Nintendo has quite a lot in common with Apple. Both companies are innovators in their chosen fields, developing and selling profitable consumer hardware, backed by unique intellectual property that simply cannot be found on other platforms.
In the same way that you won't find Apple's iLife suddenly available for Windows, you won't see Mario, Nintendo's famous plumber, in a game on iOS (or any other non-Nintendo platform) any time soon.
Luckily, though, there are plenty of games available for iOS that are in a similar vein to Nintendo's Super Mario Bros, providing a more than adequate fix for platform-game fanatics.
Probably the closest gaming experience to Super Mario Bros on iOS is Giana Sisters, (£2.99) a title that has something of a chequered past. The original version of the game was released way back in 1987 for the Commodore 64 and other home micros of the day, but rapidly found itself in a one-sided battle with Nintendo's Legal Hammer of Doom. (To be fair to Nintendo, Giana Sisters offers very similar gameplay to Super Mario Bros, including block-smashing, jumping on enemies and altered-state power-up; and some of the early backgrounds and maps are eerily similar to those in Nintendo's game.)
Very few copies of Giana Sisters made it to stores before it was recalled and deleted, and its rarity ensured the game cult status. Oddly, Nintendo soon gave up trying to batter into submission other Mario clones on 8-bit systems.
Over 20 years later, and Nintendo appeared to have forgotten its spat with the punchy female Mario impersonators, and Giana Sisters cautiously crept on to the Nintendo DS, with spruced-up graphics, level design and controls.
In 2010, the game made the leap to iOS, boasting new graphics, 80 levels, 32 'retro' levels, and a remixed soundtrack based on the original C64 score. Fortunately, the conversion was a success.
The game is a highly enjoyable romp through varied and challenging environments, and, for the most part, the controls are tight enough (and the level design forgiving enough) that you never want to hurl your device out of the window due to being 'unfairly' killed. And while the game gets very tough later on, canny players can amass a huge number of extra lives by collecting the diamonds sprinkled around each level.
Pizza Boy (£1.19) is a similar if rather smaller game. The story is amusingly throwaway compared to the high drama of Princess Peach being kidnapped for the umpteenth time in practically every Mario game. Instead, the eponymous hero is giving a pizza to his love when it's snatched by a bird.
You have to work your way through levels packed full of spikes and hostile animals, to catch up with the tormenting avian, who'll fly away again when you approach.
Despite only boasting a dozen levels, we found Pizza Boy a tough challenge; there's the odd bit of cheap level design (areas clearly designed to kill you), but it looks great, plays well, has unique features (such as stomping on soda machines that spit out bottles you can collect to hurl at foes), rewards perseverance, and offers bonuses for bettering your scores during repeated plays.
Elsewhere, other iOS games offer 2D platform mechanics, but also take inspiration from later platform games. Frogatto (59p) resembles somewhat sedate quest-oriented Sega platform games such as Alex Kidd in Miracle World. The amphibian hero is placed in the middle of an adventure that finds him working to unravel a dastardly plot against his townspeople.
You still get plenty of Mario-style leaping-about action, but there are also characters to meet, puzzles to solve and occasional boss fights, making the game a refreshing change from others in the genre. Also, you don't jump on heads to dispatch adversaries - instead, Frogatto in gruesome fashion sucks in foes and spits them at other enemies, in a manner not entirely dissimilar to Nintendo stalwart and second-division player Kirby.
For Soosiz (£1.19) and They Need To Be Fed (59p), Super Mario Galaxy could be considered the catalyst. Nintendo's 2007 Wii title took Mario into space, exploring tiny planets that each have their own gravitational field. It's an interesting idea, and it works brilliantly when welded to a 2D platform game more akin to the original Super Mario Bros.
In Soosiz, your little ball with feet has to locate his chums, while avoiding or jumping on bad guys and grabbing coins; so far, so Mario. But as soon as you start playing and the tiny world you're on spins about its axis as you run, you know Soosiz isn't another me-too game; the weird gravity hugely adds to the challenge, forcing you to take risks and regularly disorienting you. (While you can tap the zoom button to find out in which direction your pals are located, you need serious navigational skills to keep track once you've jumped between a few mini planets.)
Mercifully, the controls are extremely simple (left, right, jump) and tight, so you've only yourself to blame if your ball ends up flying off into space rather than safely landing on terra firma.
They Need To Be Fed is in a similar space, but distills everything to its purest essence. There's no accidentally flying off into space, and clockwork-like level structures are the order of the day; in a sense, there's a cleanness and precision to the level design that recalls platform games that pre-date the original Super Mario Bros. (such as 8-bit classic Pitfall!), and while it's quite short, They Need To Be Fed is great fun and stylish to boot.
But no round-up of platform games would be complete without Tap! favourite Pix'N Love Rush (59p) , which combines platforming action with the quick-fire level gameplay mechanics found in the likes of Nintendo's WarioWare.
Instead of providing horizontally scrolling levels that you can tackle at a somewhat leisurely pace, Pix'N Love Rush continually reinvents itself. One minute, it's a simplified Super Mario Bros platform game; the next, it's scrolling up, like Doodle Jump or Rainbow Islands; then it's static, like the original Mario Bros or Bubble Bobble.
Essentially, it's all the best 2D platform games you've ever played, fired at your brain at breakneck speed - utterly brilliant and a steal at 59p.
In fact, the value of the games in this feature is astonishing - the shopping list's total price is just a quarter of the RRP of the 2006 Nintendo DS version of Super Mario Bros.
Finally, a little nod to iPad owners. We've so far only mentioned iPhone/iPod touch games, because retro-oriented platform games are more suited to smaller handheld devices; however, iPad owners aren't left out. Giana Sisters HD (also £2.99) matches the iPhone version and handily provides custom controls, Soosiz and They Need To Be Fed both exist in 'HD' form for £1.19 each, and Pix'N Love Rush works surprisingly well in 2x mode.
First published in Tap! Issue 02
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