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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Left 4 Dead 2 and New Super Mario Bros Wii.

Transcript Edit

Four is very rarely the magic number. A fourth blind mouse would have just been redundant, as would a fourth little pig who built his house out of depleted uranium. And while a threesome with two women is fun, any more than that and you're going to run out of bits to share around. But four is a significant number in the video games world, because it's the maximum number of controllers you can buy before you start to think you might have a little bit too much disposable income. Four players is the perfect number: you, one to take all the power-ups, one to run on ahead of everyone else and lose all their lives, and one to poke you in the eye every five minutes with a sharpened courgette. And without two guitarists, a drummer, and a singer when playing Rock Band, you might even be able to actually hear the music.

Today I'd like to review two recent four-player co-op titles, Left 4 Dead 2, the latest in a series that is increasingly trying to resemble a car registration number, and New Super Mario Super Wii Bros. 2: The Revenge of the Return, etc.

First of all, yes, I was forced to play the cut-down Australian version of Left 5 Dead 7 because of our crotchety old man government who think that everyone under the age of 40 is a serial rapist waiting to happen. So playing it was like visiting a McDonald's in a foreign country; the same, but with an odd sense of unfamiliarity, and they don't sell chicken nuggets. The changes are mostly gore related, taking out persistent bodies, dismemberment, and blood splattering on your screen like you're all wearing fucking motorcycle helmets, so the Australian version is at least much easier on the processor. But honestly, it doesn't matter if the zombies bleed, dribble, or shoot wee-wee out of their armpits. As long as zombies and an apocalypse is going on, then it's officially a zombie apocalypse.

And now it's inflicting itself upon four new unlucky bastards, namely Uncle Phil, Leisure Suit Larry, some guy from Deliverance, and a girl, whose only defining feature is that I always end up having to play the insipid cow. Meanwhile, the character selection in New Super Mario Bros. Wii consists of Mario, Luigi, and two different colored Toads. So the arguments with your mates start before the game even begins. You know whoever gets lumped with the two generic townsfolk are the bottom of that particular circle of friends. It's like playing a superhero game where you get to play as either Superman, Batman, or two recently hatched ducklings.

Not that it matters so much. The character differences are entirely cosmetic, and everyone has the same basic controls. Press 2 to jump and fall down a pit. Hold 1 to run, so that you can jump further and fall down a different pit. Basically everything that you'd come to expect from a 2D Mario platformer, assuming you'd stopped playing them around 1993. Some levels have you swimming, some scroll vertically, but generally you just keep holding right until you hit the victory music. Or you fall down a pit.

What's clear about Left 4 Dead 2 Rocky V, and which becomes even clearer in the Australian version with all the blood and disembodied titties wiped out your eyes, is that if it weren't for the number in the title--the second number, that is--you'd call it little more than an expansion pack that dreams of the stars. The most significant addition is melee weapons, including swords, guitars, crowbars, and of course chainsaws, which historically have now probably been used more often against zombies in games than against wood in real life. But the usefulness of melee is linked directly to the speed of your connection. In the worst-case scenario, you could be swinging your axe several seconds after the zombies have already eaten your face, digested it, and pooed it down your nosehole.

There are some new special zombies and a whole bunch of new levels and a daytime Deep South sort of setting, but besides new weapons, characters, and environments, it's pretty much the same. I appreciate that that sounds like saying Star Wars would be identical to Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit if you changed the characters, plot, setting, and title, but the general feel of Left 4 Dead is unchanged. While we're still backwards running from the entire zombiefied London marathon as a 14-year-old from Nome, Alaska, steals all the health kits, everything else is so much salad dressing.

Mind you, at least Left 4 Dead 2 London SW1 has some steps forward, even if it's just a shuffling of the feet towards a cliff edge. Even a single chip of plaster knocked off of a prison wall is at least some progress. Super Wii New Bros. Mario is the prisoner who cements over his own escape attempt, then sticks his head in the toilet. Nintendo's Mario team really don't seem to have any ambition besides subsisting on bits of crust they can scrape from the pimply underbelly of nostalgia, lest anything as dangerous as a new idea appear in their brains and give them a fucking seizure.

But as the disbelieving friend said to the inventor of the feces-powered helicopter, "This shit will not fly!" What really has been the point of the last 15 years if you're just going to make Mario 3 again complete with chirpy NES sound effects still intact? On what is ostensibly a current-generation console, no less? Oh, but there is four-player co-op, a feature that is absolutely perfect if you find yourself short of gift-buying money this Christmas and need to lose three friends as quickly as possible. The player characters all bounce off each other, so once you go beyond one player it's like trying to precision platform in a tumble dryer full of cricket balls. And the power-ups are virtually designed to come out in such a way that one player takes all of them, one player who will go home with so many feet up their arse that they will spend the next few days coughing up odor eaters.

Even bad games have a place in gaming history, even if it's just to feature in some "how not to do it" guide. New Nuper Nario Nothers Nii is a rare example of a game that has absolutely no right to exist. Super Mario World was better, Yoshi's Island was better. This is supposed to be the future, dammit! If everyone has to buy digital televisions before 2010, then that means you aren't allowed to suddenly ignore 20 years of gameplay innovation. Release a photograph of the Nintendo board of executives pulling their buttocks apart, and that might at least be worth noting.

As for Left 4 Dead 2 Springfield .30-6, well, it made Left 4 Dead fresh enough again for me to enjoy playing it for a few more hours. And hell, people have paid a lot more money for entertainment that doesn't last as long as that. But while this and all those staggered-out Team Fortress 2 are mildly diverting, Valve, wasn't there a Half-Life Episode 3 you were supposed to be working on? I'm starting to feel like I've come to a Rolling Stones concert and the Rolling Stones don't feel like coming out, so they're trying to keep us amused with an old TV showing episodes of The Jetsons.

AddendaEdit

Just bitter because he only has two friends: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

TOP TIP: When in a zombie apocalypse, try not to hook up with people who won't eat baked beans

Bowser vs Tank: who would survive


ScreenshotsEdit

Left 4 Dead 2 1

The Australian version is at least much easier on your processor

Left 4 Dead 2 2

Zombie apocalypse

Left 4 Dead 2 3

"This shit will not fly!"

External LinksEdit

Left 4 Dead 2

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2

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