Nostalgia is a funny thing. We tend to view the past through rose-colored glasses as time dulls the sharp edges of memory. Were things really all that good way back when? Mostly the answer is no, but on rare occasions we can answer with a resounding yes. Let's go back to a time when Reagan was president, when big shoulder pads ruled the fashion industry, and when Duran Duran were actually considered talented. A simpler time, when the gaming world was ruled by an 8-bit giant called Nintendo, and a game featuring a crazy Italian-American plumber was poised to become the bestselling video game of all time. A simpler time. A happier time. A time before some stupid hedgehog ruined everything. A time echoed in the fabulous retro platformer, Enough Plumbers.
Enough Plumbers is a basic single screen platformer. All you need to do is move the hapless hero around the scene until he lands on the flag. Movement uses the left and right [arrow] keys, and you can make him jump with the up [arrow] key. The intrepid plumber can also encounter strange power ups along the way, things that make him able to break through rock, fly, resist fire, and even make him do the exact opposite of what you'd like him to do. And — of course — there are enemies patrolling the platforms, just waiting to do the poor plumber harm.
This game is based on one of the most classic of all classic platformers, Super Mario Brothers. All the elements are there: the bright, simple 8-bit scenery; grumpy enemies lying in wait to ambush the hero; and the coins scattered everywhere. It's when the plumber encounters the coins, though, that everything changes. For every coin you collect you also get a cloned plumber who copies every move of the original. Just trying to jump ten hapless clones at once onto a small platform and you can see how things have changed.
Amusing as it is to send various clones plunging to their deaths (accompanied, of course, by high-pitched squeals as they do so), it would only be fun for a couple of screens before becoming very repetitious. However, the clones actually have a purpose, and as the game moves on they become vital to solving each level, as various clones need to be sacrificed for the greater good of all. It can become necessary to control three little plumbers on three different levels, or have plumbers with different abilities running around in order to reach the final goal. You don't have to rescue all of the clones. In fact, as long as a single plumber makes it to the flag, you've won the level and can move on to the next.
Analysis: There's lots to love about this slick little platformer, which magnificently captures the look and feel of days gone by while adding a fantastic new twist to an old chestnut. The complexity added by not only the clones themselves but by the tricky levels requiring them to accomplish several different tasks gives a whole new feel to a game that is beloved by millions.
Designed by Glen Forrester and Arthur Lee, Enough Plumbers is actually a sequel to a game Glen created in under two hours for a game development event. It took a common enough event, the frenetic little plumber acquiring coins, and added a twist: every time he picked up a coin, a clone plumber was created. An amusing concept that didn't add anything to the gameplay, but was fun to look at. In the sequel, Enough Plumbers, what was once an amusing concept boldly strides front and center, becoming the centerpiece of the gameplay.
Enough Plumbers captures the look and feel of classic games, from the simple, rocky platforms to the narrow gold coins, from the frenetic little plumber to the frowny-faced enemies. The game could literally have walked right out of the NES or the Gameboy and onto your computer screen. The thumping, frantic soundtrack only adds to the illusion, as does the amusing wah-wah-waaaaah sound effect of defeat that plays if your last little plumber plunges to his inevitable doom.
If there is a downside it is the steep learning curve. One minute you're hopping from platform to platform, just trying to get one little guy to the flag, the next you're trying to figure out how to get clones to three different places when they all move in unison to the same key commands. Some levels require an extremely high level of seriously sharp reflexes and split-second timing to complete. And with only 25 levels the game can feel a bit short on content.
Forget the complaints! Enough Plumbers is fantastic, nostalgic, pulse-pounding casual gameplay that is fun for those who remember the good old days and those who were born long after. Requiring logical thinking, forethought, planning, and lightning fast reflexes, Enough Plumbers is, just on its own, a fantastic platformer even without all the trappings of the days of yore. Be prepared to be sucked in and brace yourself for a rollicking good time, and check out this exceptionally well done little time waster.