Wrecking Crew
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    NES
    • JP 06/18/1985
    • US 10/18/1985
    • UK 10/15/1987
    ARC
    • US 12/31/1985
    FDS
    • JP 02/03/1989
Score: 70%

This review was published on 04/09/2015.

Wrecking Crew is a video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in Japan on June 18, 1985, North America on October 18, 1985, and Europe on October 15, 1987. On December 31, 1985, the game got a slightly modified arcade release titled Vs. Wrecking Crew. Later, it was released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan on February 3, 1989. Designed by Yoshio Sakamoto, this game was one of many launch titles for the NES in North America. For being a first party Nintendo game starring Mario, Wrecking Crew isn't too well known. That goes to show you that even Mario games can be obscure. It's certainly an unusual game, considering it features Mario as a demolitionist instead of a plumber. Mario's a man of many talents. While weird, Wrecking Crew is a solid little puzzle game that has the potential to entertain for a bit.

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Despite being called Jumpman in the original arcade release of Donkey Kong in 1981, Mario can't jump in this game. The mustachioed Italian is wielding a hammer that, presumably, weighs him down too much to perform a spry jump. You use the d-pad to make Mario walk around and climb ladders, and you press the A or B buttons to have him swing his hammer. Pressing the select button will send you back to the title screen, which is used in the event that Mario is placed in a situation that's impossible for him to get out of. Even though the guy can't jump, he's able to fall off ladders and platforms in an attempt to land somewhere else. He can safely land from any height, too. This is an integral part of the game, as it not only allows him to reach normally inaccessible areas, but it's also a good way to escape enemies. However, that's really all Mario is capable of doing. Aside from being able to land from any height, Mario's abilities in Wrecking Crew aren't much greater than an average human's.

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As the game's name suggests, Mario's job is to wreck stuff. He's going to wreck it, but his name isn't Ralph. There are a certain amount of objects Mario must destroy in each level before being allowed to move on to the next one. These objects include things like walls and destructible ladders. Yeah, it's not terribly exciting work. Each object will take a certain amount of punishment before being demolished, so not everything is destroyed in a single strike. Breaking pillars will drop whatever platforms they were supporting, altering the level's layout slightly. Occasionally, there are bombs Mario can hit to damage all connecting objects on the same row, but the resulting blast can knock him off the platform. There are also doors Mario can open with his hammer, but he can't enter them himself. Instead, the doors are used to move enemies out of the way, as enemies will automatically enter opened doors and end up in the background, where they're unable to harm Mario. Some of the objects in Wrecking Craw are weird, but destroying stuff is always fun.

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All levels are seen in a side view perspective and the screen doesn't scroll horizontally, but it does scroll vertically. Like the arcade games of old, the levels wrap around horizontally, meaning walking to the right edge of the screen will put Mario back at the left edge of the screen, and vice versa. There are a total of 100 levels in the game and players are granted the freedom to pick the desired level at the title screen. That's certainly a convenient feature. Besides avoiding enemies, the main challenge of the game is destroying all objects in the correct order. Because Mario is unable to jump and is able to destroy helpful objects like ladders, it's possible to place yourself in a situation in which it's impossible to proceed. Many of the early levels are flexible enough to allow for object destruction in any order, but the later ones aren't as kind. You must cleverly plan out Mario's route of destruction so as to not get stuck. It's an interesting challenge, but annoying, considering you essentially need to reset the game every time you're stuck. Sure, doing so is as simple as pressing select, but it still feels like bad design.

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Enemies are determined to stop Mario from doing his job. If an enemy touches Mario, it's all over. The two basic baddies primarily encountered on this destructive quest are the Gotchawrenches and Eggplant Men. Gotchawrenches are living wrenches that will chase Mario around the level, whereas Eggplant Men are strange abominations that simply move in a single direction without much thought. Additionally, fireballs will sometimes appear from the sides of the screen and fly around. The biggest bogey is a construction foreman named Spike, who is thought to be an early form of Wario. Spike is typically seen in bonus stages where he and Mario hold a demolition competition to find a coin, but he also appears in the regular stages. The cranky foreman can't hurt Mario, but he can hinder him by breaking ladders and tossing Mario to the ground. Generally, enemies must be left alone, but sometimes Mario can use bombs to knock them off platforms and trap them in between barrels. The only way for Mario to attack enemies directly is by using the elusive golden hammer. In addition to temporarily beating enemies, the golden hammer increases the power and speed of Mario's swing, and even lets him to fly over gaps. Getting a golden hammer without a guide is almost impossible, though, because it requires the destruction of objects and bombs in a very specific order, and there's no way to logically figure out that order on your own.

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Believe it or not, this game comes with a level editor. It's fairly intuitive, too. All you have to do is move the cursor around and press the buttons to place objects. If any of the buttons are pressed while the cursor is highlighting an object, it will change the object into a different one. You can press a direction on the d-pad and a button on the second controller to completely fill the screen with a single object type. Up to four levels can be created and you can even name them. Unfortunately, saving or loading custom levels requires a hardware accessory called the Famicom Data Recorder, which is a cassette tape device that was never released outside of Japan. That means North America and Europe are out of luck. Being able to design your own levels with such intuitive controls is great, but not being able to save them is a serious letdown.

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Wrecking Crew is more of a trek than a wreck. Solving brain stimulating puzzles while frantically avoiding enemies is exhilarating, but also frustrating. Being cornered by an enemy while you're heavily contemplating the puzzling solution is a common occurrence. Getting yourself stuck by destroying a ladder you needed only adds to the frustration. The lack of enemy and object variety also means that the game inevitability becomes repetitive, especially if you're crazy enough to attempt all 100 levels. On the flipside, because you're able to freely select what levels you want, that means you can continue retrying a particular level endlessly, and can even skip ones you don't like. If you're able to stomach the countless irritating moments you'll undoubtedly experience, then Wrecking Crew is a decent puzzle solving game.

Word Count: 1,253

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