Mario 64 satisfies with old formula

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 August, 1996, 12:00am

Super Mario 64, heralded by Nintendo as the best video game ever created, lives up to all the hype. This game will set new standards for design and graphics.

A game of this calibre can only be the work of Shigeru Miyamoto, its producer and chief designer, who also created Mario and Donkey Kong.

The plot is typical Mario. While the plumber was off fighting through Super Mario World, Bowser (the main bad dude) invaded the castle which he shares with Princess Toadstool.

Bowser filled the castle with all the usual nasty little critters and imprisoned Princess Toadstool in a stained glass window.

The format will be familiar to veterans. There are 120 stars hidden throughout the game, 105 of them in the 15 different courses (seven in each course), 10 among other levels and five on the castle grounds.

The courses are hidden throughout the castle, and are usually accessed by jumping through pictures on the walls.

It is estimated to take more than 85 hours to complete the game. Real experts could complete the game in 55 hours.

The key to Mario 64 is mastering all the techniques and skills because the most important aim is to perform the tasks in each course, not find the power-ups and extra lives. You get one star for collecting 100 gold coins, one by shooting yourself like a human cannonball on to a high ledge, collecting all the red coins, and the remaining four are hidden throughout the course.

With the exception of the first course do not expect to get all the stars on the first go, you will need to go and return to different courses after gaining certain powers.

Do not be deceived by this game. It was designed so that six-year-olds could get a lot of fun and hours of enjoyment out of it, but solving the tasks and puzzles will require expert skills that will appeal to mature gamers.

The graphics are stunning and so smooth that non-gamers would think it was a cartoon. Still pictures and quick time preview movies, accessible from the Internet, do not do the game justice.

Mario 64 really does give a 3D experience. You can walk in any direction you like, look up and down, or grab on to anything you can climb.

There is also the adjustable camera angle which can be changed to suit or the situation you are in, thanks to Latiku - the cameraman who follows you on a floating cloud. The 3D control of this game would be impossible without the analogue controller. It provides 360-degree freedom, unlike conventional eight-direction D-pads.

THE MOVES Flying: If you collect a hat, Mario can fly around. This will help you find some of the hard-to-get secrets. Wall hug: This helps you to avoid certain dangers. Mario can cling to the side of a wall to avoid getting squashed or smashed. Climbing: Mario has the ability to climb poles and trees, this will sometimes give you one-ups and other interesting things. This ability must be mastered as soon as possible otherwise you could get stuck later on. Triple jump: Mario has many different jumps, the most useful one is the triple jump.

Run and jump three times in a row and see what happens. Punch: In this new game, Mario has finally been given the ability to punch and kick the stuffing out of the bad guys. Swing: This allows you to swing across hazardous regions to get to safety. Swimming: Like the previous Mario games you have to swim through a course, but this time it could be a bit harder due to the 3D effects. Crawl: When things are flying overhead it would be best if you crouched on your hands and knees and crawled past it, even though it is slow and time consuming. Pick up: This allows you to pick up anything and throw it at the bad guys to get rid of them. Stomping: One of Mario's more interesting moves in which he uses his backside to smash bad guys and blocks. Sliding: This allows Mario to make quick getaways. Just hit the attack button while running. This move can also kill enemies.

STRATEGY AND HINTS Be careful of the Nekki bird, he will steal your hat (your hat is important in this game).

Jump on a Koopa to hide on his shell. Some monsters will help you out, try experimenting with them to see what they can do.

Talk to the pink bombs, they can help you find secrets by shooting you out of their canons. Aim a little higher than your target or you will miss it.

If you're running out of lives, there is a very handy 1-up you can get over and over again. Go to the first water level and you will find two holes in the wall near the ceiling.

The left hole contains a 1-up which you can collect every time you exit.

Stand in the centre of the main foyer of the castle and look up into the sunlight to get the red exclamation box.

CHEAT SHEET Game: Solar Eclipse. Platform: Saturn. Cheat: Special codes.

Immortality: RDDLRASCAL.

Resupply with missiles: RDDLSCUD.

Go to Undersea level: RDDLSUB.

Go to Offworld level: RDDLRACYCAR.

Go to Corkscrew level: RDDLSCRU.

Temporary scatter weapon: RDDLSALAD.

Energy Sponge: RDDLBUSY Key: U=up, D=down, L=left, R=right, A=A button, B=B button, C=C button, X=X button, Y=Y button, Z=Z button, S=Start button.