I played it expecting it to be a huge parking lot full of dinosaur shit. Instead, I found a tolerable, slightly below average game.

The cutscenes are hilarious. I can’t get enough of them. I think they outsourced the animation to a head injury ward in Djibouti. Mario and Luigi have been invited by Princess Peach to a dick-lick (maybe it was “picnic” in the script but I’ll be damned if that isn’t what Mario’s voice actor says), only to discover she’s been kidnapped by Bowser. Mario and Gay Luigi (or maybe it’s “Hey, Luigi!”…the dubious voice actor strikes again) journey to Bowser’s hotels to rescue the princess and ensure that there will be further Princess-enabled picnics/dick-licks in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Hotel Mario is simple to play. Each of the seven hotels contains 10 stages. To clear a stage, you have to shut all the doors. You can use elevators to ride from one floor to the next, and also to avoid enemies. All of Mario’s usual bête noires – Goombas, Koopas, and so forth – are out in force, and they can be fought either by jumping on them or by killing them with fireballs. Mario titles are usually platformers but this one verges on being an outright puzzle game at times.

The backgrounds (designed by Trici Venola) are colorful and fun, and drive home the visual theme for each hotel. The animation works well for this sort of game, and there’s enough of it to make the levels seem “alive” instead of just a collection of tile graphics (a common fault in these games). The final boss fight is fun. If they’d kept up that level of imagination and intensity throughout the entire game, we might have really had something (where “something” is defined as Claw, Gruntz, or Jazz Jackrabbit, to be precise).

The downside? The controls suck, the music sucks, the level design is repetitive, gameplay is not so hot, and I don’t understand how shutting doors in a hotel helps you rescue the Princess.

Seriously, what the fuck is up with those fucking cutscenes? Who signed off on them, and why didn’t he bring his seeing-eye dog into work? They look horrible. It’s like someone inked them with a projectile vomiting toddler instead of a brush.

I wonder if Nintendo’s bad experiences with the Philips CD-i is the reason they shied away from CD-based platforms in the mid 90s. It’s an interesting thought. This tiny obscure game might be the reason why you spent your early teens blowing on N64 cartridges like a retard.

Then again, that might be too interesting a backstory for this very uninteresting game.

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