'Super Mario 3D World' - review

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 01:00 PM Written by 

3DWorldCoverBack in 2007, I was a Wii skeptic. Here was a console that had inferior graphics, you could barely play it while sitting down, and its games were in (gasp!) standard definition. Then “Super Mario Galaxy” was released, and it utterly blew my mind. It showed that it was possible to make greatness with inferior hardware. I had those same hopes for “Super Mario 3D World” on the Wii U. While it doesn’t quite reach the caliber of the “Galaxy” series, it comes close.

“3D World” is an upgraded version of “Super Mario 3D Land” for the 3DS. This is the second series upgrade we’ve seen on the Wii U in the console’s first year, beginning with “New Super Mario Bros. U.” Nintendo’s “3D” series is like a combination of their “New” and “Galaxy” series. It’s all very confusing.

The game in question combines 2D and 3D platforming, with the majority of the gameplay being the latter. It puts a creative spin on level design and unique gameplay that only Nintendo is capable of. Add four-player co-op to that recipe, and you have a fine party platformer.

Progression is measured in the similar fashion of “Mario” games dating back to “Super Mario Bros. 3.” There’s a world map that has differently themed levels. The player must progress through these levels to reach the castle. Completing the castle advances the player to the next world. Each world map is its own mini level that can be fully explored by the player. You can’t do a lot in these maps, but it does make for a nice touch in a game that strives to be different, yet familiar.

The game can be played by four players simultaneously, with additional players assuming the roles of Luigi, Peach, and Toad. Each character has slightly different jump and movement capabilities. For example, Peach doesn’t jump as high, but floats, and Luigi’s legs run while in the air, making him float softly to the ground. If you played “Super Mario Bros. 2,” it’s the same idea. Solo players can choose which character to play at the start of each level.

Of course, playing with four players requires four controllers. Fortunately, “3D World” supports all controller setups in the Wii family: a Wiimote, Wiimote-Nunchuck combo, Wii U pro controller, and GamePad.

Adding co-op to this stellar platformer is a great addition, but in classic Nintendo fashion, it’s local co-op. Online co-op would’ve really changed things. I want to play a Mario game with my friends that I grew up with playing “Mario, but don’t happen to live near me anymore. That’s still just a dream.

The real magic happens in each level. Like the classic Mario experience, the levels start out simple and become increasingly complex and difficult. They actually start out too simple. Like the case in many “Mario” games, I’m always waiting for the difficulty to amp up to give me a real challenge. Fortunately that happens, and the final bonus stages are as punishing as “Dark Souls.”

The stages before the ultra-punishing ones are a perfect blend of engaging and gorgeous. Some stages will focus on moving platforms while the next ones throw enemies at you. The next ghost house might add a new wrinkle, like adding the ability to eradicate ghosts with a light cap. People accuse Nintendo of repeatedly recycling ideas, but something they’ve been able to come up with over decades and dozens of platformers is unique level design that is a blast to play.

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Each stage has the base goal of completion, but collectables are also included. Stages also have three hidden green stars that are required to unlock bonus levels later in the game. “3D World” also tracks if you reached the top of the flagpole at the end of each stage. This seemed a bit like adding an artificial sense of depth, but it will give completionists one more thing for which to strive.

What would a “Mario” game be without the plumber’s suits? “3D World” adds a new one to the mix in the Cat Suit. The Cat Suit has a variety of benefits like climbing walls, a claw attack, and faster movement. The Cat Suit is so great, I didn’t want to enter a level without it. Being nimble and having the ability to climb unlocks the full potential of the game’s level exploration. The Boomerang Suit returns from “3D Land,” and other classics remain like the Tanooki and Fire Flower Suits.

Having these suits make progressing through the harder levels simpler, but the enemies weren’t my biggest worry toward the end. It was the third dimension that gave me problems, especially when playing on the low-res GamePad. The right stick controls the viewing angle, which can be changed at any time. Even having that ability makes locating enemies and ledges a challenge. The later levels that require expert level precision saw Mario’s death repeatedly solely because of the misleading visual cues.

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Wanting a new “Super Mario Galaxy” raised my expectations for the game’s length. I wanted a lengthy adventure, but I got a sub-five hour main storyline. I played every level, even ones that could’ve been skipped, and I completed the story in four hours and forty-seven minutes. I didn’t skimp on collecting stars either. There are two tiers of bonus levels that will add a few more hours to the mix, but the main story ended just as levels were getting great.

I’ll admit that my expectations were high going into this game. I wanted to relive that feeling of awe that washed over me when I witnessed “Galaxy” for the first time. I wanted this game to make me root for the Wii U. It still continues the trend of Nintendo’s quality when it comes to first-party titles, and it’s even better if you have friends to play with. It just doesn’t take enough chances to achieve that rare level of greatness that Nintendo can sometimes reach.


8.5 out of 10


Pros:

4-player co-op
Wonderful level design
Challenging bonus levels

Cons:

No online
3D makes for inprecise platforming

 

 

 Price   $59.99 
 Rated   E for Everyone 
 Release Date   11/22/13 
 Platform  Wii U
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