Another of the 5200's exclusive games is Atari's version of Mario Brothers, which was a Nintendo coin-op that fell between Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers. Mario Brothers has one static level, but different enemies and groups of enemies. Since this game wasn't ported to every other system under the sun, you really must own Mario Brothers if you have a 5200 system! It's one of the best games available, especially since it offers 2 player simultaneous games.

Mario (and Luigi in 2-player simultaneous games) runs around one screen with 4 levels of floors, jumping at enemies who are on the floor directly above you. When you hit the girder, it buckles upward and will flip an enemy, or destroy a fireball. Then you have to scramble up there and kick 'em off, and the turtle, crab, or fly falls into water below. Turtles are the basic 1-hit enemy; crabs take 2 hits (the first hit just makes them mad), and fighter flies bounce up and down, making them harder to hit. Mr. Freeze (whatever its name) looks like an upside-down frozen bucket of water, and his purpose is to freeze each girder, making it twice as slippery. You also have a "POW" button that you can hit 3 times which will hit every enemy touching the floor, and every couple of levels you get a bonus round full of coins, with a time limit to retieve them.

Gameplay reveals just enough mechanics and variation to keep the game fresh. You see, you can apply "english" when striking enemies from below, not only to flip them but also to control the direction their flipped carcasses are hurled. This makes all the difference once the screen gets cluttered with enemies and fireballs!

I remember the first thing about 5200 MB that caught my eye -- the animation and character design. Not only do the turtles, crabs, and fireflies sport some detail (which can't be said of many games of the era, especially 2600 /Intellivision ones), but they are nicely animated as well. In fact, 5200 Mario Brothers sports animation vastly more impressive than what we were used to in the day. I recall that seeing the turtles, on their backs, jump out of their shells and kick them back over, seemed jaw-dropping! Lots of nice animation exists, including water splashes, viscious turtle bites, 2 different kinds of fireballs, and angry red crabs.

Sounds are mostly average in the game. The end of level "success sound' is pretty neat, although it cuts out sometimes. This sound cut-out (actually it's not very frequent) is annoying -- I want to hear the sound of turtles getting kicked! When Mario or Luigi get nailed by an enemy, there's a pretty painful Crunch/Bite sound that deserves mention. Alas, the great "splash" sound of enemies hitting the water (after getting kicked off the levels) could not be fit into the 5200's ROM cart.... there's a splash, but only when Mario and Luigi hit the water, but none to accompany the enemies' watery demise!

To summarize, I highly recommend 5200 Mario Brothers. It's a nice package, and really shines as a 2-player simultaneous game (I hope you can find 2 working controllers!). Like in Joust, you can play cut-throat or cooperative, and riotous fun results from trying to bounce your fellow Mario Brother up into a Crab, or to keep them bouncing helplessly on your own head until a fireball cremates them into a orange-haired piece of toast! You definitely have to try out this obscure, excellent game.

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