Using video games to promote a political or religious message isn’t a new concept. I’ve played a handful of them over the years on the Nintendo and Super Nintendo systems. In general, the common thread among them is that the programmers spend too much time promoting their message and not enough effort making a great game; and by great game I mean one that is fun, has easy to use controls, an entertaining storyline, and is visually attractive.
Well, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are hard at work recreating video games from our past. In one of their latest forays, they offer social commentary about the game Super Mario Brothers 3, only about twenty or so years since its release. Their game, Mario Kills Tanooki features a pissed off tanooki chasing Mario flying overhead. The fur Mario wears drips with blood, indicating that it was recently and cruelly removed from the creature chasing him below.
Obviously, PETA’s commentary is clear. Don’t wear the skins of animals. However, they’ve missed the whole point of how Mario acquired the tanooki suit in the first place. As I remember, in the original game it shows that he doesn’t get it through killing an animal, but rather collecting a magical leaf which morphs him into a half tanooki/half man character.
When you play the game, it doesn’t run like Super Mario Brothers 3, but rather more like the first Super Mario Brothers. It is side-scroller, as both are, but you cannot go backwards and the game pushes you on at a breakneck pace whether you care to go that fast or not. I guess the speed fits with the supposed urgency of recovering your stolen skin as quickly as possible, but personally I did not care for that element.
The graphics are the best feature of the game. Harkening back to the 16-bit era, they are reminiscent of Mario’s first adventure on the Super Nintendo, Super Mario World. The background landscape is coated with ketchupy kind of blood, further reinforcing PETA’s ideology.
Regardless of effort in visual imagery, I would rate this game as a failure. For starters, they beat Mario over the head with the “fur is murder” line even though he didn’t kill anything to get his suit. How can you effectively promote your ideology when you begin with an incorrect premise? Second, the controls are too frustrating to make for an enjoyable experience. Third, the game map itself is randomly generated each time you start. Every so often, you have to just jump more or less blindly and hope that it doesn’t lead to your death.
Just because I don’t happen to agree with PETA’s purpose, that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of making something enjoyable…at least from a gaming standpoint. For a good example, I recommend that you check out the Super Chick Series. In those two games, you take the role of a chicken wearing either a Mario or Luigi looking hat and race to save your poultry brethern from either the clutches of Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonalds. Although they still come down a bit too heavy on their message for my tastes, at least they are fun to play, have Super Nintendo style graphics, and include a mildly amusing storyline.
Anyway, if you care to try out Mario Kills Tanooki for yourself, you can do so here.