Nintendo’s one and only, fun-loving, block-breaking plumber makes the jump onto the Nintendo 3DS.
The first time you play Super Mario 3D Land, you will be overwhelmed by how bold, bright and vibrant the colours are on the 3DS, while you watch Mario and four pint-sized toads frantically run across your screen in search of the next adventure. Mario leaps onto the Super Mario 3D land map, which is the central hub to the rest of the levels. In between levels, you can move into Toadstool houses for some more delightful treats, such as a Fireflower, or Mushroom 1 Up. Even before you enter the house, Mario can wander around the flowers outside gathering up hidden gold coins.
The levels are typically Mario-style and will see you smashing blocks to smithereens or balancing precariously on a solid green grid, which eventually folds itself up again. Super Mario 3D Land is filled with the usual jumping, avoiding a myriad of highly stacked Goombas and trying to avoid being eaten by a Chain Chomp, who’s ready to take your life at any surprising moment.
As you wander the land, you’ll be teased by the vast environment which tries to persuade you to search every corner, room, or cloud in search of the large gold coins that are scattered around. Occasionally you’ll come across switches that need to be activated in order for Mario to progress, such as the P switches that offer some rather delightful goodies. These P switches send out musical notes, which will reward you with some Mario goodness, if you’re quick enough.
Super Mario 3D Land transports you to a variety of different worlds, which highlight the 3DS capabilities. At first it’s really quite worrying as you plough off the side of one level, to find yourself going face first into some distant clouds. You’re never sure you’re really going to make it in one piece. You have, of course, got your Tanooki suit if you care to take flight and find a more scenic route, or you can find yourself the special rotor propelled boxes that give you an instant thrust into the blue skies of the Mushroom Kingdom.
On your journey, you’ll become aware of green binocular boxes located at the beginning of some levels. Once you’ve approached those, you’ll be given a more detailed view of the level before you get started on it it. Mario places his eyes over the lenses, allowing you to see the around the level by using the Left and right shoulder buttons of the 3DS to zoom in and out, and pan from left to right by simply turning the 3DS. The Tannoki suit allows you to shift from one place to the next by a short flight, while the Tannoki tail can swipe blocks or knock down 2D cardboard cut-out shapes of Goombas or Mushrooms.
The surprise in Super Mario 3D Land is that it’s never predictable and you never find yourself thinking you’re going to be redoing repetitive levels. All of it seems surprisingly new and fresh. Although the game begins very easily, as you progress further in it really tests your response and reaction times. That’s right, I’m talking about the red and blue panels that Mario tries to jump on, only for them to flip the other way and you plummet to your doom. Basically these mean making a quick dash or using the tannoki suit to swiftly fly over them.
If you die a certain amount of times on a level, you’re given a special Tannoki leaf that allows Mario to wear a white, sparkly suit and progress through a level without coming to any harm. At first I thought this was a great idea for those of us who may struggle on a level, but does that mean you can complete the game very easily? I’m still in two minds in whether this was an essential addition to Super Mario 3D Land, or a cheeky cheat.
Exploring further worlds, you’ll discover Egyptian golden sands, where monsters lay waiting for your arrival. This is where you need to make a quick dash to the door, while trying to avoid being destroyed by the question mark snakes with spikes protruding out of their backs. I’ve loved how the 3D environment looked on this particular level, as areas were filled with pockets of water which you could dive into. Underwater Levels allow Mario to wear his special goggles to discover the murky depths, swimming passed cheep cheeps and gliding through the water, through pink rings that transform gold coins into red ones, carefully trying to avoid the giant pink snakes that lurk beneath the ground.
Other times you’ll be inside a Mansion placed on a chequered level, while being pursued by a variety of Boos. Throughout the game, there are postcards/pictures to collect, which then appear in the special mushroom book and can be saved to the memory card and viewed later. The main gameplay is essentially the same as previous Super Mario titles, grab as many gold coins as possible and finish the level in a set time, find all of the giant gold coins, all the time avoiding Bowser.
Bowser’s Castle is situated at the end of each world. The first time I encountered him, the place was decorated with a purple carpet and surrounded with burning lava. It became clear that I would need to get out of the area fast before being blasted with fireballs. Then I had to face large grey bricks with faces that were ready to stomp on me if my timing wasn’t correct as I tried 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, I then had to face Bowser himself. Trying to avoid his blasts of burning hot lava fireballs, I 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.
Super Mario 3D Land gives gamers a reason to go and buy a 3DS. It is the platforming “tour de force” that shows off the 3DS functions in their best light. Mario looks superb in 3D and the game is both frantic and fantastic at the same time. If you only buy one Nintendo game this year, make sure it’s this one.
‘Super Mario 3D Land is the power up the 3DS has been waiting for’