There’s plenty to click, and it’s not much of a drag either

Mario & Wario (1993)

To this day, I still can’t decide whether or not I like mice. I’m not talking about computer mice, to which I’m fairly ambivalent. I’m certainly a lot more ambivalent about them than an old boss of mine who was from an age before computers, and therefore distrusted them immensely. He’d pull the old wired mouse around his desk like he was trying to start a lawnmower, and he only ever called it “the rat” in a low grunt. You’ll know the difference between mice and rats if your cats ever bring them in, that’s for sure. Here’s a tip – rats are a bit more chewy.

Cats give mice a bloody awful death, if you’ve ever seen the way they bat them about the place like those tennis ball rackets with a stringed ball. You’d have to say though, they probably need to be killed. No really, if you’ve ever had a mouse infestation in your house, like I have, then you’ll know that being nice and caring towards the mice is no use at all. It’s not like dealing gently with a spider by using the old sheet of paper and glass trick to bring them outside, you know? Of course, what the Spider Conservatism Society don’t know is that I hoover all spiders up on sight, with extreme prejudice.

I know you’ll now think of me as not only a dirty get, but also an inhumane piece of work. But when we did try to get rid of the mice in our house, we tried it humanely and got absolutely nowhere. And God knows how they even came in – we suspect a clandestine operation where they got in via some Easter Eggs as a Trojan Horse. We tried those humane traps, where they run into a little cubbyhole tunnel, and that was a proper liberty. Not only do they get to keep their lives, but they get an old slab of chocolate into the bargain.

Well I’m not joking you, if the mice didn’t ignore these things outright, they’d grab the chocolate and somehow still be light enough not to set off the trap. Another occasion, we went out to empty the mouse into the black bin (presumably for the far more humane outcome of being crushed to bits in the back of a bin truck). Well, I opened the trap and the bloody thing sprang to life and jumped out, before disappearing in a tiny, cute little furry flash back into wherever teeny mice live and breed.

We were running out of opportunities to get rid of these critters before they bred at such a fantastic rate that not only would we be overrun, but they’d evolve so quickly they’d develop killer claws, spines and laser vision. It was time to put down those vicious mouse traps, for which you’ll definitely need a bit of bottle when setting them up. It’s like trying to guess when the smoke alarm is about to go off, when you’re not arsed changing the battery – it’s that level of dread and anticipation.

You definitely think the thing is ready to snap your fingers right off, maybe even your thumb, which’ll put you on a level pegging with the target mouse. Breaks my heart to have to come down in the morning to discover a newly killed wee mouse, but not as much as it breaks their necks. If I’m feeling particularly hungry, they break my fast as well. OK, now I’m just being nasty – I can admit that, when they’re invited guests, mice can be nice little yokes. Cute, even.

A lot like the aesthetic of Mario & Wario for the Super Famicom, one of the more obscure Mario games out there. Emphasis indeed on Famicom, because you won’t get this on your dreary old American Super Nintendo that tried to look like something from Robocop, nor did we get it on our European SNES tribute act. What’s firstly bizarre about this title is that, though there isn’t a massive wealth of text in the game anyway, it’s still entirely in English. This only makes NIntendo’s refusal to localise this title all the more strange.

The second bastion of bizarredom here is that this is one of those rare SNES games that uses the Super NES Mouse. Actually, more games that you might think can be controlled by the SNES Mouse, although you probably aren’t unlucky enough to have owned most of them, and you’ll get no joy out of using it with either Sim City 2000 or some nice re-release of the original SimCity SNES, so what was the point of it really? Effectively, you were only ever gonna use it for Mario Paint, and if you did, you’ll remember how it wasn’t exactly surgical in its precision.

You wouldn’t want to have used the SNES Mouse to play that wire loop game, or done some lewd Photoshopping with it, that much is certain. It was a teeny, pokey, not at all ergonomic mouse that, once you swatted enough flies and had your spin through the Composer, there wasn’t much stopping you from putting it and the piddly little plastic mousepad back into the drawer for good.

That’s why it’s a right pity that Mario and Wario never made it over because, so far as I can see, it’s the only SNES Mouse enabled game worth a damn. Well, maybe a bit of Sim Ant, but wouldn’t they need six SNES Mice, one for each leg? Whatever about all that, I do encourage you to check out Mario & Wario, even if it’s most likely going to be via illicit means, because this one really is a lot more fun and playable than you might think.

It’s strictly a casual game of course, and it must feature as one of very few games where Mario doesn’t jump. He doesn’t do much of anything really, except walk incessantly in a straight line. He can’t see where he’s going either, and it’s here that I can reveal the game’s grandiose plot to you – it features Wario, still clearly in his German days as he pilots a Luftwaffe plane directly over Mario, before dropping a bucket on our hero’s head and zooming off into the distance, cackling away. Now really, come on, who throws a bucket? Who does that?!

You actually play as a cute little fairy called Wanda, by which I mean she acts as your cursor. Yeah, do you remember back in the day how you could customize your PC mouse cursor into all sorts of gaudy things? No? Well, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that we lost that PC of ours to a myriad of viruses. Anyway, it’s more of a surprise that your cursor isn’t represented by a massive flame bird, or perhaps more accurately a set of car keys, given that Mario & Wario is one of the few non-Pokémon games that Game Freak are known for, or not known for as the case may be.

Since Mario’s decided that nobody will recognise him underneath the incredible bucket disguise, he does what I think a lot of us would secretly love to do, or are always but a step away from doing – he completely loses the run of himself. I do sympathise with Mario. After all, he’s always so upright and proper, the man deserves to be able to let loose every once in a while. I’m also no stranger to having a similarly obstructive traffic cone over my head on many occasions in those most banterous of student days that everybody hates hearing about. And I never had any fairies come along and try to help me home, that much I can tell you.

But we’d better help the guy out. You’ll have to stage what I suppose sympathetics of alcoholism would call an “intervention” and use your mouse to guide Mario through 100 levels, each with various hazards that’ll down Mario in one. You’ll click block outlines to create solid platforms, platforms that disappear after a few seconds, blocks and rocks that stand in his way, and all manner of other obstacles between him and faithful Luigi, waiting to help his brother out. Really, it’s a simple game, you could probably program it yourself quite easily, but that’s what makes it quite brilliant.

Alright, I’m not saying it’s any kind of 9 out of 10, or even 7 out of 10. In fact, I’ll probably forget all about this game again for another ten years when I put my pen down. But here’s the thing – even the beloved old NES Zapper sadly became obsolete. The Super Scope was quickly and quietly retired, probably for the best given that its battery consumption would have caused an energy crisis. There are even plenty of gaming devices that forgo the use of a dedicated controller – maybe they’ll be in for the obsolescence chop sometime soon as well. That’s a lot of hardware left looking over their plastic shoulders. But I don’t see any signs of the common mouse being extinct any time soon, do you?

5 October 2021

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