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5.0 Perfect
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Funkmaster V Reviews


7800 Rank: None

Genre: Puzzle

Awards: None
Hey Look! A Damsel in Distress! Pros: Unique and Addictive Gameplay, Challenging
Cons: Lack of Extensive Board Variation, Power-Ups Lack Power, Atari 2600 Graphics and Sound
Good Thing I Brought My Crane and My Conyeor Belts Full of Blocks!
Overview: My favorite part about collecting for the Atari 7800 is picking up the really bizarre items in the wild that shouldn't exist, but they do. Here lies the story of the puzzle game "Save Mary" being in the 7800 library: Before the release of Flashback 2 plug n' play system in 2005, Save Mary was a lost gem that was never released by Atari. Finished around the time the 2600 was finally pronounced dead, Atari enthusiasts could only experience this puzzle game years later by either playing it on an emulator, or by purchasing it online from
Atarisales.com (aka Video 61) for the Atari 7800. While it is truly a game designed for the 2600, bank-switching problems on the original hardware were easily remedied by converting it to play on the 7800. Considering the lack of 7800 homebrews, "lost" prototypes, and found oddities, some Prosystem fans were excited that something new was finally "theirs and theirs alone", even if that meant the 7800 was really just a foster parent.

Graphics: While converted to play on the technically superior Prosystem, Save Mary received no graphical, audio, or gameplay enhancements. So it goes without saying that this is easily one of the ugliest 7800 games ever. While it would be easy to bash the game for its appearance compared to Basketbrawl, Tower Toppler, or Klax, I actually was fairly impressed at how the game came off. Even though Mary sports a square hole in her head, this game would not be any better if it was revamped for the PS5 except for one caveat: the power ups are impossible to figure out unless you have a manual or read about them online. Maybe with better graphics, it would be easier to detect what the hell this stuff is and what we should expect from them.

Sound: Again, it would be easy to bash this game for the lack of audio... but I'm feeling a wee bit merciful. The sound of the crane is actually good, and the little tunes when you accidentally smash Mary's brains out with a pile of steel or clear a level are decent enough. This is another "7800-only" game that is pretty much devoid of audio, and I can live with that... even though puzzle games really need kick booty jams.

Gameplay: Though it is a "stuff is falling" puzzle game like Tetris, Columns, or Dr. Mario, Save Mary has a very distinct personality of its own. It is much more challenging than those titles even from get go. You see, silly Mary is stuck in a ravine AGAIN, and it is up to you to save her from her lack of good judgment. Though searching for archeological finds in the local reservoir gets her out of the house, Mary has an uncanny knack for locating ravines that are about to fill up with water. Fortunately for her, she normally does this underneath large cranes and dual conveyor belts delivering building materials to empty space. Much like that old adage (or is it fable... or is it a riddle?) about the crow, the bottle of water, and the pebbles, you must fill the crevice by dropping down random building materials, allowing Mary to climb them, so she can avoid the billowing grave beneath her. Blocks do not disappear like in other games of this type; rather they stack on top of each other. Once you get past level 1, the shapes of the objects begin to differ, and you have to decide how to stack them so Mary can climb them, yet do it in such a fashion that you can create another stack high enough so Mary can reach "Higher Ground" (thanks, Mr. Wonder) and not get stuck. Your enemies in this game are not only the clock and poorly designed structures; Mary herself becomes the most aggravating foe of all. As you can imagine, Mary is quite a bit frightened at this point, so she runs around in a panic. Sometimes its hard to determine where she will go next, so many levels end with a squished Mary and a swear word. It's also possible to be doing great time-wise but clumsily build a structure preventing Mary from climbing any higher. Now, that's a downer. On the flipside, power-ups seem to be very little help to the cause and typically are a waste of time. Including a power-up that temporarily stops the rising water seems like it would have been a no-brainer, but it is not included.

Originiality: Save Mary is quite a change of pace from the tired genre of Tetris clones. Managing falling bricks appeals to human beings for some reason, but to throw in a victim who is also the game's main antagonist was quite a stroke of genius. You quickly develop a fatherly/ motherly relationship with Mary, because her helplessness and panic are making the situation much worse, but you really can't blame her. Think about it... would you rather drown or get squished by 3 tons of steel? Yeah, I'd freak, too.

Value: It would be easy to knock this 2600 game for its blocky graphics or anemic audio, but that is like mocking a handicapped child by telling him how bad he is at basketball. However, where the game could have used some refinement is in the area of variation. The game only features four different boards. Yes, they repeat and get faster, but some more discoveries would have been nice because the new challenges presented by each board are refreshing. Also, a little play testing could have easily revealed that the second level is by far the most difficult of the four. By the time you reach the sixth level (the second time you play level two), you know you are in for a fight. Still, unlike Tetris or even Klax, the boards' differences require totally new planning and experimentation.

Overall: I debated for a long time whether or not to even review Save Mary for the site, since it is not really a 7800 game. But I finally decided to because it was released as a 7800 game at a time when there were so few Prosystem homebrews, prototypes, or hacks to play. It was special to us, even if briefly. And no matter what you think of it, you'd have to agree that the title's gameplay is better than at least half of the original Atari 7800 line-up, anyway. Also, I do what the hell I wan. I even misspell want when I wan. Save Mary is very good. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the idea doesn't resurface with a brand new name and some new tweaks for some new system one day. Keep your peepers peeped.

When in stock, you can buy the cartridge for the 7800 at Video 61 (www.Atarisales.com) or play it on the Flashback 2 and many of the subsequent Flashbacks.



More Save Mary Fun:

The game Save Mary inspired many artists to come up with their own Save Mary box art. Check out the haughty little collection here: Click here, you dirty boy...