Mario's Time Machine
Mario's Time Machine is an edutainment title developed by Radical Entertainment that was released for MS-DOS and SNES in 1993; it was later released for the NES in June, 1994 alternatively spelled Mario's Time Machine! It is the successor of Mario is Missing! It is meant to teach younger players basic world history and is the last Mario Discovery Series game before discontinuation. This game and Hotel Mario are the only games in the Mario franchise in which Mario as a protagonist has full lines of dialogue. The original PC release was distributed through floppy disks, but there was a Deluxe version provided as a CD-ROM in 1994 which added voice acting and a Library reference file featuring Bowser's mother.
In the year 1993, Bowser uses a time machine, traveling backwards to different points in human history and stealing significant artifacts to place in his personal museum inside his castle. With his collection nearly completed, Bowser gloats that not even Mario can stop him now. Mario realizes that history will change forever if he does nothing, so it's up to Mario to use Bowser's own device against him by returning the artifacts to their proper places in time.
The home console releases add that Bowser plans to destroy his time machine (called a Timulator in console manuals), deliberately planning to irreversibly damage history and send the world back to the Dark Ages. In the NES game, Bowser's Museum has been fully built and already established itself with history's greatest artifacts. Yoshi joins Mario in his quest to stop Bowser's plot, but instead gets captured when he scouts ahead. In addition to fixing the timeline, Mario must also rescue Yoshi from peril.
The central hub of Mario's Time Machine is the museum within Bowser's Castle. The museum is three floors high, and on each floor lies five artifacts, giving Mario a total of fifteen periods of time to travel to. Mario must take an artifact from a pedestal, look at the date and location labeled on it, and then program that information into the time machine and travel to that point in the timeline. Mario surfs the ripples of time, collecting mushrooms and avoiding hazards.
When the player arrives in the time period, he must explore and converse with the various residents that live there. In doing so, the player learns about the artifact, the time period, and the person associated with it. To get more information, the player must receive items that some residents possess and give them to others in order to satisfy their needs. For example, in Vienna one resident will complain about the heat until Mario retrieves a fan and hands it to the person, who will then continue to give information. After the player has talked to everyone, the player fills out a History answer sheet. The answer sheet consists of a two-page biography about the person associated with the artifact and the time period, with blanks replacing several words. The player must use the information he received to correctly fill in the blanks. If the player fills in the wrong answer more than twice, the player is forced back into the present. If he succeeds, Mario can return the artifact to its owner and return back to 1993. After all the artifacts of a floor have been returned, Mario moves upward to the next floor.
There are three different endings which are decided by how may points the player has scored and the order in which the artifacts are returned. If the player spends too much time returning all the artifacts or returns even one artifact in the wrong order, there is a non-standard game over in which Bowser escapes to "Paradise" using the time machine; or he gets sent to the Cretaceous period where he looks in different directions of the screen (both are notable for being the only way to get a Game Over). A Message reminding the player to return all the artifacts either in a more timely manner or in the correct order appears on the screen. After that the player must start over from the beginning, or use a password to go back to a previous point. However, if they meet the two objective conditions, the time machine overloads, self-destructs and sends Bowser to the Cretaceous period where he gets stepped-on by a Tyrannosaurus Rex (humorously, right beforehand when he notices it, his eyes shrink with realization to what will happen to him and meekly opens an umbrella in the hopes it would protect him), and a raptor then grabbing his squished remains and throwing them like a Frisbee.
Being a port of the PC release, the SNES version has a few changes to the original game. There is less content overall, so Mario travels to fewer time periods, and there are some graphical changes such as the design of the time machine. During the sequence on time's waves, Mario can move in all directions rather than just forward due to the use of Mode 7 on the water, and he must go in a whirlpool after collecting ten mushrooms. The true ending is similar to the DOS version, only Bowser's puddle remains on the ground throughout the entire credits, and in addition, Bowser only gapes upon noticing the T-Rex foot coming down on him.
Unlike Mario is Missing!, the NES release is virtually a different game with little resemblance to its previous incarnations, traveling to very different time periods and restoring entirely different objects. Bowser's Museum is largely a hall with seven doors ending with Bowser's chamber. Behind each door is a Mario Bros.-style mini-game involving Koopa Troopas with a unique item that can be acquired if Mario defeats all of them. The Timulator is in the bottom center of each room, and it is a Warp Pipe with a transparent box. Inside the Timulator, Mario can select pre-determined time periods rather than input them manually, although the location is not disclosed. Once warped across time and space, Mario will arrive at a short platforming land with enemies (Koopa Troopas, Bodyslam Koopas, and Walking Turnips) and occasionally indigenous inhabitants of the time period. There are also Message Blocks which describe the location. Mario must take the item acquired in the mini-game and return it to the appropriate spot - if is in the incorrect place it will return to the clutches of the Koopas via a bird (or flying saucer when on the moon), but if Mario is right then he will complete that area. There are two artifacts in each door, so Mario must enter a door at least twice before he can close that section of the museum. After all the doors of the museum are cleared, the deeper part of the castle is available after Mario passes a random History Test about what he's learned. After beating Bowser, a key will be released and Mario will free Yoshi from his cage. In the end, Mario and Yoshi pose next to a saddened, crying Bowser.
The time periods that Mario visits in each version varies. Here is a chart of the location and artifact for the PC, SNES and NES versions in chronological order.
Historical inaccuracies and other errors
Despite Mario's Time Machine being intended as an educational game, it contains many errors in regards to its historical facts.
Since its release, Mario's Time Machine has received negative reception. It holds an aggregate score of 60.25% on Game Rankings based on two reviews. Nintendo Power gave it a 10.6 out of 20, while Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it a slightly better rating of 6.75 out of 10. GameSpy's Brian Altano and Brian Miggels criticized the ending of the NES version for its depiction of Bowser crying. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Good Game described it as one of many "awful" games that used the Mario license, and said that it was "too complicated" for its young target audience. Similarly, authors David Wesley and Gloria Barczak include both it and Mario is Missing! in the "flood" of poor-quality 1990s Mario games and media made by third parties with no supervision from Nintendo, accusing these two games, Mario's FUNdamentals, and the Super Mario Bros. film of "nearly destroy[ing]" the entire franchise. Patrick Felicia, who focuses on learning through video games, criticizes Mario's Time Machine and Mario is Missing! for their "mismatch" between the gameplay and the presentation, while also praising Super Mario Bros. due to everything being in service of platforming.
According to programmer Carlos Justiniano, Mario's Time Machine was behind schedule when he began working on it, and the team developed it over the course of several weeks. Lead artist Maude Church, who worked primarily on adding animations to Mario's Time Machine Deluxe, also said that Nintendo did not interfere with the game's development; they were mostly concerned with how Mario looked. The team was also focused on being historically accurate - though for the final level that featured the game's developers within the game itself, it was simply a "little personal moment with a laugh".
References to other games
Names in other languages