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Super Mario 3D World (Wii U) Review

Review for Super Mario 3D World on Wii U - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

If there's one franchise that can truly stand the test of time, it has to be Super Mario Bros. Ever charming, slightly quirky and forged from a tight weave of platforming history; the games have found a place in the home and on the move in over twenty five years on the scene.

There have been other contenders for the platforming crown in the past including Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong and Banjo-Kazooie. Many of these games have topped Mario in certain areas, but there's a consistency and continual evolution of Nintendo's flagship franchise that has set it apart from the rest.

Now Mario and friends return to the living room space in a bid to excite, inspire and invoke even more memories. Pitched as a must-have game for Nintendo Wii U, does this latest adventure from Nintendo EAD reach the pinnacle of platforming perfection or is it simply more of the same from the porky plumber in red overalls?

Despite moving outside the platforming sphere into multiplayer efforts like Mario Party, Mario Kart and a range of sporting games, Nintendo have only truly stepped into the multiplayer platforming circuit in recent years. New Super Mario Bros. Wii set the scene for four player madness as a challenging, yet enjoyable setup, and saw a successor for the launch of the Wii U. It's now become a tradition for Nintendo to release at least one 2D and one 3D Mario flagship title per console, so Super Mario 3D World aims to tick off those now compulsory boxes.

There have been some dips throughout the years, however, with some fans questioning the longevity of the franchise, given a reliance to stick with what works. There's been a need to not deviate too far from the norm: a stolen Princess Peach, fields of green and heavy reliance on nostalgia. With the new Wii U game, there still are many nods to the past, but there's so much warmth in a spiralling set of refreshing new ideas.

This time round it's not the usual Princess that's held captive by scheming Bowser; instead the tale involves a new world known as the Sprixie Kingdom. It's here that our antagonist has settled his minions and unravelled plans for trickery, capturing the adorable Sprixie princesses, spreading chaos in his wake. Princess Peach leaps into the fray, joined by Mario, Luigi and Toad to help save this new kingdom from peril. Aside from a cartoon drawing to explain the situation, the remainder of the game is left to levels upon levels of pure multiplayer bliss.


 

After the initial steps into what does admittedly start out like a fairly generic Mario design, it truly comes into its own with a vibrant, colourful palette and scintillating, refreshing focus. Nintendo have tinkered with lighting and high definition detail in recent releases like Pikmin 3 and Nintendo Land, but the approach with this latest project is something that's littered with mounds of little details in places. The notion of "HD" usually conjures up images of ultra-realistic, Avatar-esque forestry; but in the case of Mario, it's more of a quirky, cartoon charm that feels like a true cohesion of ideas that's been painted over two decades. The texture depth and variety have been improved from past releases too, and not just in simple clarity, but in the choices of material - there's a leaning to more man-made elements, rather than keeping the look organic; light bulbs, trains and cars paint the new landscape. The industrial revolution has sunk its teeth quite firmly into the offices of Mario's creators; but not so much to deviate too far from what players have grown fond of. There is the odd misfired texture in places, but in the grand scheme of things, Mario and friends are all smartly dressed and ready to roll.

Screenshot for Super Mario 3D World on Wii U - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

A game may look the part, but the key with a platformer like Mario is in how it all comes together in motion, the speed, consistency and performance with more than one player on the screen at one time. Despite our best efforts to try and exert the hardware to its full potential, Mario kept on going - as if there was a lucrative pot of coins at the other end of this very colourful tunnel. It's all baked evenly at a liquid smooth 60fps, keeping the world alive through charming animated enemies, subtle particle effects and frame after frame of digital TLC.

Each of the levels has its own identity, whether it's an electric circus, tropical ocean or when scurrying underground; there's rarely an occasion where the same designs and art styles are seen more than once. The all-in approach may, however, appear quite disconnected at times given the lack of a true cohesive theme throughout each of the worlds; but it does create the sugar rush of finding something exciting which each new encounter.

But what about the actual game? Super Mario 3D World takes a similar approach to 2D Mario titles and the recent Super Mario 3D Land by effectively streamlining the structure into a more linear A to B design than, for example, Super Mario 64 or even Super Mario Galaxy to an extent. Gone are the various different objectives to try and suss out, in favour of getting from start to finish, digging up secret stars as collectables, desperately trying to survive. It's effectively found Mario going full circle: from the simple days of pixelated platforming to an open world and back to the more core experience with Super Mario 3D World. There are red mushrooms that'll make players bigger, fire flowers to barge through enemies, waddling Goomba and chipper Koopa; these aspects remain unchanged and they shouldn't be. Before this all sounds as if it's been done and dusted, the main course serves up a buffet of original ideas.

The flagpoles, golden coins and other Mario conventions are only at the foundations of the experience, the outer cream in the delicious cake. Initially the opening few worlds are fairly basic and familiar ground, a breeze for experienced players. Delve deeper and there are different flavours that hit from one direction, leave in another, frothing from the mouth in platforming ecstasy. In one level Mario will have to ambush a train in order to take down the captain, in another it's a case of kicking explosive footballs into Bowser driving a car. A carnival of light to going for a peaceful ice-skating session with Goomba, there's a delicious bag of ideas that it is difficult to contain in one particular theme.

