wrecking crew, one of the earliest NES titles, was one of those games that i had vague memories of seeing at a friend’s place growing up but that i didn’t really remember anything about. more recently the game was one of the 3DS ambassador games, not to mention the wii and wii u virtual consoles, and was also one of the games included in NES remix, so there have been plenty of opportunities to revisit it.
i finally sat down and gave the game a spin, and overall i was pleasantly surprised. in terms of mechanics and presentation the wrap-around stages slightly recall the original mario bros., and mario (and luigi’s) squeaky shoes and hammer recall the original donkey kong, but the game is wholly unique in that it’s one of nintendo’s earliest forays into the puzzle genre. it does so with character, and the game features a construction site setting and two types of enemies: one, a cross between a wrench and a dragon, and the other, an eggplant with safety glasses, along with fireballs that appear at regular intervals (also taken from the original mario bros.). in addition, the game features a unique mechanic where a “foe”, named spike the foreman (generally considered to be a predecessor to wario, the anti-hero), runs around and tries to trip you up, often literally. the game is also unique in that it features a stage select which allows you to start from any of the 100 stages, a quick reset via the select button (although doing so causes you to lose your current score), and a level editor. in the original edition you could save your creations, but the US didn’t see that feature reinstated until its rerelease on virtual console.
in terms of my experience, in general i enjoyed the game. like a lot of great puzzle games, wrecking crew makes the most of its limited number of elements, providing surprisingly sophisticated challenges out of relatively simple mechanics. limiting the types of elements in the board (basically destructible and indestructible walls and ladders, plus bombs) and the number of enemies makes it easier to internalize their use and behavior, and the game does a pretty good job of mixing up the types of stages: some are clearly more about working out the right order of actions, whereas others are more pac-man or burgertime-like and require finesse in avoiding the enemies while trying to navigate around the board to accomplish your objective.
although i enjoyed my time with the game, after getting through half of the 100 stages i felt like i’d seen everything there was to see. it’s fun to work out just the right strategy to trap enemies, and watching videos online it’s been interesting to see how different people come up with different approaches. the “theme and fun” (as nintendo power would put it) is pretty good, and the game definitely gets kudos for being one of the first of its kind. the bonus level is a matter of luck and feels superfluous, and the ease with which you get stuck and have to reset and thus lose your high score feels a bit cheap and pointless by modern standards. the game includes some replayability in the form of hidden “M A R I O” letters, revealed by destroying blocks in a specific, oftentimes completely nonintuitive order, on some stages, but doing so only provides 1-ups and provides only a minor diversion. similarly, uncovering special bonus items by destroying bombs in some stages is also fairly random (apparently the exact item uncovered is a function of the number of times you’ve swung your hammer), and so although getting a golden hammer (of smash bros. fame) is fun, it’s such a rare and random occurrence that it seems like an after thought rather than a worthwhile feature. all in all a decent successor to the original mario bros. and a game worth playing.
demolish these wrecking crew links:
– nintendolife gave the 3DS and wii u virtual console versions a 7 out of 10 and 8 out of 10 respectively, so it’s interesting to compare the two reviewers’ opinions
– miiverse community
– the entry at strategywiki.org includes details on how to get a golden hammer
– nice series of let’s play videos for the game
– entry at wikipedia.org
– apparently there was a japan-only sequel??