Just finished Super Mario Land for the Game Boy. First time ever playing it, it took me a couple of days to “finish it”. I put it in quotes because to actually finish the game you need to beat it twice. Second time around is expert mode and the stages are now crawling with enemies. Graphics look great, with minimalist line art for the backgrounds and the enemies. Mario himself looks quite plain, almost like a character from those early LCD handheld games like Game & Watch. I quite like the way the game looks and actually prefer it over the more detailed designs of the sequel. The result of this simplicity is that the game looks more serious and the enemies more menacing, at least to me.
The game is divided in 4 different worlds and each world has 3 stages. You don’t have an overview map here so after beating one stage or world you’re immediately sent to the next. Plot is minimal, even for a Mario game. You’re after Daisy but it’s never clear who the main enemy is (not Bowser by the way) or why is she’s even in danger (or why it isn’t Peach). You can read the manual if you want and then you’ll find out the baddie this time is Tatanga https://www.mariowiki.com/Tatanga, an alien invader. He captures Daisy and sends his minions to guard the 4 kingdoms. The worlds are quite fun to look at thanks to the simple but aptly made backgrounds. Music is quite good too and improves the whole experience. Two of the levels are shooters where Mario pilots a vehicle.
I found the platforming very challenging, specially because of how Mario behaves while midair. The guy is not graceful at all, once he’s falling, he’s falls fast and you can barely maneuver it to reach that gap or avoid an enemy. Because of it, you’ll need to plan your jumps carefully. I failed killing simple goombas quite often in the beginning before getting used to the way Mario moves in this game. Once you get the feeling of how jumping works the game becomes fairly easy and only a couple of stages will give you real trouble. You’ll have plenty of lives anyways, thanks to the abundance of coins to collect and the bonus stages after the end of each level (if you manage to finish it through the top door instead of the bottom one.)
Overall I quite like it, in fact I like it a lot. It feels a lot more focused than your average Mario title. The whole point here is the platforming, exploration is kept to a minimum. Levels are shorter, you can’t go back (once you moved the screen forward that’s it, there’s no going back) and the game is shorter as well. You’ll have to finish it in a single sitting because there’s no saving on this one. If it so happens that you like the Game Boy system and/or Mario games and haven’t tried this one yet I really recommend it. It’s a lovely game with nice looking pixels and really cute music to boot.