Don’t feel sorry for the plumbers, they’re well used to being knee-deep in it

Mario Bros. (1986)

It strikes me suddenly, with no reason and over 35 years later, that for a supposed plumber I’ve never actually seen Mario do anything you’d call plumbing. He’s clambered through a few pipes alright, and he undoubtedly got up to some messy waterworks while on holiday in Super Mario Sunshine. But when have you actually seen him get down on his hands and knees and fix the gunge and rubbish coming out of those nasty pipes?

Well, you need wonder about Mario’s plumbing credentials no more because in fact, Mario Bros. for NES and Arcade featured Mario, and of course his bro, down in the depths of what may well have been Bowser’s lavvy.

Or maybe it’s Donkey Kong’s toilet. It’s got to be some big boy anyway, because the enemy turtles, crabs, coins and other detritus you find in this game never seem to stop firing out of the effluent outflow. I can’t say I envy Mario going about his wetworks, because plumbing is a pretty tricky business.

I know, because now that I’ve moved out I’ve suddenly had to develop a passing interest in pipes, septic tanks and flushing toilets. If nothing else, I should at least know what to do if I’m going about my business one minute, and then the next I’m knee deep in another sort of business altogether, wondering what on earth to do.

Even the simpler stuff, where I can get a hammer out and pretend to be ‘the man about the house’, if there’s anything with water or pipes involved then I shall have to approach it with great trepidation. If I ever get brave enough to try and do something seemingly minor like calibrate the kitchen taps, I bet you I’ll end up with a mouthful of sewage.

We needed to get a new shower fitted to our house. No problem, you’d have thought. But like with anything else around the house, you’re having to learn an all new language in order to actually engage in dialogue with anyone, supplier or builder or cowboy.

Electric shower? I understand those words together, but then you’re talking to me about PVC, main pipes, plasterboard, and why not get a mixer shower instead? A pilot light, what’s that? Element? I just want to wash my cute little body, and if there’s a little curtain there to cover my shame, then that’ll be just lovely.

Otherwise, I’m clueless – I don’t know, and I don’t wanna know. What I do know about plumbing, piping and the destructive force of rushing hot water is that I’m not to touch it. That sort of thing is always best left to people who know what a monkey wrench is and don’t hide in the background whenever something manual has to be done. Ideally, they’ll also be well used to the smell of a, what is the phrase, jobby-blocked dunny.

They don’t always turn up do plumbers and probably most of us have complained about how much they can cost, but I’m sure I’d be the same in their shoes – whatever time they want to turn up at, they’re worth their fee, and more, so long as all the water doesn’t get backed up a few weeks later.

After all, when you need an IT consultant to fix some wee software fault for your business at a rate of 200 sovs per hour, he’ll do it no problem but you’re left absolutely gutted. All the guy did was restart something, or Google the answer, and then flipped around one line of code and handed you the invoice in one fell swoop.

Well, I tried googling “turn baby dribble shower into high-pressure electric shower” to see if I could do a homemade job. They don’t make it easy for me though – the place I moved into has no less than 2 plug sockets right there in the bathroom.

Is that the most vicious, spiteful trap you’ve ever heard of or what? Someone knew I was a plumbing pilchard and decided they were out to get me, so they tried tantalising me into playing with electricity in the water closet. I’m surprised they didn’t supply me with a special fork to stick into the sockets for good measure.

There weren’t many lessons of the trade to be learned in the Arcade Mario Bros game, I can tell you that for nowt. Even Nintendo don’t seem willing to acknowledge this claptrap anymore. It definitely didn’t get much of a shout for Mario’s 35th Anniversary in 2020, which wasn’t even really his 35th.

Must be a bit like my girlfriend claiming that she’s not actually 30, because she never had a proper 30th birthday due to COVID-19. This game seems to have been largely forgotten and neglected. Well, it’s true that Nintendo bolted the game onto the front of the Game Boy Advance Mario ports as a little surprise – surprises don’t come littler than that.

This really is early 80s Nintendo, and the best way to tell this is by observing the naff jumping mechanic – it’ll remind you of Ice Climber, a leap that gives you 50 feet of vertical height but maybe a gnat’s pube horizontal leeway.

That’s a bit of a shame, that the jumping in a Mario game is so bad, since this game actually places Mario right down in the depths of Bowser’s carsey. All you’ll do after each jump is bang Mario’s head against the roof above him.

That’s probably a pretty big occupational hazard in the plumbing game, so I’ll give Mario Bros. points for originality there. Otherwise, you spend your time needing to be cognisant of the constant stream of enemies that spawn out of the plumbs and leave big turd entrails for you to clean up.

No, sorry, that was Mario Sunshine again – a real flushed turd of a game, that one. Here in Mario Bros you just have to flip over all of the enemies by hitting them from below. This puts them on their backs for a short period of time, so you have to actually go and confirm the kill by running up to their downed bodies and kicking them offscreen.

If you don’t get there in time, the enemies will hop back to their feet, enraged, and chase after you a lot more quickly – perhaps this is a reference to angry customers when the fix hasn’t worked, and they have to make that dreaded confrontational call to the plumber to get them back round to sort things out.

If you do manage to subdue the crab and turtle customers though, by kicking them into oblivion, you’ll get one measly coin for it, when I happen to know that plumbers get a lot more coin than that. You keep doing this until those ruddy pipes are clean and then you move onto the next level. And they never look any different, either. What, you were expecting variety from the inside of multiple shitepipes?

God, this is the pits. I imagine this to be the kind of game that a plumber might invent in their heads when they’ve cocked the job right up and they find themselves having to stretch their arms out like Dhalsim to cover all of the holes that have now appeared in their customer’s piping.

You can actually play this game two-player, against each other. It’s pretty cut-throat in the world of tradesmen, I’ll tell you that. Somewhat disappointingly, the aim of the game isn’t to send your rival off to the builders providers to pick up a sky hook or a long stand or a glass hammer. You just have to grab more coins than them and, with a bit of luck, elbow them headfirst into giant enemy crabs.

The real problem is that the decidedly not-super Mario Bros. is like your toilet if you screw things back in the wrong way, and all the crap comes firing out – it just never ends. There’s no music at all either, beyond the admittedly catchy opening jingle. And we all like to listen to a bit of music while we work, don’t we? After all, why else would you have bought those waterproof headphones? Do you reckon you can buy a piss-proof pair?

4 June 2021

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