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Mario Strikers (Charged)

Mario Strikers (Charged)Machine: Nintendo Wii

We at Flatbattery Towers have to be very careful with the games that we deem over-rated. Occasionally it looks as if we don't like a game just because we're not very good at it. But rest assured: we approach videogames as objectively as possible, testing each one we play according to rules and procedures and science and stuff. We try to ensure that our senses are unsullied by anything but the game that we're looking at. We sit in a specially designed room that is neither warm nor cold, neither comfortable nor uncomfortable; we drink only the blandest tea and eat only the most flavourless biscuits.

However, occasionally, the limits of our objectivity are tested. Sometimes we don't like the music very much, and we have to try hard to ignore it, just in case it spoils our overall impression of the game. And sometimes the voice acting is terrible and can alter the atmosphere (I'm looking at you, Resident Evil 4). Sometimes we really like the graphics, but this acts insidiously and makes us too forgiving of a rubbish game. And there are elements of difficulty, too, which occasionally introduce unfair bias into our investigation. I have played games that I am just rubbish at, but I’ve still enjoyed myself. Uridium, for example, was an absolutely stonking game but I was woeful at it. And so it is useful to draw a distinction between difficulty and frustration. Difficulty is tough but fair and therefore good. Frustration is tough but unfair and therefore bad.

And I admit now, before you all, that I am woeful at Mario Strikers (Charged). Woeful. And I have to also confess that it is one of the reasons why I despise it. But, at this point, I wish to displace blame from me, on to the sticky programming fingers (and brains) of the guys who made this game. The actual game mechanic, the way a match unfolds, seems to be annoying, unnecessarily picky and a lot more difficult to pick up than, say, a more realistic sports game like Pro-Evo.

The sad thing about Mario Strikers (Charged)is that I had high hopes for it. It got good reviews (when will I learn?) and looked like fun. At the very least, it used the Wiimote capabilities, and seemed to have an appreciation of the Wii as a machine. But it didn't go much further than this.

People have been very positive about this game, and I think a lot of them have based their reviews on the multi-player option which is marginally more arresting than the single player series of tournaments. But people who enjoy it don't seem to appreciate how unfair the game actually is.

Admittedly I was naive to think that Mario Strikers (Charged) was actually going to play a good game of football/soccer. But it was, at least, a version of football/soccer and so I expected it to play in a familiar way, albeit with crazy Nintendo flavoured power-ups.

After two hours of playing, however, I realised that I was not having a good time. I was frustrated and annoyed, even when I managed to win a tournament. There was something deeply unsatisfying and unfair about the action.

Everyone knows that with most football/soccer video games, from Sensible Soccer to Pro-Evo, failure to score a goal comes from your own incompetence, rather than any actual flaw in the game. You shoot wide, or foolishly kick the ball into the goalkeeper's loving arms, and you curse, but you know it's your own fault. However, when you get it right and manage to score, you know it was your intentional action that allowed you to score, and it is very pleasurable.

You will find no such pleasure in Mario Strikers (Charged). You might elegantly build up to a shot on goal, do nothing wrong, but still not manage to score - and through no fault of your own. Conversely, you might blunder your way forward, shoot for goal and then score, but with no feeling of control. It's a uniquely disappointing experience, and if you win six-nil, or lose six-nil, you're never quite sure why. But even with difficult games, you still feel that you're making progress. But Mario Strikers (Charged) you get to a point where you don't know if you are improving or getting worse. It is impossible to tell. So what incentive is there to continue playing? For me, there is none.

Bubbaray 03 May '08

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