It’s been 3 years now since New Super Mario Bros was released on the DS. Finally it has a sequel, but this time it’s returned on the Wii. And it’s returned with vengeance, horrible, horrible vengeance. Mario has never been so damn cruel and Joefeesh will tell you why…
I’m no expert when it comes to first person shooters, I’m not a massive fighting game fan and I couldn’t control a simulation racer to save my life, they just feel like I’m driving a milk float with my Nana looking over my shoulder, scowling (I love you Nan). I do, however, pride myself on being pretty damn good at platformers. Mario platformers especially. I loved the DS New Super Mario Bros and got through that without a problem. It was beautiful on the little DS screen, the controls were precise and it was addictive as hell. I played that thing through multiple times and my son still plays it. The newest installment on Wii seems to lack in most of the areas the DS game excelled in. Which is strange, considering that it’s pretty much a straight copy. It’s not an impressive looking title, to say the least, the controls aren’t as accurate using the suddenly, seemingly, stupidly shaped Wii remote and the difficulty level makes me want to tear my Wii apart to get to the disc so I can jump on it’s head! Don’t get me wrong, I got through the game, but I didn’t enjoy it. OK, maybe I did. My little boy on the other hand hasn’t got a chance in hell of getting through this game unassisted. By what I’ve read about the game elsewhere, opinion is a 90:10 split saying it’s too hard. The 10% are most likely the people who can beat a Mario game in 7 minutes.
Not every level is hard and actually most can be completed a lot easier if you forget collecting anything and simply run blindly, jumping on reaction to every freaky, little, brown mushroom and happy turtle you come across. What is it with those turtles anyway? They freak me out. They look at you with a blankly smiling face as they kill you with the tips of their fingers.
Before I get jumped on and bitch-slapped by every Nintendo fanboy, I’ll say that there is a lot to like about the game. Some will like the simple retro look and some will love the return to 2D Mario on the console. Many people including the very casual gaming crowd in general didn’t really ever warm to 3D Mario games. A lot of people will love the classic Mario gameplay of jumping on heads, collecting coins and getting around using the old style Mario overworld with the addition of mini levels every now and then, when you run into an enemy on the map. It is still a 2D Mario game and we all know what that means. There’s no denying there’s a great formula that remains in tact. The classic gameplay is there, although I do feel that the Wii remote d-pad isn’t as nice as the Nintendo DS d-pad. Also shaking the wii remote to do a spin jump seems utterly pointless and ice is a tad too slippy, making Winter levels very challenging. Other than that, Mario is still the king of platforming when it comes to control and fun gameplay. New powers available include a helicopter suit and penguin suit. The helicopter suit allows you to shake the Wii remote to be propelled up into the air and then float slowly down. This makes things a lot easier because when you fall down a gap, shaking the Wii remote propels you back up into the air and if you find yourself flying up into blocks, don’t worry because you’ll smash straight through them and continue upward instead of being rebounded downwards. The flying concept has been done before in Mario games but this feels different and is a good safety net. The penguin suit allows you to shoot ice just like the ice flower but as a penguin you can also slide along the ground to smash blocks and enemies and it’s pretty much a necessity on ice levels as you can walk on ice without slipping.
The look of the game is going to play a major factor in game sales. My wife took one look and squealed with excitement. That is the reaction that many more casual gamers and lovers of the old series will have. Kids will see the game and straight away see their favourite game on the Nintendo DS. There’s an attachment people seem to make (including me) to the charming simple design of Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom in which he resides. Nintendo didn’t seem to feel the need to update the design far from the DS game. I would have preferred more detailed characters and backgrounds to test the Wii’s capabilities but I respect that a lot of the audience for this game don’t really care as long as it runs smoothly, carries the Mario style and has some little touches to make them smile. These boxes are all ticked. One of the things I love most is that the flowers and enemies react to the music. At certain points in the song the little turtles stop and do a little dance for two beats and the flowers bop along too. It’s totally insignificant, yet it makes me smile every time I notice. The backgrounds are very simple renders of mushroom kingdom peaks and dreary walls. Not really what I’d expect for a game that’s not doing much graphically in the foreground and after the super rich world of Mario Galaxy this doesn’t excite me one bit.
