Updated: Monino Review

Minutes before we posted this review, Monino was pulled from the App Store. The game had reached number six on the list of top-selling paid apps. In the unlikely event that it comes back, we’ll let you know.

Monino, you are gone but not forgotten.

Monino isn’t the first Super Mario Bros. clone we’ve seen on the App Store, but it’s probably the most shameless. The graphics and music are both lifted directly from various Mario games, but like everything else about this game, they pale in comparison to the real thing. But to give credit where credit is due, Monino has the best title of any Mario clone yet.

In Monino, you’re trying to save your brother from the clutches of a monster named Bowler. To do that, you do what Mario does: walk, run, and jump through colorful environments, growing when you grab a red mushroom, and shooting fireballs when you pick up a flower. The enemies are plucked right out of the Mushroom Kingdom as well: goombas, koopa troopas, and bullet bills are all accounted for here. And you interact with each type of baddie in the same way you do in the Mario series.

Go, Monino, go!

Although they look similar, the level designs are new. Developer FeiYingInfo has taken the building blocks of Mario games– pipes, breakable bricks, question mark boxes, happy clouds, and those weird vertical hills in the background– and put them together in new formations. The environments don’t feel fresh or exciting in any way, and oftentimes you can’t see where you’re about to jump, making it all too likely that you’ll fall down a pit you had no chance to avoid.

There are plenty of other details the developer didn’t get quite right, too. The controls and physics feel a little off. Monino walks sluggishly, too, and jumps like he’s wearing anti-gravity boots. And then there are the odd quirks, like when you stomp on a goomba, its squashed body remains on the screen forever. When you pause the game, you can’t unpause it. You have to start over, ether from the beginning of the game or the start of the level you’re on.

Please, Bowler, don’t hurt ‘em.

The music sounds like the bizarro version of a Nintendo game, too. They took the notes from original Mario soundtracks, but re-created the tunes using slightly different keyboard sounds. The overall effect feels kind of like you’ve wandered into some crazy, crappy dream universe. Frankly, it’s a relief when you turn the game off.

Not all clones are bad. Heck, Gameloft has made an entire business model out of aping major franchises. But a clone only works when it’s a good game in its own right, which Monino certainly is not. In fact, Monino almost falls into Enviro-Bear 2010 territory– it’s so bad it’s almost good. But make no mistake: it’s not actually good.

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