The latest opportunity to get hands on with Super Mario 3D Land allowed us to further explore what the upcoming 3DS platform game has to offer.
When we first tried the game out back in July, we only had access to the first few levels, allowing us the briefest glimpse of what was to come. This time around, we began with Mario making his way through the map, which acts as a central hub to the game. Mario can walk walk through the flowers to release hidden gold coins and wander into a Toadstool house, which is surrounded with butterflies. Inside we find Toad standing in the middle of the room ready to give you a present. This is just the map, but it’s enough to get you excited about a game that you aren’t likely to put down in a hurry.
One particular level found us in the familiar surroundings of Bowser’s Castle, decorated with a purple carpet and surrounded with burning lava. It became clear that we would need to get out of the area fast before being blasted with fireballs. Then we had to face large grey bricks with faces that were ready to stomp on us if our timing isn’t correct as we try to find a place of safety. Looking around, small prison cells could be seen where gold coins were stored and secrets were waiting to be discovered. Once some Dry Bones had been dealt with, at least temporarily as they spring back into life, we then had to face Bowser himself. Trying to avoid his blasts of burning hot lava fireballs, we Stomped on his head a couple of times and then dashed past him to find a big black switch with Bowsers face on it. Once that was activated, Bowser was defeated – at least for now.
A brief cutscene took us into a shaded blue area of 2D flowers and it’s here that we receive a postcard/stickers. These items can be collected through each level and then placed into a special mushroom book which can be saved to SD card.
There are are a whole host of different switches within Super Mario 3D Land which allow Mario to perform or wear something. Take for instance, the blue P switches which are located throughout the levels. Once pressed they send out musical tune notes, which will give you a reward if you collect them in quick succession. Super Mario 3D Land transports you through a variety of different worlds and offers different view perspectives to highlight the depth perception and 3D qualities that the 3DS game has to offer.
Wandering around the vast green landscape of this 2D mixed with 3D environment, we came upon a strange looking green box with what looked like lenses on the side. These are located around the world so that you can get a birds eye view of what the area looks like before you embark upon it. Mario places his eyes over the lenses, which act like binoculars, allowing you to see the coming level. Using the Left and right shoulder buttons of the 3DS you can zoom in and out of an area, and pan from left to right by simply turning the 3DS. Briefly taking in the environment we discovered a super leaf, which allowed us to transform into the Raccoon suit. While being in the raccoon suit it is easy to swiftly knock down 2D cardboard cutout Goombas and glide from one area to another for a brief time. Gliding and jumping from platforms to clouds, it is easy to sense the depth within the game. In one area we darted from one cloud to a much lower cloud at a further distance, which sent Mario flying almost head first to the lower ground. This was where we felt the depth perception was at it’s strongest and the game had been played with the 3D slider on full at all times. The effects are truly amazing and this is the first time I felt the openness of the 3D game.
The game offers a wide variety of different levels, with each level being very different from the next. You don’t feel you’re going to be playing a repetition of predictable Super Mario levels, which surprised us as we thought we knew what to expect. The most painstakingly difficult level that we tried was one that was made up of red and blue panels that seem to float effortlessly in the sky. Carefully we stepped onto the first panel, only for them to flip and see Mario falling to his doom, or perilously making a quick dash like a plumber standing on hot coals. Every time you jump on one of the red or blue panels, it switches one colour off and the other on, so you have to carefully plan where to jump in order to make it safely across. It can be a little bit annoying and frustrating at times, but it’s all about judgment, repetition, trial and error.
World 3 was our first encounter with Egyptian golden sands, which were very reminiscent of the past sandy levels on previous games. Here we were able to jump onto a platform and look into a pocket of water that was filled with gold coins. Again, it uses 2D and 3D to demonstrate the extraordinary way the 3DS can be used. Once we had avoided the question mark snakes with spikes protruding out of their backs, we found ourselves balancing on platforms, while grey brick creatures tried their best to push us off. It was hard to avoid them, because whenever we jumped to one side, they did the same and it became like a stalemate.
Eventually we found ourselves underwater wearing a pair of goggles. In this deep blue ocean we found cheep cheeps ready to push us out the way and prevent us going any further on our journey. After swimming a brief distance, we had to avoid swimming pink snakes whilst darting through golden rings.
From our second impression of Super Mario 3D Land, we are truly convinced that this will be Nintendo’s top selling 3DS title for the handheld this year. The game combines relaxed and frantic gameplay and makes great use of the 3DS functions. Expect the unexpected, fly with your imagination and be prepared to take Mario to new levels. Super Mario 3D Land is the ultimate power up for the 3DS.