Is it me, or whenever Nintendo licenses a franchise out to some other company, it always sucks (need I bring up those Philips CD-i Zelda games?) Mario's Time Machine is one of those games. Back in the early Nineties, Nintendo licensed out the Super Mario Bros. franchise out to the company, The Software Toolworks. They made two educational games using Mario and Luigi for the SNES, NES and PC: this one, and Mario is Missing.
The basic premise of Mario's Time Machine is that Bowser has stolen a bunch of stuff from historical figures, and Mario has to return them. When you play, you have to pick up an item, and then fill in blanks to complete a basic synopsis of what they did. Problem is, the questions are sometimes mindlessly simple, like “Leonardo De Vinci takes his name from the small village of ____, where he was born”. Some aren't so hard because of the thing you have to fill in, but because you have a list of words to fill in the blanks with and three chances before you have to start all over again (note: sometimes I have to completely start over, sometimes I don't with it). One of the most annoying situations of that was “and completed the ______ of The Last Supper”. I looked for “painting” on the list – not there. I try looking for “portrait” in the hopes that maybe that might work – not there either. I eventually became so frustrated trying to figure out the answer, I had to consult a walk through. It turns out that the word was “Fresco”. What the hell is a fresco!?!
Now, I will give the game credit, not all the questions are difficult. Though, there are some questions even I can't answer and I'm a huge history dork, and this game is supposed to be for little kids. There's no kid out there that will know what a “fresco” is!
But back to what I was saying. After you fill in all the blanks, you need to set the time machine to the date and then have a surfing minigame. Yes, you read correct – a surfing minigame. Surfing just sounds really out of place from the mild H.G. Wells theme it's got going. In it, you have to collect a bunch of little mushrooms (while avoiding spikes), then go into a whirlpool. “Irritating” would be an understatement for one problem I kept getting. I don't know if it was because of years of abuse of the cartridge or a problem with the game, but sometimes the mushrooms and spikes would randomly disappear. Even worse is that if you touch a spike, you lose all of your mushrooms. When you finally get all the mushrooms, you have to surf into a whirlpool. When I was a kid, I often was stuck there wondering what the hell to do after getting all the mushrooms.
You then appear in whatever time setting you picked, and have to run around trying to find who ever you're looking for. The thing that always makes me laugh is how the people respond to Mario bringing back their stuff. They just say stuff like “Wow, thank you Mario! You are an honorary member of my family. Feel free to call yourself Mario Polo”. If I ever met a guy from the future, the first thing I'd say would be “HOLY DIVER! DON'T KILL ME!!!!”.
I remember growing up as a little kid and trying to figure out what the hell was the point of this game. It eventually became one of those games that I flat-out dread. I kept wondering why my mom even got it for me. The only reason I ever played it was because I kept thinking it was Super Mario World, due to it using the same Mario sprite.