Those that know Hotel Mario were probably introduced to it from the bizarre cutscenes that play throughout the game. These cutscenes are pretty infamous and have been floating around YouTube for quite some time.
Hotel Mario has a lot more to it than weird cutscenes though. Its actually a really unique puzzle platformer. Before we get started, how did this game even come about? A Mario game on a non-Nintendo platform? What is this blasphemy?
Well, Nintendo wanted to create a CD Add-on for the SNES and had partnered with Philips in order to create it. The deal that was agreed upon was that Philips would be allowed to use Nintendo’s characters in their own system, the CD-i, for supporting the CD add-on project.
Before we get started on Hotel Mario, lets talk about the game that never was: Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds. This game was a 2D platformer, in the same vein as Super Mario World, and developed by NovaLogic.
NovaLogic is a company that made its name by developing newer version of previously published games such as Bubble Bobble and Arkanoid. Their biggest claim to fame was the Voxel Space engine which was used in their Comanche and Delta Force games. NovaLogic was hoping to adapt the simplistic sprites and gameplay mechanics over to the Philips CD-I for a follow-up to Super Mario World.
Super Mario Wacky Worlds was mostly finished, but the team ran into issues when developing the game. Apparently the sprite creation was different for the CD-I than the SNES, so the team reused assets where they could, but everything else, such as the backgrounds and foregrounds, were hand drawn.
Nintendo was supposedly impressed with the demo they were shown of Wacky Worlds but, due to the declining sales of the CD-I, were forced to cancel the game.
The prototype game was eventually released to the public, hence where I got the image from. The prototype is bare bones at best, as there isn’t much to do except run from one side of the screen to the other.
I really do wish we had gotten a complete version of this game. It’s reminiscent of Mario is Missing for the S/NES with its real-world environments. Probably not the best comparison, but I don’t mind that game so I’m going to make it anyway.
Okay, so enough about the game that never was. Let’s talk about the game that was released, Hotel Mario
Hotel Mario was developed by Fantasy Factory and published by Philips Interactive Media (obviously). The story will be familiar to any fan of Mario. The princess invites the bros over for a picnic and she went ahead and got kidnapped by Bowser. We don’t even get to find out if she made lots of spaghetti.
The Koopalings make an appearance in this game and the hotel themes are loosely tied to their characteristics… for the most part. There are 7 hotels that the player has to go through, each containing multiple floors. The end of each hotel houses a Koopaling or Bowser (assuming you’re in the last hotel). I guess this is the last time the Koopalings are seen before the Mario games on the Wii. Kind of sad when you think about it.
One interesting thing about Hotel Mario, the bros save the princess after every hotel, but she gets kidnapped again and they have to enter the next hotel. With all that being said, what’s the deal with the hotels and the doors?
As I mentioned earlier, Hotel Mario is more of a puzzle platformer. The main goal is to close all of the doors on each floor in every hotel. The puzzle mechanic comes from the fact that enemies are able to reopen doors. This occurs at specific timed intervals throughout each level so the player has to memorize the patterns, or at least stay focused to avoid getting hit.
The levels get progressively more difficult throughout each hotel, and every hotel adds a new twist to the gameplay mechanic. Hotel 2 has lights that turn on and off, Hotel 3 has slippery floors, there are various hotels that have elevators that change direction at timed intervals, and the last hotel has areas with no doors that the player needs to discern from areas with doors.
So I’m not sure what’s up with the hotel theme. I guess it was just a way for the developers to incorporate the door closing mechanic. I hear a lot of people complain about this mechanic but I think it’s a decent idea. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it in my opinion.
As I said before, the main goal of every level is to close all of the doors; however, you can also open doors and hide from enemies until they pass. This works for all of the non-boss enemies (with the exception of a few bosses).While normal enemies won’t open doors, the Koopalings will enter the door Mario is hiding in and take a life.
In addition, sometimes closed doors have hidden surprises for the plumber bros. Entering some doorways will spawn rainbow coins, super mushrooms, fireflowers, Starman, and occasionally may kill all of the enemies on screen. There are also warp pipes behind certain doors. They are programmed to take the player to specific levels/stages upon entering the door.
The game is simple to play but hard to master. The enemies do walk and open doors in a pattern, but the pattern takes a bit of trial and error to recognize. Mario and Luigi are able to jump high enough to be hit by enemies on the floor above them as well. This makes timing even more crucial if you’re trying to get to a door to avoid enemies coming at you. This also works in your favor if there is a Mushroom or flower on the floor above you. You may also be tempted to avoid unkillable enemies by jumping off of the stage as well, but that leads to an automatically loss a life.
You also have to be careful as the hit box for the plumbers is enormous and even being remotely close to an enemy or its attack is instant death.
Bosses are technically unkillable too but you can jump on them twice to knock them of the screen. The bosses return momentarily but it’s nice to get a brief reprieve from their constant attacks.
Enemies become more and more prevalent in the later floors in each hotel. The game really eases you into it before slamming you with enemies. In addition to all of the enemies you also need to focus on keeping the doors closed. If the enemies manage to open all of the doors you lose another life.
Hotel Mario is also 2 players. The characters are controlled by 1 controller so there’s no need for a 2nd one. Unfortunately, each player has to beat every level. Otherwise they’re stuck behind as one progresses.
Hotel Mario is certainly a unique game in the Mario Franchise. It isn’t really recognized by Nintendo, for obvious reasons, but it’s still a pretty fun game. The difficulty curve is easy for the first few floors of a hotel, but they get harder as the player progresses. This is a great way for the player to learn the controls and gameplay mechanics and adapt to them in each hotel.
In my opinion, Hotel Mario is actually really fun. It does get a bit frustrating in the later levels and some of the enemy AI is kind of annoying, but it’s still fun. The only issue I have is that the gameplay gets a little repetitive. I do think that Hotel Mario certainly doesn’t deserve any of the negative criticism it receives. I even think the cutscenes are good as well… A little cheesy but, they’re actually kind of funny to me.
There isn’t a lot more to talk about in regards to gameplay. I honestly think this is one of the better games I’ve played on the CD-i. Is it the best Mario game that I’ve ever played? Of course not. But, it’s not a “normal” Mario game so it’s unfair to compare it to others. Is it a good game? Absolutely. I highly recommend this one.
With that being said, I give Hotel Mario 4 Bowser Costumes out of 5.