Review by Eric43

Reviewed: 10/03/07 | Updated: 01/09/08

If you need instructions on whether or not to play this game, check out the enclosed review

The Philips CD-I…one of the kookiest stories in video game history. In the 90’s, Nintendo bailed out on Philips’ CD-based console, possibly leading to the creation of the Sony Playstation and a ton of bad licensed games based on our beloved Mario and Zelda trademarks. Needless to say, the two words “Zelda Cd-I” strikes fear into the hearts of gamers everywhere and even makes little chidren cry. However, the only Mario game on the Cd-I, Hotel Mario, was actually, at best, decent. But just like every other Cd-I game it’s probably better if you never played it.

The plot of this game is just as gimmicky as it gets for a Mario game. Mario and Luigi go to the Mushroom Kingdom only to find out that Bowser and the Koopa Kids had kidnapped the Princess for the nth time and held her prisoner in the seven Koopa hotels. The story serves no real purpose whatsoever but to propel you through the levels and to the ultimate conclusion in which the Princess kisses Mario and Luigi on the cheek. At least it’s a lot more rational than the plots of Zelda: Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon.

Each level takes place on a fixed screen with different levels and plenty of doors (hence the hotel theme). The point of the game, a la Elevator Action, is to go through elevators to get to different floors and close all the doors on the map. Yes, there’s no flags to grab but there are plenty of enemies that wander around the level trying to touch you and make you die. You can jump on them or hide inside doors to bypass them. Some rooms contain items, such as coins, mushrooms, and fire flowers, which serve their typical Mario purpose of giving extra lives and allowing Mario to take multiple hits. When you close all the doors on the screen, you move on to the next level. At the end of each stage is a Koopa Kid boss, and when you “beat” him by shutting all his doors, it’s on to the next hotel.

The idea for this game sounds good on paper but the execution is average. Mario scoots around at a set speed and doesn’t grow bigger with mushrooms—his overalls glow but that’s it, really. Jumping and shooting fireballs require mastery of the controls (i.e., jamming buttons at the same time) and can be very tedious, if only because the Cd-I controller is so terrible. Enemies are rather predictable but they do get more difficult as the game progresses, and top that off with the stupid elevators that mixes up the order they move and enemies that open doors you just closed and the game walks the line of being genuinely difficult and just plain petty. It’s not a fast-paced Mario platformer and for that, many Mario fans may find the game repulsive and monotonous, but for what it does, it does it whole-heartedly enough.

Despite the fact that Nintendo had no production in the game, Hotel Mario has a lot more in common with the original series than the Zelda Cd-I games. Mario and many of the game’s enemies, consisting of Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Bob-Ombs, Boos, and others, look like docile versions of their Super Mario World counterparts. Also, it’s nice to see the Koopa Kids return for one last game, if only as a bunch of stupid-looking enemies. The game earns points for at leasting sticking to the Mario concept, though you cannot take off and leave the screen.

The game’s visuals are good, according to Cd-I standards. Each of the seven hotels has a theme—forest, cave, brick building, etc. gives a different look on the action and make progressing to the next level a treat. Mario and the enemies’ sprites look a bit awkward as they are either too sluggish or too quick, but the look grows on you with extended play. The sound effects are a mixed bag of funky, upbeat tunes and other ad-libbed sound effects of Mario’s jumps and whatnot. I actually thought the sound, especially the music was pleasant, and is one of the best parts of the game.

The best was saved for last—the cutscenes. Shoddy animation is synonymous with the Cd-I, especially the library of cutscene footage that can be extracted from the Zelda games. Hotel Mario uses cutscenes in the game’s intro and in-between hotels (as well as in a few “secret” locations) and serve little purpose other than to give you “hints” to complete the next hotel. In the days before Charles Martinet but after Lou Albano, Mario comes off as a fat, accent-lacking bald guy while Luigi has his usual high-pitched, nasal whine. Usually, in each cutscene, Mario and Luigi stand around baffled wondering why the Princess was “moved” to the next hotel and drop of plenty of goofy lines such as “If you pinch Wendy’s pennies, they pinch back!” and “If you need help getting through the hotels, check out the enclosed instruction book.” Yes, the game actually breaks the fourth wall. The cutscenes come off as terribly hideous to absolutely hilarious, depending on your tastes. But if you consider that you can just view all the game’s cutscenes off of YouTube, it defeats the purpose of playing the game to begin with.

Hotel Mario isn’t a bad game but it breaks from the Mario formula too much to be a really good game. The game’s pacing is decent but the controls and the repetitiveness take a toll in the long run. If you do happen to find of the game, it serves as a better collector’s item than an actual game. Perhaps you may enjoy the game very much, but it’s an acquired taste that’s a hit-or-miss with each and every gamer.

Presentation: 7/10 – A Cd-I animated intro is the best the developers could’ve come up with, and it’s fancy enough.
Gameplay: 6/10 – Elevator Action gameplay is unique and the difficulty increases respectively, but the controls are bad and the door-shutting is repetitive.
Graphics: 7/10 – Hotel backdrops look decent and the sprites are okay but look rather choppy in motion.
Sound: 7/10 – Some pretty neat music and standard sound effects go beyond the “call of duty” for a Cd-I game. Voice acting is atrocious and funny at the same time.
Replay Value: 6/10 – Seven hotels to get through, but the concept of shutting doors repeatedly only holds a candle for a little while.

Rating: 6

Product Release: Hotel Mario (US, 12/31/94)

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