Tell me if this sounds familiar: A short, squat character must call upon his jumping abilities in order to rescue a Princess from an evil captor. If you're thinking that this sounds a lot like Smurf Rescue, well, you're dead wrong.
Actually, you're completely right, but I didn't want it to go to your head.
ColecoVision, once again shattering boundaries and astounding home-gamers everywhere, actually includes the game Donkey Kong with their state-of-the-art gaming console. Just think about that for a moment. They actually stopped their brilliant game-making for a second and said "You know, we should give our customers a game for free when they buy our ground-breaking product." Hats off, ColecoVision. My Vision of the Future is a little blurry today, and it's from gazing adoringly at you through tears of gratitude.
Let's jump right in and see what Donkey Kong has in store for us!
The first level of Donkey Kong consists of slanted steel girders which can be ascended by ladders, as pictured below:
While a large primate at the top of the steel structure periodically rolls barrels down the girders, you control Mario (standing next to the flaming oil can in the picture), a small Italian gentleman wearing the SQUEAKIEST SHOES EVER MADE. This plucky little European cannot move a single step without his footwear giving him away. Luckily, this is not a stealth mission, or he'd be out of luck! No, Mario is one direct little fellow, and it's a fairly straightforward attack. Simply climb the ladders (but avoid the broken ones, trust me!), and jump over any barrels that come your way. Besides, I think Mario is going to be breaking in those boots with all his running and jumping!
You can also grab one of the hammers that hover motionless above the girders, and watch it implant itself into Mario's skull:
"Ow! My skull!"
The hammer then moves up and down in a crushing motion of its own accord:
Please note: The fanciful dialogue above does not appear in the game itself, but has been added by this reviewer just for fun.
The hammer then smashes any barrels that roll your way. Smashes them so efficiently, in fact, that the barrels simply disappear! No fragments, no chunks of splintered wood. The designers really wanted to let you know how powerful that hammer is!
Accompanying the vicious hammer-blows is a triumphant fanfare of music, which actually manages to drown out the squeaking of Mario's loafers, something we can all be thankful for.
The ultimate goal is to rescue the Princess, who stands at the top, just inches away from: a) the ladder down, and: b) two ladders up. Why she is just standing there, refusing to help herself by scrambling to safety? Well, she's simply terrified of the freakishly large gorilla just a few steps away! Wouldn't you be? She can't move, or even breathe, she just stands there motionless like some sort of two-dimensional graphical depiction of a Princess. And sadly, as soon as Mario makes it to the top, she is spirited away to the next level.
The second level involves removing what appear to be chunks of cheese from between girders while avoiding sentient fireballs that have the ability to climb ladders. I've had days like that, haven't you? The blocks of cheese vanish when you run or jump over them, just like cheese does in real life. Why does making cheese mysteriously vanish free the Princess? Well, that's for the designers to know and you to never find out! Hm... moving cheese. Gives me an idea for... well, no matter.
Another task, this one optional, is to gather up some belongings the Princess apparently scattered all over the place.
and a lampshade!
At least, I think they are the Princess's belongings. I suppose they could be Mario's, but they seem to match her color scheme pretty well. Besides, I'm starting to think that telephone might be a purse... which would definitely make it hers, right? Could be a lunchbox, though... that would mean it was his... unless... that lampshade could be a hat... or a punchbowl turned upside down... hmm, I guess it sorta depends on... well, let's move on!
During all this, the enormous simian does nothing. He has run out of barrels, which is lucky because Mario has his hands full with those fireballs.
Unlike the barrels, these fiendish fireballs don't obey they laws of gravity, going both down and up ladders, and chasing our little spaghetti-eater all over the place with only one purpose: to inflict 3rd-degree burns over 100% of his hairy, Mediterranean body. The designers have chosen not to graphically depict this event, instead letting us know of Mario's horrible fate with a selection of music that says: "I have been horribly scalded, and feel mildly disappointed at this occurrence."
What does the next level have in store for our mustachioed do-gooder? Oh, nothing too difficult... just some elevators! That glandular freak of a chimp has had it with Mario stealing back the Princess... although, really, Mario hasn't stolen back the Princess... he just kinda climbs up next to her for a split-second before the next level starts... but that's impertinent enough for this ape!
"Let's see you get up here now, culattone!"
Again, the Princess's belongings (if they are hers) have somehow been scattered all over the place, and the considerably dexterous fireballs are swarming over the ladders again, hoping to maim our obviously homosexual protagonist.
Okay, well, come on! The little moustache, the red cap, the new shoes... I've been skirting around it for the entire review, it was time to just come out and say it. I'm guessing the main reason he wants to rescue the Princess is to find out where she buys her fabulous accessories.
Unfortunately, even in this enlightened year of 1982, what Mario does in his private life is something that is widely frowned upon. It's sad, and it's stupid, but it's so, and as much as I hope that tolerance for his particular lifestyle will grow, it may be the 21st century before any real progress is made.
Speaking of the next century... what does the future hold for Mario? Not much, I fear. Donkey Kong is a great game, a fun game, but I can't really imagine it being embraced by the public for the reasons mentioned above. Also, it's slightly deceptive. I mean, I wasn't going to say anything, but there's not a single donkey in the game. Not a one.
Despite Mario's tenacity and his ability to leap his own height from a standing position, I don't think he will catch on. I mean, I can't see this company, what's it called... Nintendo... making another Mario game. And I definitely can't see Mario becoming somewhat of a corporate icon or mascot for them. I don't see the Princess returning in countless sequels, needing to be rescued again, maybe from creatures other than the giant monkey, like, I dunno, a giant, fire-breathing turtle or something.
I could be wrong, of course. Maybe those things will come to pass. And if they do, and games one day include some sort of technology which allows actual spoken dialogue from game characters to come from the speakers of your television, I certainly can't imagine Nintendo would have Mario say stereotypical Italian phrases such as "Mama-mia!"
That, thankfully, is nowhere in our future.