Casual Fridays: Tuper Tario Tros.
As I write this, all the letters I type are slowly falling down and drifting ever so gently to the left in my mind. And I keep imagining a little figure in overalls, about two letters high and one letter wide, jumping on top of those letters as they appear, or bashing them from below to unlock valuable coins inside.
The reason for these odd hallucinations is Tuper Tario Tros., a Flash-based combination of two of the most addictive games in history -- Tetris and Super Mario Bros. -- into a game that ... well, it isn't quite as addictive as both games combined, but is awfully close.
Tuper Tario Tros. starts out just like the familiar first level of the NES platforming classic, with that single Goomba marching slowly forward and that familiar floating arrangement of three question-mark blocks granting your first coins and Super Mushroom. But soon a floating Lakitu is throwing a wrench in the works, telling you to "press space to switch games." Before you know it the familiar Mario music has switched to the equally familiar Tetris music, and tetrominos made of Mario's trademark bricks and question-mark blocks begin falling from above (it's an absolute wonder the creators haven't been sued into oblivion by either Nintendo or The Tetris Company as of this writing).
There are two fundamental ways to play Tuper Tario Tros. You can fit those falling Tetris blocks into the existing environment, removing lines of bricks from impassable walls and letting Mario move through the slowly scrolling level. Or you can build the tetrominos into elaborate stairways, letting Mario climb over the environmental hazards to move on. The excellent design of the game's single level (which is sadly over after just a few minutes) requires both strategies, especially if you want to maximize your both your Mario and Tetris scores (kept on separate corners of the screen) and make it to the game's remarkably clever ending challenge (which I wouldn't even dream of spoiling for you).
Some problems in the execution: Mario doesn't have a run button, and can't duck to get through small gaps in the bricks. The Tetris blocks can only spin in one direction, and there's no "next block" visual to help you plan ahead. It's quite easy to game the scoring system, focusing on one score to the exclusion of the other in order to make that Internet-enabled high-score list.
But it's hard to care too much about these problems when you're playing a relatively accurate and seamless melding of two of the most time-tested and accessible videogames in history. Like the games it's based on, Tuper Tario Tros. has the ability to seep into your brain and affect your view of the world for minutes or even hours after playing, showing up even when you close your eyes, or try to write a quick column. Now, if you'll excuse me, I see a quotation mark in the last paragraph that desperately needs to be opened up for its precious, precious coins.