Other highlights include a portion of the game that's played by use of shadows on a white brick wall. It sounds simplistic, but the switch in perspective and removal of detail creates a completely new feel, even for just a few minutes. Another involves a simple set of platforms with directional arrows. Stand on an arrow to make it wheel across, which is generally fine and fairly manageable with a single player, but add in three friends and it can end up incredibly frustrating, but hilarious at the same time.

Many of these levels need to be played twice, three times just to absorb the new mechanics coming into play. As soon as that's done and committed to memory, Nintendo decide to wander off into another new direction - like a child with a set of colouring pencils for the very first time.

The GamePad controller does join the party, if only sparingly, in sections that need to be tapped or blown on to get by. It's not as innovative as Rayman Legends in that respect, but makes good use of the tech without becoming overbearing.

Screenshot for Super Mario 3D World on Wii U - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The level designs have been crafted with both the characters and power-ups in mind. This time Nintendo decided to dig into the archives of Mario history and brew up four characters that each have their own, unique characteristics. Having each handle exactly the same in New Super Mario Bros. was good in the sense of fairness between players, but felt like a missed opportunity to pick anyone other than the leading man. This time the hero in red, Mario, is the bench-mark. He runs, jumps, smiles and has a rather dapper moustache, but other members on the anti-Bowser brigade can outdo him in certain ways. Luigi can jump higher and further, Princess Preach can hover over obstacles and the adorable Toad wears permanent speed shoes bought from the Mushroom Kingdom outlet. This in itself has shaken up the game for the single player, and makes it even more heated during multiplayer, paving the way for plenty of replayability by simply switching characters.

Power-ups also stir up proceedings; as the designers have crammed the experience chock full of returning abilities and some mind boggling new concepts. Despite the extensive list, these aren't thrown in all willy-nilly; there is a means, a purpose for their placement and use. Without picking away at each and every one to ruin their brilliance, some of the stand-out abilities include the "Double Cherry", which allow characters to control a set of clones for a short time, the "Cannon box" which fires out a stream of powerful balls to the ability to pop into Koopa shells. But the real highlight must be the "Super Bell", which transforms characters into adorable cats. It's not just a costume though, as it allows these critters to climb up certain walls, scratch and scuttle about, unlocking secrets and taking different, higher paths.

The actual overworld in Super Mario 3D World maintains the level by level, approach from the past 2D titles, but this time letting the player freely roam the land in a similar way to Sonic Lost World. Ickle, scattered secrets are to be found, and it's not quite the same scope of exploration as Super Mario Sunshine, but it's a nice and more flexible option to have.

Whilst the game is a challenge for the solo player alone, offering variety in levels and characters, it becomes a completely different experience in multiplayer. Nintendo initially started working on multiplayer concepts with Super Mario 64, planning to have both Mario and Luigi on screen at the same time, but hardware restrictions limited the game to a strictly single player affair. The idea did return in Super Mario 64 DS in the multiplayer component, allowing for multiple characters to complete against each other in enclosed areas, but it wasn't quite the full adventure. Nintendo then went on to attempt co-operative play in Super Mario Galaxy, but the partner character was limited to the fairly bland "Co-Star" mode: simply pointing and shooting at enemies.


 

Super Mario 3D World may be the first 3D Mario platformer on store shelves, but it feels as if the Japanese game maker has been creating these sorts of games for years. As with the New Super Mario Bros. series, up to four can play together on the same screen, with the option to drop in or out. It's been handled exceptionally well, despite the restrictions on camera, with an "auto bubble" feature kicking in for those who might be lagging behind. Even having just one extra player can forge a completely different feeling; there's a need to keep your partner from harm's way, making sure the pace is just right to ensure players can get across trickier platforms or overcome an oncoming horde of wild Goomba.

Even the once easier opening levels become far more challenging in multiplayer: it's a blast with two, great with three and bordering on insane with four players frantically dashing through the level. Though there is a need to work together, each player receives a personal ranking at the end of each, making every coin and enemy that bit more vital. Pride is a dangerous condition! Some might argue that certain characters may well be better than others, so an optional "randomiser" function ensures that things are mixed up between levels.

Screenshot for Super Mario 3D World on Wii U - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Controls aren't an issue in those multiplayer sessions, providing there's a few Wii Remotes to hand. There's support for just about every Wii-generation peripheral - the original Wii Remote solo, together with nunchuck, Classic Controller Pro and Wii Pro Controller. By default at least one player must use the GamePad, however, due to some of the minor requirements in certain levels, but solo players can switch to a non-GamePad controller mid game.

