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Hacker Crams Super Mario Bros. Into 64 Pixels

| 13 Sep 2011 19:42

Shigeru Miyamoto needed 61,440 pixels to create the original Super Mario Bros. Retrobrad did it with a mere 64.

While "Retrobrad" is presumably not our protagonist's Christian name, it's the moniker he goes by in the sort of online circles where people earn notoriety by soldering together amazing utilitarian works of art from electronic scrap, PCB and a handful of colorful buttons.

As such, Retrobrad's latest project is a reimagining of classic NES platformer Super Mario Bros. in the form of a handheld, hyper-pixelated gaming console. It's honestly hard to explain in the limited realm of text, so maybe you should click "play" on that video at right and see exactly what I mean.

I'd be lying if I said I had any idea how this kind of gadget is put together, so I'll let the techie geeks at Hack A Day cover that bit:

Retrobrad has come a long way with his 8×8 gaming device which he calls Super Pixel Bros. The newest rendition has a fab house PCB and freshly rewritten code. The game is still played on an 8×8 LED matrix, but it looks like he's sourced a version with square pixels, which is a nice touch since he was inspired by the block-based Super Mario games. Also new in this version is the character LCD screen which displays score, level, and life information. But it's not just the shiny new hardware that's different, he's rewritten the software in Swordfish Basic to run on the PIC 18F4550. The new code allowed him to tweak how levels are loaded and stored. He's even written a level editor and has finished 20 levels thus far.

The best bit however, is that Retrobrad is working toward selling these things in kit form in the near future. It would still require you to do a bit of soldering, but there is nothing more satisfying than cobbling together your own Goomba genocide simulator.

That said, I'm kinda bewildered as to Retrobrad's motivation here. In the clip he says that Super Mario Bros. is one of his favorite games, which is perfectly understandable and more than enough reason to build this device, but given its resolution limitations wouldn't it have made more sense to program a game less reliant on pixelated details?

Tetris is pretty block-centric, and the grid-style level layouts of Bomberman would have worked nicely as well. I'm not asking for a full-featured port of DOOM, but ... actually, scratch that. I would like to see the plans for this thing released to the 'net, so we can see just how long it takes for some clever geek to drop id's classic shooter onto yet another device.

I'll get a stopwatch.

Source: Hack A Day

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