There’s not many people who wouldn’t recognize the main Mario tunes. New Super Mario Bros Wii goes the old school/new school route with all new mixes of the classic tunes along with new music in the same new age 8-bit style. It works really well for the game. There was no need for the full orchestra of Galaxy. Characters, collecting coins and bouncing off mushrooms heads all make exactly the kinds of noises you’d expect and they are as satisfying as always. The one sound I hate is the shrill ringing of the box that appears at the start of a level you’ve died on too many times.
When you die x number of times (when I tried it was 7), on the same level a green exclamation mark box will appear. Upon hitting it the game will ask if you would like to enter Super Guide Mode, where Luigi will play the level through until you ask to exit the mode. At this point you take over Luigi and carry on the level. This is there for those frustrating times when you just can’t do a level. For me it was a spit in my face when I was doing badly and I shouted abuse at the box before running swiftly away from it and straight into an oncoming missile only to be tormented by the box again. For some this is a great way to be able to progress through a game that gets too hard in certain levels. Some people, especially kids want to be allowed to experience a full game and why shouldn’t they be allowed too. Not everyone is as gifted or have as much time as the gamers who think the press button to win method is stupid. If you don’t like the box, don’t use it, it’s not there for you. The achievement of completing the game without using the box is something only those who don’t do it will experience.
This edition of Mario has a multiplayer mode where up to 4 people can play together cooperatively to try to finish the game or in a competitive mode where they compete to try to get the most coins and mess with each other. This is a great addition in theory and is undoubtedly a lot of fun. Playing alongside others makes the whole thing seem a lot funnier when you die falling down a hole because you were concentrating on shouting at the wife for wanting to pick up every last coin. You might think that cooperative multiplayer would make the game easier. In some situations it does help. For example one person can help the rest of the party get past a difficult part. As long as there is one person left playing, everyone else can press the A button to pop inside a bubble and float around completely safe until they decide to come out or the remaining player touches the bubble. This is great for getting the kids past sections where highly precise acrobatics are necessary. Sadly, though, playing alongside others in the new multiplayer mode, seems to punish for having more than one character on screen as the action becomes more hard to follow and bouncing off each others heads causes more horrible deaths in the depths of the mushroom kingdoms bottomless pits than it does good. I do however like that the option is there and, as I said, it is unmistakebly fun. Also, it’s jump in/jump out play so there’s a lot of flexibility to just sit down and start playing even if someone is in the middle of a level. There is no online multiplayer which is sorely missed as this is a game that so many people will have that it surely would have been used. Nintendo again fail to properly support online play.
I like the fact that Nintendo have brought a 2D Mario back to the home console. I think there is still a place for it, but the place for it could have been WiiWare as with a little scaling down this could have been WiiWare’s crowning piece. Of course it’s just not good business, and I fully accept that it was always going to be a disc based game as WiiWare just isn’t a big enough platform for this title to sell from. In all the game is well worth getting for Mario fans and families but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed that Nintendo didn’t try to be innovative or fresh to justify that “New” in the title.
Review Round Up
GRAPHICS – 3/5 Just like the Mario you remember on the DS, up scaled and with new levels. Some nice effects and charming, as Mario always is but I expected much better artwork for the backgrounds.
SOUND – 4/5 No new tunes really grabbed me but the mixes of classic music really sound great and fit the game perfectly. Sound effects are satisfyingly true to the franchise.
GAMEPLAY – 3/5 Nintendo sets the bar for platforming. Sadly they’ve not surpassed their own bar on this one. Difficulty will hurt the kids and suck some of the fun out but the classic structure and gameplay are still there and compared with other Wii titles this is still in the big leagues in gameplay terms.
LONGEVITY – 3/5 It shouldn’t take more than 5-6 hours to get to the end but those missing golden coins on each level will call you back for more and you might want to have a separate playthrough with the kids or friends. There’s replay value there too.
OVERALL – 3/5 I do recommend the game as I have no doubt you will have fun and kids will have to play it under the playground law. I just didn’t find it as fun and balanced as I had hoped and we should expect more on the Wii, post Mario Galaxy.