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Indie Game Spotlight: Mega Mash

By / Posted on 07 October 2011

Mega MashThere is a special place in my heart for browser game developer Nitrome. It is a place filled with all things cute and charming, where clever ideas go to say “hey look, isn’t this clever, but also cute and charming?” It is a place where ideas never really finalize themselves but savor the excitement of simply being an idea and quickly step aside so the next fun idea can shine before anyone realizes the previous idea was incomplete. Yes, that makes it the same part of my heart that appreciates mixtapes and Yo Gabba Gabba!

Mega Mash is the newest not-entirely-original-but-ever-so-exciting idea/game from Nitrome. Like all of Nitrome’s games, it pretends to be from the 16-bit era of gaming, with notably chunkier pixels and more conservative color palettes than anything on the Super Nintendo (maybe Turbo-Grafix 16). Mega Mash is based on the “value” cartridges from that era, the type that would attempt to squeeze 5/10/15 or more games into a single game cart with the hopes that parents would buy it on value, unaware that the games were all horrible knockoffs of much better games and were also cheaply made and destined to break shortly after bringing them home. Nitrome embrace the analogue crappiness of the value cart by having a ROM error when the game boots up, causing all seven games to bleed into one another. The result is one of the most refreshing game mechanics since the Portal gun.

Mega MashMega MashThe game starts with a simple Super Mario Bros clone, a bunny running and jumping through a kingdom to get to the end of the bright, happy stage. Things change when the bunny jumps through a line of static, though, and is transformed into a spaceship flying horizontally through space, shooting asteroids and avoiding aliens. When the ship flies through another static field, it’s a bunny again. Other fields of static turn the game into top-down Bomberman sequences, side-scrolling acrobatics in a mix of Ninja Gaiden and Bionic Commando, and even a Tetris-style falling block puzzler. The trick is that elements of the world are consistent between the games, so using the abilities of one game to clear the path for another is key. Destroying a block as Blast-Man Joe allows Ninja to swing through a narrow passageway just as stacking bricks in Nitrometris creates a staircase for the bunny to climb in Carrot Story. Mega Mash forces players to think about several different mechanics at once in order to solve puzzles and avoid certain death.

Things get really aggressively hard, like all Nitrome games are wont to do, but it’s still a fun and fresh take on a variety of stale concepts. Well worth the adventurous gamer’s time, and at the ever-so-sweet price of free there’s really nothing to complain about (beyond, you know, being throw-your-mouse-across-the-room-in-rage hard). Play Mega Mash, and so many other fantastic browser games, on Nitrome’s site.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.