This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Mario Golf: Super Rush and Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights.
Mario Town is split into three districts: first, Mainline Mario, where the core platformers live on increasingly tall tentpoles. Secondly, Nostalgia Mario, where dwelleth games banking on emulating older mainline titles; this is where we find New Super Mario, 3D World, and Mario Maker. And lastly, skirting around all of those, we have Whore Mario, the shady, down-market region, where they just make any fucking tat and stick Mario's face on it like a fishnet stocking on a blobfish. And yes, there are a few quaint, gentrified areas in this region where the RPGs live, but then there's the alleyway where Super Mario Run plies her trade; dear god! You can catch something nasty just being within earshot of the public toilets.
The point is, you know it's a slim pickings kind of release week when I seriously give a Mario Golf game a chance, but I figured, "Hey! I just came off slightly enjoying the sniping gameplay in that Sniper: Roast Waterfowl with Carrots 2 game, and what's golf gameplay if not sniping gameplay without the body count?" And so, I set out to escape from worrying about rising income inequality by pretending to be an internationally famous public figure enjoying a sport exclusively played by rich cunts... or not.
And that was the first troubling sign: when I started the main single-player campaign, and you don't get to play as Mario. The named characters are only for the multiplayer and challenge modes, I'm afraid; the peasants have to play the campaign as a custom Mii, because of course, when I play something called "Mario Golf", I want to spend the whole time playing as Richard Dean Anderson or Jeffrey Dahmer. Mario, if you can slam your name over the top of this title like an artificially enlarged penis across an unsuspecting forehead, you can damn well stop scoffing mushroom tortellini in the clubhouse and put some bloody work in!
The next troubling sign was that there's a rather unreasonably long gap between starting the single-player campaign of the golf game and getting to play a fucking game of golf; I guess they felt the need to set it up like a grand adventure, rather than just me wanting to unwind for an hour, pretending that the little white balls I'm whacking are the testicles of venture capitalists. So, you get plonked into a sort of hub town area, and some watery plot is established with you being grouped up with three rivals who appear to be the first three random Mario enemies that the developers could grab from the communal asset bin. After that, there's bugger-all to do in the hub town except interact with passersby from which banal, golf-centric dialogues drop like dry cowpats from their constipated face-rectums, then it's several rounds of mandatory tutorials before we may proceed. Like golf gameplay has gained much nuance in the last twenty years: choose angle, account for wind, press button, adjust stupid trousers, press button again.
And then after all that, right before the actual golf starts, the game goes, "Oh, we forgot to mention; all the golf from now on is speed golf. As in, you have to play within a timer and sprint to your ball for each shot while all the other players get in the way." Fair enough, be careful what you wish for; some golf is happening now. Fair enough; shouldn't expect a relaxing, sedentary experience from something aimed at kids these days, who can't pay attention to a raging house fire unless it's somehow themed around SpongeBob Fucking SquarePants. But from the way we get chucked without warning into nine holes of speed golf, makes me feel the game is paced like absolute dogshit; reject Wii Sports dogshit with a general air of halfhearted jank, like it couldn't even be bothered to erase the perspective lines.
So I kicked it in the head fairly swiftly and went looking for indie games instead, and since I was put in a bad mood by Mario Golf's happy, brightly-colored commercialism, let's look at something gloomy, violent, and nihilistic to cheer myself up. Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights has absolutely no connection to Mario Golf: Super Rush, unless we want to call this the "Games Whose Full Titles I Struggle to Commit to Memory" Double Bill, and is yet another attempt at 2D platformer Dark Souls-ing, so you know what that means: any moment spent not dodge-rolling through an enemy is a moment closer to fucking up. Oh, and we're a small child in a scary world, as well; all we need is some anime tits, and this game could officially represent indie games at the Olympics.
In classic Dark Souls fashion, we're in a ruined medieval kingdom where everyone's gone undead and hostile, and-- Ooh, can I take a stab at what the main villain will turn out to be? Is it the darkness? Oh, it's "The Blight"; well, close enough. We play as a tiny, innocent little girl with white hair and white skin and a white dress with the general vibe of someone who's had their clacker welded shut at birth; we must explore the kingdom in your basic Metroidvania fashion, using the power of restless spirits to fight off the hostile undead, purify their souls, and claim their power for ourselves through sheer, unrelenting force of moe.
If you think I've sounded a bit dismissive so far, then fair enough; "dismissive" is kind of my default tone, probably why they've never asked me back to judge that children's art competition a second time. But the guiding principle at work in Ender Sillies is that if you can't be original, at least do everything right, so while, yes, it's a bit Dark Souls-y and no small bit Hollow Knight-y and quite a large bit Salt and Sanctuary-y, and the "borrowing a wide variety of attacks from defeated enemies" is significantly more than a bit Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow-y, it all fits together rather well; it's as colon-blastingly difficult as you might expect of a game where the enemy has ten million swords, halberds, and buggering sticks of every size and shape, and you only have a positive attitude and a dress your mum made you wear to church, but its generosity with its checkpoints is proportional to its stinginess with consequences for death.
The boss fights pull off the right balance in that they seem insurmountable the first time you skip into the arena and get your petticoats nailed to the wall, but as you learn their patterns and find the best combination of powers to counter them, they gradually come apart like a headboard in a honeymoon suite. But it's the context that makes it for me. You're not just killing bosses; you're purifying corrupted knights, reminding them of their vow to protect little, doe-eyed white chocolate porcelain figurines like the main character, and enlisting them to fight by your side, adding a through-line of emotional storytelling to the standard gameplay that I found rather effective.
In all, there's only one aspect of Ender's Game: Quitely Knightly that I dislike, and that's the animation. I get that some games can't commit to lovely frame-by-frame 2D animation, because the artstyle has a lot of gritty detail and we're hoping to glimpse the Sun again at some point in our lives, so instead, they create animation by rendering everyone's body parts seperately as static images and rotating them as needed. But it always looks so stiff and puppet-y, and rather at odds with the grim, serious tone of the plot; feels like reading Requiem for a Dream adapted to pop-up book.
- A tiny shining child: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I hate speed golf, how am I supposed to find the time to play the game AND belittle the employees
- Eat the rich in carbonara sauce