Welcome to the bleak ruins of the Mushroom Kingdom, home to a contemplative, chain-smoking Luigi. As he wanders the bleak expanse of decaying bricks and rusty pipes, he ruminates on the meaninglessness of his existence — the relentless search for an unknown princess, the collection of worthless coins, and his constant role as understudy to the franchise’s true hero: Mario.
Ennuigi, an online game by Josh Millard, is an elegant and depressing commentary on the Mario Bros. franchise, the kind even casual gamers will appreciate. The gameplay is simple, the environment sparse, but both are a perfect complement to the game’s reflection on the tedium of 8-bit heroics. “Why did we chase these strange coins, this unknown currency?” Luigi asks. “Where could we hope to spend them?”
It’s worth playing just to revel in the game’s writing:
Here’s how Millard describes the game:
This is a shot at a collection of ideas I had a few years ago, about looking critically at the universe of Super Mario Bros. in light of the total lack of explicit narrative in the original game in particular. Who are these strange men? What motivates them? By what right do they wreak the havoc they do on this strange place? What do they feel about where they are and what they’re doing?
And so, this is one lens through which to look at all that, with Luigi, the second brother, the also-ran, as a complicit onlooker, wandering now through some fractured, rotting liminal place in this strange world, reflecting on it all in scattered fragments.
The controls are as empty as Luigi’s soul:
Right arrow: Walk right
Left arrow: Walk left
Up arrow: Ruminate
Down arrow: Smoke
Oh, and jumping? There is no jumping in Ennuigi. That’s just how life is.
Did we mention you can play online? You can play online.
(For those of you who don’t know what ennui means, it’s “a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.” Maybe it’s time to start reading some more books, yeah?)