If only this had been a launch title...
It may not be the game to save the Wii U - that ship has probably sailed - but Super Mario 3D World could be the best the console has to offer. Perhaps even the best Mario since 64.If the criticism that the Mushroom Kingdom has lost some of its lustre of late - with numerous titles pushed out on home and handheld consoles in recent years - is one you ascribe to then 3D World is sure to be the title to remedy that glass half empty mindset. It does, however, require you know what the game is.
If you’ve foolishly ignored the 3DS Super Mario 3D Land, looked at a couple of screenshots and seen “3D” in the title of a home console Mario release, you’d be forgiven for perhaps assuming this to be a continuation of the platforming world exploration that began with the portly plumber’s first steps via analogue stick on the Nintendo 64. It isn’t.
3D World should be viewed as the sequel to 3D Land on the 3DS - though it has influecnes from other entries - focussing on smaller, tight levels sometimes of limited scope, fragmented and often shallow in literal depth.
Yet, this could be the best Mario title since 64, certainly since Galaxy II, thanks to a number of factors, foremost of which is its variety; it’s a heady mix that enthusiastically throws different platforming designs and novelties at you, never letting one outstay its welcome.
The sense that you’re playing a hybrid game is never far away, stages can unfold like straightforward, pure one directional affairs one moment, then the next they task you with navigating a miniature three dimensional space or going on a hectic speed run.
It’s like someone’s shaken Shigeru Miyamoto’s head like the piggy bank of ideas it is, and captured all the odd pennies and foreign currency that’s fallen out. It should be disjointed, but it isn’t, the breathless nature and careful ratio of traditional staples and innovation is finely tuned to ramp up the fun factor in an accessible way. Both short term and long term this is a rewarding game.
In with the newThe key is how well the old and the new marry together and which aspects are streamlined to make way for some playful tinkering. The controls are simple, with no triple jump and no real analogue movement, whilst wall jumps aren’t really incorporated either, meaning it’s walk, run and jump that dominate proceedings, like Mario titles of yore; the essence of the series.
The first couple of worlds are functional fodder, as the new ideas are drip-fed to you and it would be easy to mistakenly believe (as I did) after an excessively easy opening World that perhaps you’d finally outgrown the franchise.
This breezy introduction isn’t helped by the worry that this might be a multiplayer game, not just as an option but by outright design. The simplified binary controls are there to allow up to three fellow players to join in via Pro controllers or Wiimotes; the four of you choosing characters from the roster of Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess, each with subtle variations on speed, leaping and general agility. Fear not though, whilst this is chaotic fun with friends, the semi co-op / competitive platforming isn’t necessary to progress, it’s a fun sideshow. Of the three green stars and one stamp hidden in most levels, none are reliant on a team mate to give you a boost up.
It’s often a case of picking the right power up for the right task, and the new Cat suit adds an interesting climbing ability and gliding attack, furthering a sense of exploration and risk taking as you strain to reach a higher ledge that may not exist; always mindful that the patterns of enemies and platforms below will have shifted by the time you slide back down. True, it makes gaining the gold flag a bit cheap, but the change in gait and unique attack ability makes it a more specialist choice than a mere easy option.
The new additions aren't all power based, there are Goomba masks which allow you to mingle with other Goombas unnoticed. There are also Double Cherries, which multiply the number of Marios, meaning you can gain access to certain platforms. It sounds simple, but when one Mario walks against an edge and the other has nothing impeding him they lose synchronisation, which makes navigating harder. The more you get on screen, the trickier it becomes; it's an addictive sight building your own Mario army and highly rewarding getting them all to safety.
Mix and matchThe green stars can require any number of strategies, some need you to simply find their location whilst others will be gained after eight green coins are collected or an enemy beaten in a small timeframe. Once again, it’s the variety that keeps things fresh. Some stages take on a time trial feel, forcing you to hare through at maximum speed. Not everything will strike the right chord with all age groups though, and the filler material alarm bells will probably ring with adults when playing the dinosaur riding courses, but they’re an addition that, though perhaps un-Mario in feel, don’t harm the whole package.
