Although I play many games, never before have I devoted an entire blog entry to reviewing one. It’s not that I haven’t played good games. I’ve played some very fun games, some of which I’ve even been tempted to write a blog entry about. It always felt hollow, though. does my experience with this game have any value outside the game itself? Average Maria Individual is different. Average Maria Individual, I say without irony or reservation, is a work of art.
Readers who like to play video games, take note: Most of my audience will not ever play this game, so it is my intention to convey the most important bits of wisdom within it. What follows is rife with spoilers. If you have any intention of doing so, I strongly recommend you download the game now and play it before reading on. You have been warned.
On its surface, Average Maria Individual is a Super Mario Brothers clone. The look and feel is clearly based on Super Mario Brothers except the colors and the music are dark and gloomy, the foes look a bit less cute and a bit more creepy, and the main character is not Mario, but Maria.
Maria’s girlfriend happens to be princess peach who, it turns out, is missing. As you walk forward (to the right, just like a proper 2D side-scroller platforming game) hoping to find out where she’s gone, something that looks vaguely like a goomba, but with a gaping maw full of sharp teeth comes towards you.
At this point if you have been playing Mario games all your life like me, you hit the “jump” button. Unfortunately, as the title suggests, Maria is not a super brother, but an average individual. As such, she can only jump a paltry foot or so off the ground, which is not high enough to stomp or avoid anything in the game. So, with the distinct impression you’re going to die, you just walk right into the goomba.Instead of eating you, the goomba, whose name is MX. Gloom, asks you what you’re doing here. The game gives you two options: you can say you’re looking for your girlfriend or you can say you want to kill your enemy. The goomba is more helpful depending on how kind you are and how much you respect your girlfriend’s wishes. If you tell her you are worried about your girlfriend and that you are not trying to “save” her, Gloom applauds your respect and points you in the right direction, which is in fact left, not right. Otherwise, she advises you to consider your girlfriend’s feelings and ask rather than assume what it is she needs.
If you continue going to the right, you will run into a short pipe, something a Super Mario Brother could easily overcome, but you are not a Super Mario Brother. After a few seconds, the pipe begins to laugh at you and gives one of the best lines in the game:
So, you turn back and go to the left. After a few strange scenes of glitchy, broken backgrounds, a “?” block that’s tired of catering to people’s endless obsession with acquiring new items, and a deadly plant that will kill you if you are not respectful, you fall down a pipe and reach the famous plumber himself.
This part is a little odd. After a short conversation where Mario clearly and explicitly states what must be the attitude of every violent video game protagonist, that the universe is made for him and that everyone else in it is monsters, he rushes at you. Now contrary to your non-violent life-respecting options earlier in the game, now you have no choice but to quit, jump into the lava, or goad Mario into killing himself by making him bounce off of you into the lava.
After that, though, you come to the great demon king, who tells you the sad story of how constant attack by Mario and his ilk forced him to become a monster to protect himself. Now he’s wracked with self-loathing and tells you to go ahead and kill him by cutting the bridge and letting him fall into the lava. Of course, you get an opportunity to choose whether or not to cut the bridge. If you do cut the bridge, the demon king falls into the lava and dies.
The next scene is Princess Peach, hanging out in the room behind the demon king. If you spared the demon king, she apologizes for not telling anyone where she was going, but if you killed the demon king, she’s so horrified by what you’ve become that she stabs you to death. If you didn’t kill the demon king, you can still call her friends (the scary goomba and plant from before) “monsters” and she’ll break up with you and ask you to leave. The best ending is achieved when you agree to start visiting the great demon king’s castle with Peach in the future.
The articles I’ve read on it suggest that Average Maria Individual was constructed specifically to infuriate gamers who want the games of their childhood to remain pure and unquestioned. As someone who revels in shattering fantasies and illusions, I think that’s terrific. Beyond that, aside from goading Mario to kill himself, Average Maria Individual seems to teach remarkably good values about simple human decency. It is for this reason that this is now one of my favorite games and deserves a blog entry all to itself.
Oh, and the pipe. “I am insurmountable. You cannot conquer me.” Heh heh, you gotta love that pipe.
If you’re interested in another more in-depth analysis of Average Maria Individual, you can find it here.