REVIEW: Super Mario 3D World – the Mario Kart of 3D platformers

SM3DW 1
Super Mario 3D World is the most stunning visual representation of the traditional Mario settings to date

 

RUSTED-ON Nintendo loyalists may tell you that Super Mario 3D World is the nectar of the gaming gods.

The truth is that it’s not the epic 3D adventure you’d normally expect of a Super Mario game, such as Galaxy, but it’s certainly a fun multiplayer distraction while we wait for a killer Mario app, and one that every Wii owner with friends and family should add to their library.

In fact, to best describe the formula to those yet to play it, Super Mario 3D World follows a similar formula to Mario Kart, oddly enough.

Before you laugh, consider the similarities:

  • Unlike previous adventures, 3D World has you always moving forward to progress – it’s often impossible to move back to the start of a level;
  • There’s a focus on beating other players, be they Mii ghosts or actual friends;
  • There’s a big emphasis on using items to boost your in-game advantage;
  • Although there’s four-player multiplayer, it’s more competitive than it is cooperative – and there can only be one winner at the end of each level;
  • You can select from multiple characters with different strengths and weaknesses – just like Karts.

To a certain degree, the formula works very well. But there are times that you’ll wish you could roam around and explore each level without the looming time threat.

Gameplay

You and up to three friends can choose from Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad. As in Super Mario Bros 2 each character has their own unique ability.

Peach can float, Luigi can jump higher, Toad is faster, and Mario offers the most balanced platforming experience.

Players move around a map a la Super Mario Bros 3 selecting lands to enter, visiting Toad houses to win items, or entering special battles with iconic Mario Bros enemies.

It’s on this map that you’ll also be able to see Miiverse players’ Mii characters and their attached drawings.

Once you jump into a game, you’ll notice that you have three buttons – crouch, jump, and sprint/punch/grab.

While you’ll rarely crouch jump, the trigger button is useful for butt-stomps. Sadly, there isn’t a way to double or triple jump a la the previous 3D Mario titles, but it seems Nintendo made the cut to ensure players focused on collecting items and using their abilities.

On that note, the game offers an overwhelming number of different items ranging from multiple characters, to a cannon, and even a cat suit.

The latter is quite powerful: it allows you to climb most walls and attack enemies from the ground or mid-jump.

It’s also quite abundant, and I found it in nearly every level. I’m not sure why, but Nintendo has almost turned Super Mario 3D World into Super Mario Cat World. There’s even an annoying little ‘meow’ that players exclaim if they all reach the goal wearing a cat suit. It slowly grates away at you as you complete each level.

Every level has a time limit and in each level players must collect three green stars. Once at the end of a level, players have to jump on a flag pole a la Super Mario Bros.

As mentioned in the introduction, I felt that the time limit killed the exploration factor that previous 3D Marios had focused on.

Exploration under pressure, it seems, is 3D World’s schtick. That’s fine, but the game doesn’t allow players to veer too far from each other without plopping one or more of you into a bubble to realign you with the player progressing forward.

The game map is a 3D version of what you'd find in Super Mario Bros 3
The game map is a 3D version of what you’d find in Super Mario Bros 3

 

Visuals, audio and presentation

3D World is a beautiful title. Its colours pop, its character are detailed and the gameplay is a fluid 60fps in 1080p.

There’s little here that will disappoint Mario fans. In fact, if this is how good Mario games look, I feel it vindicates Nintendo’s decision to settle on the hardware it did for the Wii U. I’m really happy with the quality.

The audio is presented in 5.1 surround sound and doesn’t stray from traditional Mario offerings.

Presentation is clean, as you’d expect from a Nintendo game. Oddly, the one element of presentation I like the most is followed by the one I like the least: there’s a cute little 8-bit Mario that appears during a game save, however the game then interrupts your gameplay with a dialogue box to inform you that it has auto-saved your progress.

There’s no option, so why do I need to hit ‘Okay’ when I’d rather be moving to the next level?

Race other players' Miis as you replay each level to better your score
Race other players’ Miis as you replay each level to better your score

 

Controls

I really want to praise Super Mario 3D World for its control options. You aren’t bound to using only the Gamepad as with Sonic Lost World.

In fact, you can fire up the game and chill-out with just the Pro Controller or a Wii Remote.

The Pro Controller is my preferred controller. Unless you need the Gamepad to use the Miiverse features, you’ll enjoy a better battery life from the Pro Controller and be able to save your Gamepad’s juice for other applications and games.

Verdict

3D World is great fun if you enjoyed Super Mario 3D Land on Nintendo’s 3DS or if you’re a Wii U owner craving a AAA game featuring the stocky plumber and his friends.

Beware that it’s not a traditional 3D Mario platformer, so we’ll have to wait for the next Super Mario Galaxy before double and triple jumping our way to saving Mushroom Kingdom.

But it is a fun – if at times flawed – multiplayer game that is best enjoyed in short bursts with up to three friends.

Nintendo should be commended for releasing such a polished game. It has earned a Golden Thumb

SM3W gold

 

Miiverse integration means you can share drawings and messages with random players
Miiverse integration means you can share drawings and messages with random players

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