Super Mario 3D World
If 2012’s “New Super Mario Bros. U” was a visually impressive, thoroughly enjoyable platformer that was locked up by its adherence to a subseries esthetic), “Super Mario 3D World” is the same beast set free.
A screenshot from “Super Mario 3D World” for WiiU. — Submitted image
Equal parts imaginative, ambitious and charming, the WiiU’s much needed killer app is a brilliant reminder of why the moustachioed adventurer is gaming’s truest icon. After all, I can’t think of many other series with the magnetic personality to make me want to drop $300 to $400 just to play a single game.
This is Mario’s — and by extension, Nintendo’s — power: the ability to instil within gamers a voracious hunger to go one level further, because every stage brings something new. The game’s manic energy is totally infectious.
You’ll have to pardon my exuberance, as this happens almost every year. Two weeks ago I was gushing about how solid the new Ratchet and Clank game was, and here comes Mario to make that look utterly amateurish by comparison. When Nintendo doesn’t shackle itself to a gimmick or single gameplay mechanic, no other developer on the planet can touch them in this genre.
In a manner not seen since “Super Mario Bros. 2” in 1988, players have a choice of four characters, each with slight differences in their basic abilities. Mario handles exactly as gamers would expect; Luigi has a higher, floatier jump and skitters around the ground with much less traction than his older, shorter brother; Toad possesses a tighter jump and is the speediest of the crew; and Princess Peach can use her billowing skirt like a parachute to grab serious hang time in the air.
None of these abilities will tip the scales in one’s favour during “3D World’s” challenging campaign — but serve as a great way to mix things up, and shake up the four-player mode just the way I like.
Now, it wouldn’t be a true Mario game without some great power-ups, and “3D World” has a couple of doozies.
For starters, there’s the lauded Cat Suit, which gives the wearer a close range scratching attack, a diving jump and the ability to run up vertical surfaces. It’s a nice suite of moves that opens up the verticality of the level design in the same manner as the cape from “Super Mario World” in 1991.
My personal favourite is the new Double Cherry that creates an exact duplicate of your character. These power-ups can be stacked for multiple clones, and with clever movements, is used to dominate the stage or solve puzzles. The levels are designed with careful genius around these power-ups, equally divided into areas that allow for wild jumping and exploration, or razor sharp precision.
And here’s the kicker … both situations are fun! You haven’t seen chaos until you’ve experienced four players, with three or four doppelgangers crowding the screen. Did I mention that at no time does the action drop below a buttery smooth 60 frames per second?
The controls are a perfect match for the slick framerate: responsive and crisp, not to mention supporting all of the WiiU’s various options, including the tablet/gamepad, the Classic Controller, and the Wiimote. It’s easy to pick up, and impossible to blame on the game when a player is forced to retry a particularly difficult stage for the 30th consecutive time.
And believe me, that will happen. It may not be apparent for the first few worlds, but when one delves for “3D World’s” deeper secrets, the game reveals a difficulty that can only be described as devilish.
As is usually the standard operating protocol for Mario’s mainline adventures, “3D World” introduces new enemies or variations on existing ones alongside power-ups and environmental challenges at a perfect pace. One stage might have players thrilling over the return of a long-time series favourite, or a clever twist on another that hasn’t been seen since its first and only appearance in the early ’90s. It hardly matters, as the result is always a mainline of bliss straight into the gaming vein.
I should be angry, as I had no plans to fumble into getting a WiiU in the Mercer household until a new “Legend of Zelda” had been unveiled; but it’s clear that “Super Mario 3D World” has other plans.
Any gamer who has roots at all planted in this hobby owes it to themselves to explore Nintendo’s must-have title of 2013. It’s got a fortune of gameplay and great ideas wrapped up with bright and shiny visuals, prodigious level design and some of the craziest multiplayer on the market.
Release Date: Nov. 22
Rated: E for Everyone.
Walking through the wastes of the digital frontier,
Jon Mercer fights a lonely war against the nefarious agents of boredom and mediocrity. If you seek his help, or wish to join his cause, send a communiqué