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// article by Jeff

First thing I'm sure you're wondering is who the heck this Justin is. Googling "Justin & Friends" actually led me to various posters involving someone named Justin in various costumes as part of a "CBeebies" tour of Mr. Tumble's Circus during the Easter holidays alongside, well, some of his friends.

Hmmm, I see the BBC logo on there. Better ask our resident British expert about this one:

"It's the BBC's primary channel (previously series of shows) for children of primary school age. It shows cartoons directed at that age bracket, plus educational programmes."

When further questioned about Mr. Tumble, such as who the heck he is, I received this response:

"Well, he's almost too intellectual to be a children's performer. He's really clever, gets laughs even out of an adult such as myself. He is also a master of sign language."

That didn't explain much, but thank you, Matt, for clarifying. I suppose I could have simply consulted Wikipedia for this information, but I figured why not just prod the British guy about children's television? In any case, you'll be disappointed to know that this Super Mario Bros. hack has nothing to do with British happy-go-luckies on TV. It turns out that Justin is actually the hacker himself, under the great white moniker of "TheGreatWhiteDope", and his friends are actually one in number: just his buddy Tim. It should be called Justin & Friend. With Mario and Luigi having mysteriously disappeared, Justin and his one buddy Tim have been summoned to the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Toadstool. We're not sure why (and neither is the developer of this hack), but hey, it's a new chance to take down Bowser and his crusty minions.

So what's new here, exactly? I mean, we can only retread the path of the original Super Mario Bros. so many times. For starters, the graphics have been redrawn from scratch, as most hacks include. No enemies, characters, or other sprites have been altered to look like something else; instead, they're just slightly more comical versions of what they used to be. Goombas are a tad more menacing, Cheep-Cheeps have an apathetic face now, and Bloopers looks more like birdhouses. But what has changed significantly is the level design. All new challenges await our GreatWhiteHero, and while most stages nothing particularly perplexing, a few of them are unfair. Certain stages can get you stuck in one spot with mazelike structures squashing you inside as the screen scrolls over, giving you no chance of getting out again. Alternatively, you may not be able to pass through an obstacle if you are Super MarioJustin and will be forced to sustain injury to become small and fit through tiny crevices, a ploy not used by Nintendo very often. Getting stuck is infrequent but frustrating. Is that why Justin gave you 50 lives to start with?

It's a decent hack that can provide some challenge for fans of the original, or fans of people named Justin. It does get to the point where no single SMB hack is superior to the others, and they all begin to blend into each other. I hope to get a hold of one that blows my mind! While I go hunt that down, check out these luscious screenshots so you can actually figure out what I was just rambling about earlier:


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