Mario's Time Machine
  • Genre:
    • Edutainment
  • Developers:
    • The Software Toolworks (DOS/SNES)
    • Radical Entertainment (NES)
  • Publishers:
    • Mindscape (DOS/SNES)
    • Nintendo (NES)
  • Released:
    DOS
    • US 1993
    SNES
    • US December 1993
    NES
    • US 06/23/1994
Score: 50%

This review was published on 03/12/2015.

Mario's Time Machine is an educational video game for MS-DOS, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The MS-DOS and SNES versions were developed by The Software Toolworks and published by Mindscape, whereas the NES version was developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Nintendo. It was originally released for MS-DOS in 1993, then for the SNES in December 1993, and eventually got an NES release on June 23, 1994. A few years later, in 1996, the MS-DOS version was rereleased as Mario's Time Machine Deluxe. This game is similar to another educational Mario spinoff made by the same developer called Mario is Missing! The thing these two games have in common is that they both suck. Both games had horrible critical receptions upon release and are now notorious for being some of the worst Mario games of all time.

Image

Bored of kidnapping princesses, Bowser, the main antagonist of the Super Mario series, decides to open his own museum. This harmless idea quickly becomes a harmful one when Bowser uses a time machine he built, called the Timulator, to travel back in time and steal historical artifacts for the purposes of displaying them in his newly created museum. Such time traveling carelessness would undoubtedly change the present in a highly negative manner, so the rampaging reptile must be stopped. Also, in the NES version of the game, Bowser kidnaps the lovable dinosaur from Super Mario World, Yoshi, because the prospect of ruining the present wasn't bad enough. Mario, fat Italian plumber extraordinaire, infiltrates the museum and uses the time machine in a heroic attempt to stop Bowser's selfish desires. Admittedly, this is a creative and slightly cool premise for a Mario game, but one thing that doesn't make sense here is Bowser's motive. Why is he willing to risk dooming everything just to have a neat museum display? He could use his time traveling capabilities to take over the world instead, which would be a more logical move for a megalomaniacal villain. The writers clearly didn't think this one through. That's indicative of the rest of the game, really.

Image

The SNES and DOS versions of the game begin Mario inside of Bowser's museum, right in front of a display of his stolen artifacts. You pick up an artifact, learn where and when to take it by peering at its info screen, input the desired year and location in the time machine, and off you go to return it. In the DOS version, Mario has to defeat Koopa Troopas to get the artifacts. When you're ready, you'll be transported to a strange surfing mini-game where you'll need to collect mushrooms and fall into a whirlpool to actually complete the time jump. While surfing the seas, you'll have to avoid the spiked balls, because touching them will make you lose mushrooms. Additionally, going into a whirlpool before you have enough mushrooms will put you back at the museum. You'll be seeing quite a lot of this surfing stuff if you intend on finishing the game. This could very well be the most entertaining part of the game, which is kind of sad, as it's not that entertaining. It quickly loses its appeal after you do it a few times. That's too bad, considering how often you have to do it.

Image

If you succeed at the surfing mini-game, you'll be at the place and time you picked beforehand. You can't simply hand over the artifact right away, though. For some odd reason, you'll have to answer questions first. There's an information menu that you can bring up at any time with blank spaces in it that you'll have to fill in yourself from a predetermined selection of words. The info generally describes the person of interest you need to give the artifact to. It's kind of like a homework assignment, and as all children know, that's the epitome of fun. Unless you're a history major, you probably won't know the answers to all the questions right off the bat. To obtain the necessary knowledge, you explore the artifact's time period and converse with the people there. Sometimes the people of that time period will give you items you must pass on to someone else, and doing so gets you more info, though this isn't always necessary to figure things out. After you fill out all the blanks on the information screen, you'll finally be allowed to return the artifact to its proper recipient. Why you can't return the artifact before answering the questions is beyond me.

Image

You'll explore many different time periods and locations in Mario's Time Machine. Mario will help Isaac Newton to discover gravity in 1687, assist Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and even aid Thomas Edison to invent the light bulb in 1879. You'd think traveling through time and witnessing history's most defining moments would be cool, but Mario's Time Machine makes it as dull as possible. All the time periods are basically the same thing; tiny, totally flat areas with nothing but a row of houses or doors. There's no particular reason for the game to be presented in a side-scrolling perspective, because it provides no real benefit to the game play. With the exception of the NES version, Mario's ability to jump is almost completely useless. The graphics are pretty nice for the DOS and SNES versions, though, with detailed backgrounds and colorful colors. If only the game play were as good as the visuals.

Image

In the NES version, Bowser's museum has a bunch of doors, each one leading into a room with a battle against Koopa Troopas that is a shoddy replica of the original Mario Bros. for arcades. Just like in the arcade game, you hit the floor from the bottom to flip the Koopas over and then touch them to defeat them. After bashing the baddies, Mario earns an artifact and is able to travel to a time period of his choosing. Once at his destination, Mario will have to search the area for hint blocks that will give him clues as to what artifact belongs there. If you use the artifact in the wrong spot, you lose it and have to repeat the entire process all over again, and it's very specific. It's bad enough that you have to do this a minimum of fourteen times for the fourteen artifacts, but you'll have to do it a lot more if you get anything wrong. Each time period is also pretty empty. There are enemies, but they don't hinder Mario in any way, making them pointless distractions. All of this makes the NES version the most repetitive and least interesting one by far. The only good thing about this version is that it's the shortest, meaning the suffering won't last long.

Image

Mario's Time Machine is dull, tedious, and repetitive. Playing this game is like doing homework. The only good thing about this game is that it can actually be educational at times, at least in the SNES and DOS versions. Talking to the denizens of a particular time period in those versions is very insightful, and once a document has all its blanks filled, it's almost like reading a history book. If you enjoy learning historical facts, then there's a chance you may enjoy the game, although that's unlikely. All the tedious, repetitive game play is likely to get in the way of any possible learning that could be had here, so you're better off going to the library if you're serious about obtaining knowledge. If only we could use a time machine to erase this game's existence from history.

Word Count: 1,292

Tweet