Retro Punk Biker Super Mario
by Ajay Kumar
AWESOME Land (Yes, it’s all in capitals), is a 16-bit retro throwback to classic 8-bit side scrolling platform games like Super Mario Brothers, Metroid and Sonic. The game is part parody, part homage. If you’re a child of the 80s and 90s who owned a Super Nintendo, it’ll feel familiar.
In AWESOME Land, you play a punk biker named Manley complete with leather jacket and pink facial hair. There is no princess to be rescued here. Instead, you must save your bike, which has been stolen by aliens. It’s not exactly clear why aliens would want a bike but it doesn’t really matter. You’re on a mission to get the damn thing back no matter what you have to kill. Just think of yourself as a badass Mario who joined the Sons of Anarchy.
There are 25 levels, each one divided into multiple acts with progressively harder enemies. In the first act you fight Goomba-like creatures, in the second, evil flying bees and so on. Eventually you’ll be forced to dodge flamethrowers erupting from walls and come face to face with floating octopus heads and a spider-alien boss. The enemies feel tough but the save checkpoints are reasonably placed and marked by traffic lights and parking meters so you won’t throw your phone in frustration. Smashing brick blocks can give you goodies like more lives and pieces of meat that you (Manley) eat with a loud belch. The meat appears next to your life count. The next time you take a hit from an enemy the piece of meat disappears rather than a life, making it quite literally, a meatshield (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). It’s possible to accumulate a lot of lives and that makes the game feel less hardcore after a while.
The controls appear at the bottom of your screen and can be resized. There are arrows to go forward and back and a button to jump. The controls are simple but they leave something to be desired. Manley isn’t the most graceful character so if you have sausage fingers and a small screen, you might send him careening into pits fairly often. Each act tends to be small, not just in length but in platform size. There’s not much room to maneuver. If you try to backtrack to get something that you missed, you’ll find the screen has already scrolled.
The graphics are crisp with photorealistic textures. You can even see the wrinkles on Manley’s face and his freakishly green eyes. For the most part things look good. The performance is smooth. I didn’t experience any stutters or slowdowns on an HTC One.
Some levels can feel repetitive. Most are familiar platforms where you have to rely on your sense of timing and coordination to stay alive. You can jump on bricks, clouds and springs to make your way past the obstacles in your way. The background scenes have a limited number of variations so get used to seeing desert and purplish stars. The music has a rock feel to it that seems unique until you get tired of it and mute your phone. You’re probably not going to be replaying a lot.
If you want a retro-take on an old series, AWESOME Land is a pleasing way to spend several hours. Just be aware that the replay value isn’t tremendous, the controls can be a bit unwieldy and the levels can be repetitive in both layout and graphics which is why it doesn’t score top points. However, at $2.49 AWESOME Land, is a small amount of money for hours of entertainment, making it more valuable than most Hollywood movies out this year.