Aside from the regular levels, there's also a range of smaller challenges to get stuck into, a particular highlight being Captain Toad's Adventure Courses, where the adorable chap takes the starring role, but without the ability to jump. This minor change in control shifts the dynamic completely, making for a more puzzle approach. The first involves dodging a weaving set of beetle bugs to try and collect five stars from a layered block structure. It's a clever little addition to the mix that doesn't get in the way of the main quest at hand. Also with Toad is a little Luigi fan-service in a remake of the original Mario Bros. using Luigi-themed sprites, plus a sprinkle of slot machines and traditional Toad Houses to stock up on much needed lives. There's also the ability to add comments to Miiverse, as well as download "ghost" data from others for virtual races. It's not quite online play, though it comes fairly close at replicating the feeling at base level.

It wouldn't be a Super Mario Bros. title without a stellar music catalogue to accompany it, and the selection strung together for this Wii U adventure certainly doesn't disappoint. A live, riveting set of songs that invoke a more big band feel compared to the light, orchestra driven and slightly ethereal feel of Super Mario Galaxy. As bold and exciting as the graphics and gameplay, the soundtrack works well with the levels, particularly the more tropical and volcanic flavours, but doesn't overpower the visuals in any way.

Super Mario 3D World isn't a long adventure, tallying up between 15 and 20 hours on average for the single player, and potentially more when adding a few friends. There are a selection of hidden stamps (for use with Miiverse Posts) and post-game content to contend with. It does also build, subtly, to a harder and more relentless design towards the latest stages, making for a satisfying conclusion for series veterans.

At time of writing there aren't any plans for DLC and though there's enough on the disc already, it would be great for at least a handful of mission-based levels or remixed stages at somepoint. An online play patch would be the icing on the already delicious cake.

Screenshot for Super Mario 3D World on Wii U- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

A large blend of bustling, enjoyable and unique gameplay that shows Nintendo still has a large assortment of refreshing ideas to bring to the Super Mario Bros. table. A thrill ride when playing alone and an absolute frenzy when playing with friends, Super Mario 3D World brings the best of both the 2D and 3D titles into a single, cohesive package. It handles well throughout and leaves players craving even more.

Graphics

Sharp, crisp visuals that burst full of colour and texture, melding an organic look with hints of more machine and man-made designs. Super Mario 3D World does keep a lot of series staples, themes and designs, with good reason, but pushes beyond the safety net to uncover new worlds that still have a Mario feel. Liquid smooth with one Mario on the screen, the game handles equally well with two, three or four players scrambling about at the same time.

Sound

A bouncy, rich and live soundtrack make Super Mario 3D World a joy to listen to. There is a familiar sound and arrangement, but it's not the grating themes that loop over and over in the 2D New Super Mario Bros. U. Instead there's a sweet, almost retro sound that steps into more Super Mario Galaxy territory.

Value

With four different characters, a lengthy solo campaign, secret content and the star of the show, multiplayer, Super Mario 3D World serves up plenty of options for players. On average the campaign can be wrapped up within 15-20 hours, but there is much to come back to, levels to replay and working through the entire game with friends.

Cubed3 Rating

10/10
Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

About this score
Rated 10 out of 10

Super Mario 3D World is a superb first attempt at a 3D Super Mario Bros. platformer from Nintendo. It's more than just a simple Mario title with multiplayer bolted on. The game weaves together a plethora of unique, compelling and occasionally downright bizarre ideas that simply work. Mario and friends run, jump, float, crawl, climb, throw fireballs and explode cannonballs across multiple worlds of charming designs, experimental ideas and rock hard platforming towards the end. Super Mario 3D World is one of the best titles on the Nintendo Wii U and one of the best platformers, period. Go forth and save the Sprixie Kingdom!

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25.11.2013

4

5293

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Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Tis a gem. I love this game. Hate that I'm almost completely done with it. Awesome game!

Abosolutely amazing, I love how much Mario has developed in this game, plus the new levels and enemies are really well developed. 10/10.

Staff Member

I've just beaten the game and I fully agree. It's yet another masterpiece from Nintendo and while I slightly prefer Galaxy 2 and possibly Galaxy, it's really based on personal preference and not on quality because let's be honest, Nintendo raised the bar so unbelievably high with Galaxy and its sequel that I'd consider it impossible to blow them out of the water with any other 3D Mario they could make. As long as they strive to achieve that quality and add fresh, new ideas to the series - which they seemingly can't run out of given the almost wasteful implementation of them in 3D World - we'll be in for more fantastic 3D platformers for years to come. Smilie

 

SirLink said:
I've just beaten the game and I fully agree. It's yet another masterpiece from Nintendo and while I slightly prefer Galaxy 2 and possibly Galaxy, it's really based on personal preference and not on quality because let's be honest, Nintendo raised the bar so unbelievably high with Galaxy and its sequel that I'd consider it impossible to blow them out of the water with any other 3D Mario they could make. As long as they strive to achieve that quality and add fresh, new ideas to the series - which they seemingly can't run out of given the almost wasteful implementation of them in 3D World - we'll be in for more fantastic 3D platformers for years to come. Smilie

I liked your review the best. To the point, nice sentences and your feelings well conveyed. Thanks!

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