Itsa meow, Mario.
Nintendo’s flagship hero returns once again to right the wrongs inflicted by the hardest working villain in videogames in Super Mario 3D World, the latest Mario title to hit the Nintendo Wii U.
Bowser is up to his old tricks again, but this time around he avoids the common mistake of abducting Princess Peach in favour of kidnapping a bunch of fairies. While this still means that Mario and co. still have to save the day, it does also mean that Princess Peach can join the fun. The fact that the player can enjoy the fun with different characters that play slightly differently simply reveals the level of variety that players will find in Super Mario 3D World.
The first level begins fairly simply, with a sense of familiarity for the player. Jump your way through, keeping an eye on the time limit, and get as high up the flagpole at the end of the level as possible, it is all standard stuff. However, as the subsequent levels reveal, from here on out anything can, and does, happen.
The level design and the way that they keep offering different experiences to the player, is simply outstanding in Super Mario 3D World. This variety can range from something as little as a level in which a well-known enemy acts a little differently to how you would expect, right through to a massive change up such as riding through a water level on the back of a dinosaur. It makes each level a joy to begin, not knowing what the player will be facing this time around.
Nearly all of the levels offer something more than just reaching the end, with stars to collect and stickers to find, all well hidden within the levels. Finding stars is essential to unlock the boss battle for the part of the game you are in, and the stickers can be used in Miiverse to brighten up messages and show off your Mario prowess. There are a huge number of stickers to find in the game, so completionists will be kept busy for a very long time.
Super Mario 3D World uses the overworld map that has been seen in previous games to move the player from one level to the next. But the overworld map is as open to exploration as the levels themselves, and players will do well to explore when they have the chance to find any secrets that the map may hold. There are other distractions to be had in the overworld, not least of which are the puzzle levels of Captain Toad. These singular adventures are offered as a contained map with stars strewn about and the player is challenged to guide Captain Toad to collect the stars, bearing in mind that he cannot jump. These levels are hugely entertaining and a joy to play.
So you work through the levels, collecting enough stars to head to the castle and take on a boss. Defeat the boss and save the fairy, and the fairy will open up a pipe to the next section of the overworld map. The progression is simple, but the variety of both the levels and the explorable overworld keep the game moving forward smoothly without getting dull.
But where would Mario and his friends be without a quick wardrobe change? The Tanooki suit returns, along with many of the old staples such as the fire flower. But the most interesting new addition is the cat suit. Donning this feline outfit will equip the player not only with enhanced speed and a pouncing attck, but also the ability to climb. This opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to exploring the levels, and thus finding all of the secrets, as Mario and friends can now scale walls, clamber up trees and even speed up the flagpole to get the maximum score. One of the other most interesting power ups in the game is the Double Cherry which creates clones of the player. Multi Mario mayhem!
However, there is one simple addition that makes the game infinitely more fun to play – drop in/drop out co-op. With a choice of characters – Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad (with another to be found further down the line) – players can team up and race through any of the levels in a chaotic manner. The player with the highest score gets a gold crown to wear, which will instantly become a target for the other players who can knock it off and wear it themselves. It’s great family fun and a reason for grabbing the game itself.
Visually, Mario has never looked so good. The visuals are crisp and colourful, oozing quality at every turn. The variety of the levels gives ample opportunity to show off exactly how good the Wii U can make a game like Super Mario 3D World look.The detail in each level ensures that there is always something interesting to look at, something that will make you chuckle to yourself or gasp in disbelief.
Of course, with all of this platforming action and characters that play differently, you are going to want some tight controls to play the game with. Well, as you would expect with a Mario game, the controls are smooth and fluid. Nintendo have gone all out to support the various different controllers available for the Wii U, guaranteeing that no one has to miss out on the action, from the classic controller, through the Wiimote to the Wii U GamePad, which also offers off screen play.
Despite presumably advancing in years, everyone’s favourite plumber (unless you have a particularly close relationship with your own plumber) Mario is showing no signs of slowing down as he jumps around the levels in what is simply one of the best Mario games and easily the best game currently available for the Nintendo Wii U system. Super Mario 3D World manages to once again advance the genre without leaving the nostalgia behind, resulting in a game that is easy to enjoy both alone and with friends. Super Mario 3D World is an essential purchase for anyone with a Wii U and a damn good reason to buy a Wii U for anyone that doesn’t have one.