Kill the Plumber Review - Mario Must Die

Published: January 23, 2016 1:00 PM /

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If Bowser could code, he'd probably make Kill the Plumber, a puzzle platforming game all about killing a suspiciously familiar looking heroic plumber with equally familiar monster designs thrust under the player's command. However, as any Mario player should know, the odds are always stacked against the poor mooks. After all, they don't have any power stars or fire flowers to save them from the cruel boot of one Italian superstar. However, they do have one leg over the false hero in Kill the Plumber. Brains.

Right off the bat, you're going to notice that Kill the Plumber is a very obvious mobile port. The only options in the menu are literally on and off switches for sound effects and music, as well as the ability to go fullscreen. While this makes sense considering the game doesn't have many things you would need to tweak, the fact that you can't use a slider for audio irritates me to no end in any game. In a game such as this with a constantly repeating soundtrack, maybe it would be nice to be able to just dim it at times.

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However, the real problems don't arise until you start to play the game. It doesn't take much time to find out that Kill the Plumber is just as much about precision as it is figuring out how to actually kill the damn plumber. However, the unbelievably clunky movement makes this more frustrating than it really has any right to be. Monsters are slow moving, and a good chunk of them don't have any vertical movement to speak of. Rather, you have to get not-Mario to higher elevation by making him jump over the enemies, a decent idea that barely functions in practice.

See, most of the time, you will get discount Mario's predicted arc wrong and he will miss your pixel-perfect target ever so slightly, which is just enough to soil the run completely. When you have a puzzle solved but can't actually complete it due to terrible handling, then you have tedium. The routine of tweaking your response only slightly so the plumber will jump off a cliff rather than bounce off a tall pillar isn't puzzling in the slightest, nor is it any fun.

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Ironically, Kill the Plumber's only great control element is also its worst. That's the quick restart button, letting you redo a level at any time with one tap of the R key. While being able to abandon a failed level at any time certainly makes the game a lot less stressful, it also manages to make some levels a nightmare. Keeping with the odd theme of timing, some levels (Particularly those early in the game) require the player to start slamming on the keys instantly to catch the mustachioed hero before he makes it to the flagpole at the end of the level. The problem is that he will more often than not take off running the second the level restarts, taking the player off guard a few too many times.

Thankfully, Kill the Plumber isn't all doom and gloom. There is a surprising amount of variety on display when it comes to the playable monsters. Sure, you have your average lawyer-friendly renditions of goombas with predictable augments (Spikes on their heads, the ability to jump, etc), but there are a lot of really interesting ideas here. Personal favorites of mine included ghosts that couldn't move while the plumber was looking their way, giant blocks that could slam down onto the plumber, and the elite 'boss monsters' which let players use a variety of abilities. I never felt too sick of one particular monster type, and they have just enough levels with just enough interesting ways to use their powers, which was basically the only thing that kept me slightly interested in seeing the game through.

I wish I could've loved Kill the Plumber. It has an amazing concept behind it, a great deal of variety, and some clever ways to use the monsters' powers to take down that pesky plumber. Still, Kill the Plumber is a game that's just too sloppy and frustrating to be entertaining for more than a few minutes at a time. Perfect for a mobile game, completely absurd for a PC one. Lets just hope another developer gives this idea a shot in the future.

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Kill the Plumber was reviewed on Steam with a key provided by the developer. It is also available on Android.

Review Summary


Kill the Plumber has a fantastic concept that fails to deliver in both execution and presentation.

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Filmmaker. Entertainment critic. Genre film aficionado. Has bad taste and hot takes.