When news of another New Super Mario Bros. game reached us, we remained stiffly sober. Mario’s 2D revitalisation on DS sold plenty, but our fondness was tempered by its unimaginative level design and gameplay. A few years on, we’d rather revisit his older adventures.
Mario’s latest side-scroller takes place on your TV, so surely that means epic fun? The answer to that question depends on how you play it.
Simply put, NSMB Wii looks delightful. It’s a joy to see the familiar hills and cloud formations pass by in the background, and to leap between precarious donut blocks. Better still to have some new (and old) suits at your disposal. A shame, though, that the whole lot aren’t stuffed into this big screen outing. Will Tanooki Mario never again see the light of day?
In true retro fashion, the game is played by holding the remote sideways, but this wouldn’t be a Wii game without motion controls shoehorned in. Screw-threaded platforms rise and fall when you shake the remote, and girders bolted onto the back wall tilt to match its orientation so you can reach otherwise inaccessible areas, so long as you suppress the instinct to correct your posture. Such whimsical touches feel more at home in Mario’s world than any other Nintendo franchise.
However, that’s about as innovative as the gameplay gets. A large amount of inspiration is drawn from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. That’s no bad thing when it means the return of Yoshi, albeit in a diminished role that has him waving goodbye at the end of a level.
Shops and mini-games are back, too, along with airships and automatically-scrolling levels that have you teetering on the brink of the abyss as you try to keep up, though they aren’t as challenging as they once were, at least if you’re trekking across the Mushroom Kingdom on your own.
If we were to judge this solely as a single-player game, we’d be enthusiastic but ultimately letdown by the unsurprising content. It’s like returning home but ultimately not as much fun as when you were a kid.
Yes, some enemies take you by surprise with new moves, but you can comfortably clear the game in quick time. It’s unchallenging for experienced players.
In a couple of hours, we’d worked our way through the first three worlds, lost a mere four lives (due to our own impatience rather than tricky leaps) and retained an ample supply of 24, all without trying hard. We also made a point of completing optional levels.
Even the red coin and dragon coin challenges are untaxing, serving more as a completist’s wet dream than a test for super players, their locations too obvious and easy to reach.
The most unwelcome hangover from the series’ third and fourth instalments is the ease with which bosses are dispatched. Imagine our excitement when Magikoopa flew overhead and sprayed a Koopaling with a colourful spell. Now imagine our disappointment when its effect was nowhere near as clever as the mutated Piranha Plant boss of Yoshi’s Island. Where Nintendo pushed the formula to new heights in that game, it steps back 20 years in this one with muted vibrancy.
Without a doubt, the game’s defining detail is the simultaneous four-player mode, in which you can interact with other players, either in cooperation or in a mean-spirited (read: fun) way. You can pick up other characters, combine attacks and perform ground pounds in sync to shake the screen with greater force.
Frankly, it’s about time Nintendo saw fit to abandon Mario’s previously turn-based multiplayer. It has tried this sort of thing before in Link’s often forgotten Four Swords Adventures, but it works better in Mario’s faster-paced and more lunatic world.
Solo players should knock a mark off our score, but snap this up if you have enough friends and controllers. The action is manic with more people on-screen, and you’ll remember the good times with this game more clearly than its DS counterpart.
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