Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Enough Plumbers

Hey, you! Yes, you, the person who isn't my fiancée (thanks for the hits, baby)! You always loved Super Mario Bros. when you were a kid, right?

Sega player? Oh. Me too.

Hey, whatever! What I'm trying to get at is that the Mario games were and remain a perennial favourite of retro gamers. Something about the totally ridiculous concept of of an Italian plumber jumping around a weird, brightly coloured mystical realm in search of a kidnapped princess just struck a chord with people. Well, if you liked guiding one plumber across platforms and pitfalls, you're going to love doing that with fifteen plumbers! Or at least you will if you play Enough Plumbers, a game that combines puzzles, platforms and genetic cloning.

Plenty of games let you create copies of your character and have them carry out tasks to overcome obstacles, but I haven't seen many that have you controlling all of the clones simultaneously. Herein lies some of the challenge in Enough Plumbers. It's up to you to reach the flag on every level, which usually involves creating and sometimes sacrificing clones in order to cross pits and remove walls. Taking its cue from the Mario games by which it is clearly inspired, Enough Plumbers has a bright 8-bit look, simple controls and plinky-plonky MIDI music that you can thankfully mute if it gets too annoying.

This paragraph break is so I can post the above screen shot. Allow me my indulgence; watching the hero take a Superman pose and fly off to the next level can't help but raise a smile.

What helps Enough Plumbers break up the monotony of repetitive jumping, dodging and cloning are numerous power-ups than can help or hinder you if used at the wrong time. Become metal and smash through bricks, down fizzy cola and inflate into a human balloon, or eat mushrooms and experience wild hallucinations where everything is topsy-turvy, left is right and right is left! And while I may be exagerrating the extent of that last power-up's abilities, at least it's a more accurate depiction of what can happen than the Mario games ever gave us.

Just because you feel ten feet tall, doesn't make it so, man.

I will say one thing about this game - it can be a damn struggle to get through. Good hand-eye co-ordination is a must, as is a certain amount of lateral thinking. Even then, sometimes luck just doesn't go your way. Trying to complete the same level again and again is always stressful, but there are some puzzles here that can't help but raise your blood pressure tenfold.

The above level is a perfect example. I need to guide one plumber across the platforms and hit a number of buttons while a second plumber floats perilously close to rows of flame. To make things just a little harder (because hey, why the hell not?) two jumping assholes are also in the way. Maybe you'll manage it on your first try, though the more likely scenario is keyboard smashing and language that would kill a Pope. Fortunately there is a walkthrough for those puzzles that leave you simply dumbfounded.

I don't even know what to say about the final boss. He looks a bit like a cross between Mick Jagger and a gargoyle, and he shoots blue flames that turn you to stone. Difficult to beat, yes, but like everything else in the game there is a strategy to defeating him.

At the end of the day, I really enjoyed Enough Plumbers. It's clever, it's fun and it's challenging without being totally unbeatable. It's the type of game that'll help you easily kill time while also pondering the contribution of gold coins to scientific experimentation.


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