Instead it’s a glorious celebration of the ignoble art of screwing over your mates. If someone looks like they’re about to pick up something worth a lot of points, and you have the chance to bump them down a chasm before they get there, human nature says that’s what you’ll do – even if it means following them to their doom and losing a life. Cue much moaning and many promises never to play this evil game ever again.
But we kept coming back, whether we finished as winners or otherwise. To play a single level takes barely three minutes, and during that time it’s very like one of the scrolling stages in Smash Bros. You’ll be itching for revenge or anticipating another chance to prove your superiority, but either way it’s easy to start another round and settle a few scores.
The aim is to finish with the highest points total at the end of the level. Enemies are worth a few points, items are worth lots and hitting the flagpole at the end can net you thousands. The biggest bonus comes from adding up all your remaining lives, so there’s an incentive not to get involved in risky scrambles for difficult items that might not net you a huge total.
Characters bounce off each other, which can make things quite hectic when every player decides to try leaping for a small ledge or squeezing through a narrow gap. You can also do a butt-slam to shake people off the edge of a platform or clear a bit of space when trying to land in a busy area. And all the time you’re jostling for position and fending off attacks from your so-called friends, there’s a platform game to complete.
Each level has three giant gold coins to collect, hidden off the beaten track. Whoever manages to grab all those will probably win at the end, so nobody’s likely to take kindly to seeing one player deviate from the path and start wall-kicking towards a different area. The screen zooms out further when the players separate, but only to a certain point – eventually anyone left too far behind the lead character will lose a life.
The demo version includes a couple of boss levels, marking the return of the Koopa Kids from Super Mario 3. They behave the same way as before, spinning across their little platforms until they receive three blows to the head and expire. The player who delivers the last kick wins some bonus points. Needless to say no Koopa Kid lasts long when faced with two Mario Bros. and a couple of psyched-up Toads.