Note: Yeah, the formatting on the first installment was wonky as all Hell. I had originally typed it out in Word, and because of my lack of foresight, didn’t take the time to find out that some problems with paragraph spacing and picture sizing might occur. That’s completely on me, and I’ll be going back to fix that one soon.
A bit of a short subject today, due to an oversight on my part. Y’see, when I promised in the last post that we would be looking into a horror hack, I neglected to actually FIND one to review based on a memory I had from several years ago about the hack we’ll be looking at today. Due to my own faulty recollection, I assumed this hack was much longer than it was, but it turns out we’re looking at a one level piece from hacking team Kc and Foursword4, known simply as Jigsaw’s Test.
If you’re not familiar with the series (and I know that you are, I just like making excuses to go on tangents), the Saw franchise is a seven movie monolith that started out as an independent horror movie on a shoe-string budget that spawned a sequel every year to the ever-growing annoyance of the movie going public and casual fans of the series;
The Saw movies focus around a sadistic torturer who captures people he feels don’t appreciate the lives they have, and puts them through a gauntlet of increasingly horrific traps, tests, and puzzles to give them a new-found appreciation for life. I won’t ruin the movies for you, because I haven’t seen any of them past Saw II, but it goes without saying that they were massive, with over $400 million in box office revenue, video games, and a fucking roller coaster.
The reason I spent so much time on the Saw franchise itself was to build a precedent. Characters like Batman are substantial enough and have existed long enough in the public consciousness to justify games, movies, and several theme park attractions. But Jigsaw? He’s a dying madman with a puppet, and not even the good one!
So, who’s Jigsaw’s latest victim? None other than our favorite mustachioed, Goomba stompin’, Princess savin’ Paisano, Mario. The first thing I’m skeptical of is the inclusion of Mario. The Saw films are by and large mystery horror movies, the characters needing to figure out where they are, what they’re up against, and how to survive.
Mario jumps on things.
Do you see the issue I take with this hack in concept alone? Jigsaw doesn’t exactly have minions he sends out, and any inclusion of tricycle-riding Koopas in clown face would be way too much of a leap , alienating to the entire purpose of having Jigsaw in the game.
Does the premise work? Let’s find out.
The title screen is pretty bland. It’s nice to see that we’re introducing new graphics with this hack, but the majority of the screen is black, which is not encouraging. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the hack is only one level long, so having multiple save files, and keeping the ‘Erase Data’ may seem wholly unnecessary, but as stated on the Hack’s page, this is a tech demo above everything else, so we’ll let it slide.
Starting the game we get a message from Jigsaw;
And here’s where I put on my nitpicking hat:
- Does this mean that Mario has somehow entered into our world and been captured by Jigsaw? If so, how did he get here? Was Mario’s presence in the ‘real world’ known before Jigsaw captured him, or did he just poof up next to Jigsaw while he was in the kitchen and get conked over the head with a tea kettle?
- Jigsaw says that Mario has “rescued the lives of others” before, and is known all over the world. So does Mario really exist in the context of his video games, living his life between each game? I guess that would explain all of the Go-Karting and Tennis he has time to play between saving the flavor of the month damsel.
- Has Mario or other game characters been to the real world before? I doubt Mobius and The Mushroom Kingdom just found a convenient dimension to challenge each other at a makeshift version of Earth’s Olympics.
- If he can jump between his world and ours, that might explain games like Mario’s Time Machine and Mario is Missing.
- And if all of this is true, Mario has the ability to come to our world, has been to our world several times, and we know that he exists within the game world, why would Jigsaw question his will to live? The man has saved his world dozens of times over and -if we believe that characters from his world can hop over to Earth- ours by proxy, keeping Bowser on the ropes often enough to not come in and invade us.
And that’s pretty much what it’s like in my head. Years of reading superhero comics and analyzing the intricacies of Stephen King novels have left me unable to suspend disbelief at such things.
Mario starts off in the room from the title screen, and I’m gonna be honest here, the custom graphics are pretty nice.
Well, what few there are, anyway. The painting of Jigsaw bears a good resemblance to him, the crate and the drawer are good, and I do enjoy the touch of the cobwebs in the corner. The only real issues I take with this is in the background. In that there isn’t one. This is supposed to be a cellar Mario is locked in, but some simple tiled dirt or boards for the background would have gone a long way to sell the concept and not leave all of this negative space.
There’s an alarm clock in the corner, telling us how much time we have left before Mario runs out of air. Moving around the level, your first thought might be “What am I supposed to do?”. The room we’re in isn’t very large, taking up about two screens of space, so this clearly isn’t going to be our normal run and jump Mario game. After searching further on in the level (and by searching, I mean pressing Up at every object and spin-jumping the entire floor looking for breakable blocks) I go back to the picture of Jigsaw and am treated with this:
I know adventure game tropes when I see them. I walk up to the mirror on the wall, and;
The mirror reveals a stairwell and a short path to the right, where I find a note lying on the ground;
Again, more wandering. On a hunch, I jumped off of the ladder to see if anything was hidden down there, and I was right. To the left of the ladder, I find a hidden corridor. Down the hall? What else but another note begging me to FOLLOW THE BLOOD. I head back to the top right, and spin-jump over the blood-spattered blocks as I did before, but this time they’re kind enough to break for me and let me onto the ledge below.
Down there I find a knife and a note, the latter of which questioning how much Mario is willing to suffer to save his own life. Touching up against the knife will lower Mario’s health meter, and two good sprints towards the stationary knife will shrink him.
Remembering the mouse hole from earlier, I scurry inside to find another note.
I did not add that MS Paint arrow, the hackers felt it was necessary to point out the blinking red clock counting down to Mario’s inevitable demise. The note asks that I go back to the beginning and I do so. Looking around some more until I get back into the hidden corridor where I find a room that wasn’t open before. Walking in, Mario grows back to normal size. There’s an Exit sign to the left. Now if I know predictable twist endings like I think I do, that’s a trap.
Touching the cassette player reveals a message from Jigsaw berating Mario for his arrogance in thinking that he could escape via the door labeled Exit. Jigsaw tells Mario that this is GAME OVER, confirming my suspicions from the beginning that there is indeed some Quantum Leap nonsense going on.
So I start over again from the beginning, and the whole ordeal takes less than three minutes once you know where you’re going. Once I embiggen Mario again, I head to the right and back into the main room. After some more searching, I check the crate and find a switch which opens a door on the right, leading to the exit.
So putting aside the the ramifications of events that would need to occur for this game to exist, Jigsaw’s sensitive side, and a predictable twist which serves only to force the player to repeat the game again, this isn’t all that bad. I like the idea of an expoloration adventure sidescroller game. If this were expanded on, graphics more fully completed, and the whole thing tightened up a bit, Jigsaw’s Test could make for a rather enjoyable game.
Sadly, although the final screen promises something more complete, it never happened. Considering that this hack was posted around this time in 2008, I’d be willing to bet that we won’t ever be seeing a complete version of this tech demo.
My higher-ups here at Florida Gamers have made a request of me, and I’m just lackey enough to do it. Come back next time, my friends, where we will be looking at a hack of Super Metroid.