It’s the variety that keeps things fresh
If anything, it’s the zany, slightly haphazard mini-game feel that really raises this title, with all goals in main levels seemingly within reach and just requiring a minute more of your time or just one more playthrough; there’s certainly no collection fatigue. The highlight of this mix-and-match ethos is without doubt the Captain Toad stages. Here you take control of a character without the ability to jump, and must collect the five green stars from the decidedly diminutive level. Navigating around your inability to leap means the layouts are orchestrated to be circuitous and puzzle-like. Go through the right pipe, lower the correct platform and generally weave your way around the micro world, constantly shifting perspective to get your bearings on your next move. It’s a satisfying - if slightly easy - Rubik’s Cube idea that deserves to be expanded upon in future titles.
If you’re looking for flaws, you might assume the camera would be the prime concern, but even that’s been honed thanks to some careful tethering. It strikes just the right balance between obscuring the vista in a directorial manner to keep things interesting - lest you see a sparse space in front of you, or catch sight of everything on offer - and allowing you to peek tantalisingly at edges of shapes and platforms just out of reach. You can switch the view with the analogue stick, choosing from three preset angles, or tap on the GamePad screen’s icon to go into a free mode, which still intelligently restricts what you can see. Like 2D Land, there are special viewing platforms from which to get a good look at the level ahead, this time utilising the GamePad’s gyro function.
Ghost Mii: Way of the MarioThe GamePad’s features are sparingly employed. The tablet controller is utilised for switching power ups, triggering platforms, stunning enemies and blowing into the mic, but these features are never widely integrated, instead you're tantalisingly asked to try the tricks you’ve learnt on other objects; this proves minimal reward for the unwieldiness hefted upon you in the face of your choice to perhaps use a far more comfortable Pro controller.
Yet, even this lack of usage is understandable and for the greater good. Nintendo couldn’t make the touch screen or gyro features truly integral lest they wholly undermine the fairly even-natured multiplayer fun - who wants to go back to being the friend relegated to the cheapo pad that doesn’t work as well? As a second screen it works perfectly though, strangely fitting the size even more so than the TV.
Whichever you choose, the games looks fantastic, the eye catching colours sit just the right side of gaudy, and the subtle cloud effects and distance blur really give a sense of scale to levels.
The one great trick the GamePad has up its sleeve to make it feel necessary is linked to stamp collecting. I’m not talking of philately here, but instead the discovery of image stamps, one of which is hidden in each main level. You can then use these to pop pictures of Mario and co into messages to be sent into the Miiverse.
This game finally makes the playful online connection Nintendo obviously wanted, with Miis appearing on your map with messages, clues and the like. Furthermore, when you replay stages you can race or follow ghost Miis. These representations of other players are a great way to add that multiplayer feel without having to be tied together in one screen, and are vital to finding the more stubbornly hidden items without resorting to a walkthrough.
Even alone, this is somewhat of a social Mario game, to the extent that when my internet connection died it just didn't feel the same.
- Chock full of ideas
- Multiplayer fun
- Huge variety
- Uses online connectivity
- Not a great workout for the GamePad
Super Mario 3D World Wii U ReviewSuper Mario 3D World is the peak of Mario gaming post Galaxy II, and although it’s not the outright three dimensional explorative platforming game in the mould of Mario 64 some have been waiting for, it can happily sit alongside the aforementioned title in terms of quality, even if lacking the revolutionary nature of the N64 title.
It’s an accessible scattergun approach to platforming fun, mixing different types of levels and challenges together to form a game that, once past the opening hour or so, keeps you thinking there’s sure to be another twist around the corner. The ideas are steadily piped throughout the worlds, and although it’s only about a ten hour initial playthrough, collecting all the stars and stamps - as well as experimenting with different characters and playing with friends - is where the real fun starts.
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