Super Smarmyo Bros.

For so many of today’s gamers, Mario is an indelible, irreplaceable part of their nostalgia. He is unashamedly the reason I fell in love the medium, and his many adventures have defined the way we play, and – in many cases – redefined it… all without talking down to or patronizing the gamer. Don’t worry, though: Lee-Lee’s Quest 2 is here to help with that last part.

Hosted on Adult Swim and created by the twisted mind of Raitendo, Lee-Lee’s Quest 2 is a platformer that asks, broadly, “why!?” As in: why do we bother going from left to right? Why do we implicitly trust obscure objects to give us powers, and not strip them away? And why do we feel so compelled to beat up on innocent passersby? It’s all really philosophical, you see.

Lee-Lee's Quest 2

Hardly. Rather, this is an exercise in absurdity, meant to point out the joy of playing with established formulas, all while poking a little bit (read: a lot) of fun at them. The world of Lee-Lee’s Quest 2 is one in which your “princess” wanted to leave with the boss, where the enemies insult your intelligence, and where ultimately you might be the baddest guy of all. But what does that matter? You can stomp on heads.

And stomp on heads you do, roving through a world of floating platforms, timed jumps, deadly spikes, and healing pies. The platforming is nowhere near as tight as it is in Nintendo’s monolithic inspiration, but proves more than passable. As long as you’re using a rig you have a handle on, you’ll never find yourself cursing unfair level construction or controls. But if it’s the platforming you’re hinging your enjoyment on, you’re most definitely doing it wrong.

Lee-Lee’s Quest 2‘s joy is in the accoutrements – the hefty helpings of whimsy and wit that permeate the experience in a way they never did with Mario. Raitendo leverages the luxury of the genre’s long-standing legitimacy to cast playful aspersions on the ridiculousness of running and jumping just because. And it’s here that the game is more than passable, but instead hilarious.

Lee-Lee's Quest 2

Every enemy you meet or bump into has something insulting to say to you; a dig to throw your way as you vanquish them, or – more bitingly – as you fall mercy to your own poor timing or follow through. Items you’ve seen in classic platformers are turned on their head, with some surprises I won’t spoil except to say that you’ll think twice about running for them after playing Lee-Lee‘s Quest 2. The backend construction is simple, to be sure, but the deft triggering of put-downs at moments both victorious and defeated do wonders in creating a bizarro world where it’s you that doesn’t belong, not the enemies.

I found myself willingly throwing Lee-Lee into a pit so I could spawn in the same zone – enemies spread out once more – with the chance to be called “worthless” or hear my character’s appearance taken down a notch. To that end, the game’s schtick managed to elegantly solve another “why:” why haven’t platformers bothered to tweak their pavlovian formula of risk and reward?