Super Mario 3D World is a blessing for Nintendo’s floundering Wii U console. It represents the second major Mario game to hit a Nintendo console in the space of a year, giving the tablet-based console a much-needed second wind ahead of a busy Christmas period.
For Nintendo fans, however, the game is a blessing in disguise. Although some naysayers have initially turned their noses, unreasonably expecting the next evolution of mascot platformers this early in a console lifecycle, Super Mario 3D World
proves them wrong by simply being an absolute joy to play.
To call the game something of a semi-sequel to Nintendo’s enjoyable 3DS title Super Mario 3D Land
would be rather accurate, yes. But it also borrows from New Super Mario Bros U
and Super Mario Galaxy
(in that you now have Mario's full acrobatic repertoire at your fingertips) - along with a whole host of other gimmicks from the franchise’s illustrious 30-year history. Add in a few new features, and you have a game that doubles as the perfect love letter to Nintendo fans. To call it uninspired - a knee-jerk criticism also initially levied towards Super Mario Galaxy 2
- would be incredibly naïve.
The game is largely played from a dynamic isometric point of view, much like its 3DS cousin. But there’s a very good reason for this - Super Mario 3D World
includes a simultaneous co-op multiplayer mode that allows up to four people to tackle stages together. Peach and Toad join Mario and Luigi, restoring the cast last seen in Super Mario Bros 2
, and each character has a unique set of skills that differ from one another. Luigi can jump a bit higher but is harder to control, Toad can run faster than the others, and Peach has the ability to float for more precise platforming.
Altogether, you’re still playing against the clock - the classic timer still sits in the top corner of the screen - but can work together to build up a pool of coins and access new areas. Bopping off enemies in unison rewards players with secrets, as does triggering certain hidden switches together. One stage involved players hopping on the back of a dinosaur that swims down some river rapids, with each player having to control the creature at once in order to command its direction successfully.
As is evident in the screenshots, each of the five levels I played (with two others) was soaked in that unmistakable character and charm that only Nintendo could reproduce - grassy fields with rolling circular hills, towers featuring cannons that pump out Bullet Bills and underground secret rooms with floor panels that glow in disco colours when you tread on them. As Mario, picking up Toad (with an intent to lob him at an enemy) resulted in the mushroomed midget wobbling from side to side with a happy grin on his face. Everything here is designed to put a smile on your face, and for the most part it does that job very well.
Although the transition to HD does result in a tiny loss of platforming accuracy - a major benefit to the 3DS predecessor was the handheld’s ability to let you determine distance better using built-in 3D effects - Super Mario 3D World
feels much more suited to a multiplayer experience than the pioneering New Super Mario Bros Wii
. With a Z-axis to consider, players have a lot more personal space with which to make their own mark on a stage.
The major new addition to the Mario series with this entry comes in the form of the Cat Suit. Obtained by collecting a little golden bell, characters don an adorable feline outfit and gain a number of special abilities. When running (on all fours!), you can execute a longer dash jump - and pressing the attack button in the air executes a diagonal pounce. You can also slash enemies with your paws, and run up walls.
Each level has been designed with the Cat Suit in mind, though - you’re not going to be able to cheat your way through a stage by dashing up walls the entire time. Although if you’re able to keep hold of the suit to the very end, you can use it to cheekily climb up the flagpole for an extra life.
Is this a less impressive console Mario
experience than we were all expecting? Probably. And it’s likely that the ‘next’ Mario
game is well into development and just isn’t ready for prime time yet. But whatever the situation is at Nintendo at the moment, Super Mario 3D World
feels like anything but a rush job. It’s an exciting platformer that will certainly encourage the firing up of many a Wii U come Christmas time.