During his many years within the pop culture spotlight, Mario has done just about everything. He’s raced, competed in a multitude of sports, painted pictures and much more. However, as we all know, the red-clad Italian plumber is best known for saving the Mushroom Kingdom and its inhabitants from apparent doom at the hands of a giant dinosaur named Bowser, as well as his many devilish cronies. It’s a tale that has been told in various ways since the 1980s, yet it still remains interesting to this day, thanks to Nintendo’s knack for colour, creativity and masterful stage design, not to mention its many attempts at creating stories that take place in other, more unique worlds. Let’s face it, folks, Mario is here to stay, and that’s not a bad thing.
Originally presented in side-scrolling, two-dimensional fashion, the Super Mario Bros. formula has been (expectedly) tweaked quite a bit since day one, resulting in a library of great games that not only take advantage of the aforementioned 2D plane, but also the third dimension. A fantastic comparison slash example of this is Super Mario 3D World, a brand new title that has just made its way to Nintendo’s Wii U console. At its core, it remains based around the idea of getting from one point of a map to another, where a score-awarding flagpole awaits a new banner. However, it’s so much more than that, thanks to the wonders of high-definition technology.
Like Super Mario 3D Land before it, Super Mario 3D World features large, explorable stages. Instead of forcing players to run across their screen from left to right, which still happens to be a very good and entertaining design in its own right, the game’s larger levels offer not only the traditional horizontal and vertical pathways, but also foreground and background depth. As such, you can expect to be searching every inch of each stage for hidden areas, coins and special power-ups, all of which will help you progress throughout what is an average, six to eight hour-long campaign.
Despite being in three dimensions this time around, the world in which this most recent platforming epic takes place is similar to what we saw in New Super Mario Bros. U and its add-on, New Super Luigi U. What I mean by that is you’ll find yourself running and jumping your way through locations that play on the elements, including water, ice, fire and wind. Expectedly, things begin in a quaint and innocent-looking forest, then they progress from there as brilliantly-designed levels are completed and pieces of progression currency are discovered.
In order to unlock certain stages, such as the final boss battles, one must find and accumulate a lot of green stars. Taking the place of the three hidden coins that became old hat within previous series entries, these galactic designs somehow act as keys for locks. Don’t ask me how that is, because I don’t know. It’s true, though, and you’ll want to make sure that you take that into account from the get-go. Failure to do so will result in a lot of backtracking, as you try to get to the magical number of one hundred and seventy, which is the numerical (and gaseous) key for the final encounter’s gate. With only three stars made available for discovery within regular levels and between one and ten spread throughout hidden levels and mid-boss encounters, it’ll take you a good amount of time to get to your goal. That’s especially true when you consider that said ‘special stages’ usually only offer between three and five stars.
For the most part, the stars are hidden in fair places, requiring only thoughtful detective work. However, some are quite challenging to grab, and others are hidden very well. My advice is to make use of different abilities – a list that has been bolstered by an awesome cat suit that lets Mario climb walls, a flashlight headdress that makes boos go poof and a goomba mask that prevents foes from attacking – in an attempt to try to uncover secret areas. Some are hidden by brick-based blocks, while others are just out of one’s general sightline.
Now that we’ve discussed how things generally work within Super Mario 3D World, it’s time to talk about the game’s plot and some of its other important mechanics. Let’s start with the story, though, which sends Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad to a brand new world, wherein several young women (who look like tiny fairies or princesses) have been captured by you know who. Honestly, that’s all that I was able to cull from the on-screen cinematics that played during key moments. There’s really very little to this storyline, but that’s not surprising. After all, it is a Mario platformer. At least we’re not rescuing Peach again. Right?
This new experience is another one that is aimed at those who like to play couch-based co-op with friends and family members, making it the perfect game to launch just before American Thanksgiving and other holidays like Christmas. Teams of four can once again work together to tackle the game’s occasionally challenging, albeit never unfair or overly difficult stages, which is a great selling point for those who aren’t anti-social gamers like myself. Although I’d previously previewed the game with others, I admittedly played through 3D World by my lonesome, and ended up pulling an all nighter to do so. I couldn’t pull myself away from it, and kept saying, “Just one more world.” Granted, extra time was needed once I found out that I didn’t have enough stars to enter the final battleground.
In addition to the Wii U’s GamePad, players can utilize WiiMotes or the Wii U Pro Controller. It really depends on what one prefers and what is most comfortable. Some folks will opt for a standard, NES-style WiiMote, while others may want to add a nunchuk or use the more traditional Pro Controller. It doesn’t matter for the most part, but a few elements do require touchscreen control and human breath, the latter of which is blown straight into the GamePad’s microphone, creating an in-game effect that results in moving platforms.
Frankly, this is the perfect holiday option for those who are looking for something to play with pals, or those who are simply in the market for another game to play on their Wii U system. Unsurprisingly, it exudes character and pops with personality, and is about as polished as a game can be. There’s no denying that what Nintendo has created is yet another visually impressive, rich sounding, endearing and thoroughly entertaining Mario platformer with 3D World. In fact, the only complaint that I can levy against it is that it’s not entirely new. We’ve played three-dimensional Mario titles before, and we’ve seen similar stages in those titles, though this one does include more creative designs and much more varied boss battles. Regardless, what’s on offer here is an absolute must buy and a memorable experience.
If you’ve ever enjoyed saving the Mushroom Kingdom via running, jumping and committing general tomfoolery with friends, then it behooves you to add Super Mario 3D World to your video game collection. Just make sure that you have a good chunk of available time before doing so, because you won’t want to put it down.
This review is based on the Nintendo Wii U exclusive, which we were provided with.
Unsurprisingly, Super Mario 3D World is yet another fantastic platformer starring Nintendo's iconic, red-clad plumber. Although it doesn't necessarily reinvent its genre, the must-play game does a great job of improving upon the elements that made its predecessors classics. Don't miss out on it!