Total time played: 15 hours
Short review: A near perfect transition from the early days of arcade gaming mixed with 100 levels of interesting puzzles that still entertain over 30 years later.
Interesting links related to Wrecking Crew
- Video Review (Pat The NES Punk)
- Video Review (CG Undertow)
- Video Playthrough (James and Mike Monday)
- Level 95 Walkthrough
Black Box Game
Henry Ford once said “you can get a Model T in any color as long as it’s black.” The NES started much the same way. The first 28 games released had boxes designed to look the same, featuring an accurate, colorful example of what to expect from the gameplay and a label in the bottom left corner that gave the genre of the game. Things were more simple in 1985. Even the games title screens were similar.
Not all of these are Black Box games but you can still see similarities in their title screens.
I was just 3 years old when the NES game out meaning the first 28 games game out before I was old enough to be aware of them. While I played every black box game as a kid I never really seriously played any (with the exception of Super Mario Bros. and for some reason Hogan’s Alley). The reason is that I am more into games that have a beginning and end, games I can play over and over and get better with the ultimate goal of finishing it. Many of these early black box games were more like arcade games that don’t have a true end, the goal is just to get a high score.
I always assumed Wrecking Crew was this way, I was wrong, kind of.
I’m Gonna Wreck It
Of course I had to see Wreck It Ralph when it game out. I loved the idea of a major film studio making a great animated movie based on video games. I didn’t realize how many similarities there were between Ralph Wreck It Ralph and Mario in Wrecking Crew…you heard that right, the main character is Mario in Wrecking Crew.
The game features 100 levels that get progressively harder. Each level is a single screen full of ladders, doors and walls. Your goal, as Mario, is to break every item in the level while dodging bad guys of many types and avoiding fireballs.
While the game does require fast reflexes on occasion, each level is laid out like a logic puzzle where you must find the best way to break everything without being trapped by an enemy. Some of the levels are quick and easy while others will require dozens of attempts to learn the correct path to victory. A few of the later levels took me close to 100 attempts and over an hour to solve (levels 80, 91 and 95 I’m looking at you!).
Break the doors, brick walls and white ladders before the Elmo looking guy gets you.
The controls are simple. D-pad moves Mario left and right and up and down ladders. Both the A and B buttons swing the hammer that is used to break things. The start button pauses the game and the select button takes you back to the title screen. I used the select button feature quite often if I got into a spot where I knew I couldn’t finish a level. The title screen features the ability to start the game on any stage you want which is a feature I’m not fond of. This seems like a feature that should only be accessible once you beat the game or as a game genie cheat. Can you imagine if you could play any game and just start from the last level?? It takes a lot of will power to play the game through from the beginning when you don’t have to.
Gotcha Wrench and Gotcha Wrench Jr.
These guys can be either red or purple. The only difference I noticed is that the purple ones walk much faster. These enemies will constantly move towards Mario and if they touch him you must restart the level.
Similar to the purple wrenches these guys move fairly quickly. If they reach a ladder they will climb or descend 1 floor and continue walking in the same direction until they hit an enemy, wall or barrel. Once this happens they turn around and walk the other way.
This guy looks just like Mario but walks behind the walls instead of in front of them. If Spike is behind a wall, door or ladder and you break that item Spike will fall all the way to the bottom of the stage. But, if Spike breaks the item from behind while you are in front of it Mario will then fall to bottom level. More times than I care to admit Spike would break a ladder that I was climbing causing me to have to restart the level. Sometimes Spike knocking you to the bottom of the screen is just an annoyance, other times it causes you to restart the level because there is no way back up.
Every once in a while a fireball will appear on one side of the screen and slowly makes its way across. At first, I found the fireball to be helpful as it seemed to only appear when a ladder was broken making it impossible to finish the level. I looked at the fireball as a way to kill Mario without having to manually restart the game. But, then I discovered that the Select button takes you back to the title screen making the fireball unnecessary. As I progressed farther in the game I realized that the fireball is nothing more than a troll. It appears if you stand still for too long and also seems to appear when I’ve almost finished a hard level to kill me when I only have one or two items left to break.
There are multiple ways to beat each level but there are a couple of strategies I found helpful.
If you see a green door and hit it with your hammer it opens. If a bad guy walks past that door he will enter it and the door will shut trapping them inside.
You can walk off the right edge of the screen and appear on the left edge. Sometimes it is necessary to travel through the level this way to avoid enemies and access ladders to higher or lower levels.
Many levels have bombs scattered throughout. If the bomb is directly next to a row of doors and the bomb explodes it will take out all of the doors/walls/ladders in a chain reaction. But, hitting the bomb also makes Mario fall all the way to the bottom level of the screen (if you are quick you can hit the bomb and run away and not fall). Sometimes this is necessary to finish a level and other times it is just a way to get away from enemies who have you trapped.
If any of the bad guys are climbing up or down a white ladder when it is broken they will fall and become temporarily stunned.
The Golden Hammer
I almost didn’t even mention this as in my entire play through I never once received the hammer. From what I’ve read online, if you break the blocks in a specific order on most levels you are rewarded with a hammer which allows you to walk faster and break all bricks with only one hammer swing. You keep the hammer until you die.
Many stages would have been much less difficult with the hammer but playing levels over and over breaking blocks in random combos was harder than just beating the levels with the normal hammer. In fact, if I didn’t read about this item online I wouldn’t have even know it exists.
I’m Not Proud
Throughout the course of the 100 levels many of them gave me trouble but I never once relied on the internet to beat a level. That is, until I reached level 95. I spent 2.5 days (probably 2 hours of total time) playing through this level well over 100 times. I never was able to come up with any solution that got me any closer to beating it. I broke down and looked up a walkthrough. I scrolled down to level 95 and the first line says
I know the solution...there is no alternative solution...
but I cannot execute it. I have the step-by-step process
that I've been using, but it doesn't work. PLEASE e-mail
me and let me know what I'm doing wrong so I can change it.
At this point I felt like I was never going to solve it on my own so spent some time watching YouTube videos. Of course, almost every video I found used the golden hammer or some cheat to get by. In fact, the video I copied to beat the level involves running under the fireball, which I didn’t know I could do. It also required exploiting the hit detection on the enemies, which I also didn’t know I could do.
I am convinced this level cannot be beaten without exploiting something. I searched the internet and could not find one instance of it being beaten without dodging the fireball. I feel like this level is equivalent to level 8-3 in Adventure Island which is notorious for being nearly impossible.
Design Your Own Level
While I had no desire to build my own levels I do appreciate that the game allows players to build a level and try it out. Super Mario Maker gets rave reviews for letting players design their own game, but, Wrecking Crew and Excite Bike both offered this feature 3 decades earlier. Unfortunately there is no way to save the levels you build.
I Should Have Taken Better Notes
I would like to know how many times I died on each stage so I could determine what the hardest stages were for me (I do know 95 was by far the hardest). But, I didn’t. Hind sight is 20/20.
I am pretty mad I waited over 30 years to give Wrecking Crew a chance. The game is easy to learn and hard to master. It features 100 unique levels that require you to use your brain. Even though it is nothing like Adventures of Lolo I find the games similar in the way you have to think to beat them. I think if you are good at Lolo you will be good at Wrecking Crew. Wrecking Crew may very well be my favorite Black Box game (other than Super Mario Bros). It has more meat to it than I expected an early NES game to have and I highly recommend it.
I am sad there is no ending screen, after you beat level 100 the game loops. So, technically, since you can start the game from any level you are going to have to take my word for it that I beat this one.