You’re reading Warped Pipes, the series where I try my darndest to put all of the Super Mario games in order, one by one. This time, I’ll be deconstructing...
Released in 1985, Wrecking Crew sees Mario and Luigi hard at work on, well, a wrecking crew tearing down old structures. It also lets players create their own levels to destroy, although it does not appear that the brothers are involved in this part of the game.
Before we get much further, let’s discuss...
While the various re-releases of Wrecking Crew have left the game virtually untouched, there are a couple of other games with similar titles to discuss. VS. Wrecking Crew is a version of the game released for the VS. DualSystem arcade machine. The game is redesigned to take advantage of the features found in this arcade cabinet, such as multiple screens, but is otherwise largely the same and still features the brothers knocking down buildings. However, as the “VS.” might imply, this game is competitive and sees Mario and Luigi pitted against each other. I will consider VS. Wrecking Crew to be part of the same general series of events and discuss it in this entry.
The Japan-only Wrecking Crew ‘98, on the other hand, is actually a full-blown sequel and will therefore be discussed as a separate entry in the future.
The Events of the Game
Mario and Luigi, naturally, are tasked with demolishing the buildings in the game. They do this by knocking down walls with their hammers or setting off dynamite charges placed throughout the buildings.
Unfortunately, this job does not come without its dangers. In addition to the risk of falling oil drums, the brothers are accosted by a number of foes. Foreman Spike, ostensibly their boss, attempts to interfere with the brothers’ work and actually outright attacks them. Automatons called “Gotchawrenches” and an... Eggplant Man similarly assault the protagonists. On top of this, the occasional fireball also has to be avoided.
Despite all this, the brothers ultimately seem to succeed in tearing down the buildings, due in part to the use of powerful golden hammers which are effective in fending off these enemies.
However, in VS. Wrecking Crew, the brothers have turned on each other and actually attack each other as they compete to destroy the structures.
Clearly, this is a deeply dysfunctional work space. For whatever reason, Spike chooses to lead by fear and delights in tormenting his employees.
The Gotchawrenches were probably designed as tools to help in the demolishing process, not unlike the automatons seen in Donkey Kong Jr., but are carrying out the opposite function here. This is likely due to either a malfunction or an intentional reprogramming by Spike in order to aid in his assault on Mario and Luigi. I tend to find the latter explanation more likely.
The fireballs that appear here are likely related to the sentient fireballs seen previously in Donkey Kong and seem to just be a common occurrence on construction sites. As for Eggplant Man... I really don’t know what this guy’s deal is. He’s strange and feels out of place even in this relatively loose and fantastical setting. He’s Spike’s friend, maybe? Your guess is as good as mine on this one.
Another interesting tidbit is that Luigi is found here wearing red overalls similar to Mario’s instead of his usual green garb. Given that it takes place at a similar period in the timeline, this seemingly confirms that the “second Mario” in the Donkey Kong Jr. opening is, in fact, Luigi. It would seem that Luigi doesn’t get his green outfit until the events of the Game & Watch Mario Bros. This changes the previous interpretation that Mario and Luigi did not start working together until after the Donkey Kong debacle.
As for the brothers duking it out in the VS. game, I think that the stress and danger of this job ultimately leads to them being at each other’s throats. While this isn’t a lasting falling out, it is a particular bad spat between the two.
This game basically solidifies the themes that many of the previous games have been building up: Mario and Luigi live in a veritable capitalist hellscape where they are forced to work grueling jobs for truly evil bosses who regularly put their lives at risk and pit them against each other.
The city they live in also has an incredible amount of construction going on, with countless old buildings coming down and being replaced by new high rises. It’s possible that this reconstruction of the city is a post-war effort following the events of Mario’s Bombs Away, which could mean that the city was previously besieged.
The Timeline So Far
Because Mario is working a construction job, Wrecking Crew takes place around the same time as Mario’s Cement Factory and Donkey Kong. Since I believe that the Donkey Kong imbroglio results in Mario (and possibly Luigi) losing his job, Wrecking Crew must take place before it. Based on this, I’ve nestled the game in between Mario’s Cement Factory and Greenhouse, as you can see below.
It also makes sense that, at this peak level of stress, Mario might be looking for an outlet to forget work for a while, leading to him fatefully visiting a certain circus...
Before we get to the big title I know you’ve been waiting to hear about, I’d like to use the next article to summarize the story so far. Twelve games in, Mario and Luigi have already been through quite a lot and I think it will be helpful to take stock before we reach our first major milestone on this journey.
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