There often comes a video game that can’t quite decide what it wants to be and what genre it so delicately plops itself in. Is it action? Is it platforming? Is it action-platforming? Is it “plactioning”, if such a hybrid exists? (For the record, if any game company uses “plactioning”to describe their game then royalties will be gratefully received here…). With today’s technological advancements, the envelope of gaming and the experience of gamers is being blurred more and more, with games being harder to define in one specific genre. Aside from FIFA, everyone knows where they stand with FIFA. But way back when in the mid 80’s, games knew what genre of gaming they were – there was no confusion and no hybrids which sound as awesome as they are #plactioning. As always in life however, there are exceptions to the rules, and today’s review focuses on one such game that that could walk the tightrope between two such genres in a subtle way (which is always the best kind) and was released in the infancy of the NES. The game in question is Wrecking Crew that features everyone’s favourite plumber who never seems to plumb. So looking back now, was the game Crew-sing it’s way to being a classic or heading towards being a Wreck….
Wrecking Crew was released in 1985 as a launch title for the NES and straddles the line of being an action game but in certain aspects also a puzzle game albeit not in a traditional sense. The aim is to control Mario (wearing his fetching all-red overalls) who in the game is acting as a demolition man in order to destroy objects that features in the level with his mighty hammer. This can be in the form of walls, pillars, barrels, bombs etc. As a result of the weight and the power of the mighty hammer, Mario bless him cannot jump therefore there will be occasions where the old grey matter needs to be used in order to destroy every occurrence of that item in the level but the most obvious way of doing this is not clear. There are 100 levels in the game in order to complete so at least there is somewhat of a challenge especially when you can start the game at any level from the title screen, so it is good you don’t have to start over from level one repeatedly in order to progress. The game is also noted for having a level editor, similar to Excitebike so you can create your own levels to amuse and antagonise friends with and store them on the Famicom Data Recorder. The problem with that is that the Recorder was only available in Japan, therefore this feature was redundant outside of Japan but still it was good to have the option, and if you have people over at least they can play your creations even if it cannot be saved for later usage long after they have left.
When you turn on the game on there is no fancy introduction sequence, no developer titles and no faffing about – straight into the main menu. There is something to be said for games that don’t dilly dally and head straight to the good stuff, which seemed to be quite common on the NES. You have the option of starting the game in 1-player mode that features Mario, a 2-player option that features everyone’s second favourite plumber who never plumbs but wears a delicious green number, Luigi. Third and finally, you can go into the level editor mode and create your own levels as noted earlier. With the two player option, this is similar to how Super Mario Brothers played in 2 player, where both players alas are not on the screen at the same time, but is played one character at a time. This does mean the other person sitting round and waiting for their chance to shine, or in this case demolish. As soon as you start the game, you go straight to the good stuff and can start demolishing away, climbing up and down ladders and hammering away. It does seem as though most of the time the idea is to destroy everything, so a piece of advice is to destroy everything you can, but in a thoughtful way in case you need a certain path later… There is something oddly satisfying with destroying the landscape you are in, and starts off relatively simple but progressing in difficulty when trying to find anything and everything to destroy with your hammer in certain parts of the level.
The controls are as straightforward as they come – the d pad moves Mario left and right, and can also climb up and down ladders. The A and B buttons make Mario (or Luigi) wield his hammer and destroy the items on screen. The controls do seem responsive and encounter no significant lag or delay when pressing the button to hammer away and for your character to action this. Although speed of input is not the most crucial aspect of the game, it is still good knowing the controls are as tight and responsive as they are, safe that any deaths that occur are not due to the fault with the controls but of that of the player. It is also noted you can wrap around the stage just by going off-screen and appearing on the other side – a nice trick that certainly does help out when trying to complete the level. Music-wise, there is nothing on the title screen when you boot up the game, but as soon as the game kicks in the music is jaunty and jovial and sets a positive tone and a pleasant gaming experience. It may not be the most memorable music on the console especially within the black box games released, but still it is jaunty and positive enough that you would rather listen to this then some of your old cassettes lurking in the back of your wardrobe. The sound effects too are some of the better sounds that are found in the early NES library, varying in pitch, tone and compliment well to the music playing in the background, so again it is something to behold (or be-listen) when playing the game.
Overall Wrecking Crew is one of the better offerings of the launch titles on the NES that is highly recommended to play. There is enough action going on to keep the gamer interested, with just enough puzzle element to it to keep the brain meats working overtime in order to clear the level of the items that needs to be destroyed. Wrecking Crew may be overlooked for some of it’s more famous black box brethrens that got released *ahem* Super Mario Brothers *ahem* however this shouldn’t detracted from the playability of Wrecking Crew. The control are tight, graphics are bold and striking and has 100 levels to quench your appetite for destruction with good music and sound effects to boot. Copies of the original cart are not the cheapest black box NES game on the market, roughly going for £20 for the cartridge alone on certain auction websites. Support your local retro game shops kids! Failing that, the game was released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007 (which is now sadly defunct) and also on the Wii U Virtual Console so you still have the opportunity to download the game and try this yourself. Time will tell whether it comes to the Nintendo Switch Online service, which one can only hope it will as the game is ripe for local/online multiplayer action and deserves a bigger spotlight shone on it. Yes on the original cart you cannot save the levels, the puzzle element may put of some players who like button-bashing action and two players cannot appear on the screen simultaneously which is a shame, however despite those reasons it is a fun game and one well-worthy of your time. Happy destructing all!
Rating – 4 out of 5