Release date: Available now
I must state first that I’m a sucker for a good Mario game. When Nintendo announced New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I couldn’t help but think of the sweet nostalgia I would be experiencing. This rendition is a revisit of the classic platformer of 1985 that catapulted this franchise to godlike status. However, this time around there are a couple of new twists added to the mix. So let us put on our plumber’s caps for one more go around.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii borrows various elements from its predecessors and adds some new elements of its own. As in the original, Peach is in dire need of Mario’s help after being kidnapped by the evil Bowser and his progeny. This time around, Mario is not alone; Luigi and two Toadies assist him. They transverse across eight distinct worlds, each with its own platforming elements and trials, which progressively get harder (and I mean hard). You guide Mario and friends through each world map, just as in Mario 3. After you complete a level, you open other parts of the world. Some aspects of the world are closed until certain goals are completed. Toad shops are available to obtain more lives and abilities. You are also encouraged to visit previous levels to help save Toads and collect coins. At the end of each world is the boss battle, which of course involves one of Bowser’s children and Bowser himself. As you can tell, this game does not deviate from its classic origins, but only enhances upon what made the other previous Mario games so great.
Aside from the nostalgia, some new elements will attract both newcomers and fans of the original. First off, the platforming elements are tweaked and spiced up to create a sense of something fresh while maintaining the mechanics of the original game. For instance, in a cave in complete darkness you have to use the fire power to create light to progress through the caverns. In the desert level, you have to pay attention to the wind to reach the rope ladder without costing yourself a 1–Up. But what is a Mario Wii game without using the Wiimote’s abilities? To pick up certain items, such as a barrel, you have to hold the controller horizontally and shake it to pick it up. Speaking of items, there are four new ones that have been added to mix: ice flower, which freezes characters; a propeller, which helps you reach new heights; a mini-mushroom, which shrinks your character to help you reach those small places and skim across water; and a penguin outfit, which helps you get across those icy terrains and swiftly swim under water.
The focal point of this “new” Mario iteration is its multiplayer. You can play up to four players in different capacities. There is cooperative play, in which you work together to complete the course. By working together, you can bounce off each other to reach new platforming heights. You are also able to throw each character around, or you can do a simultaneous ground pound to defeat all enemies on the screen. When one of your characters dies, they float in a bubble from which your partner has to free you. The player in the bubble can also shake the controller to get closer to their partner. Players can also fend for themselves in free-for-all mode. In addition, for some real fun you can battle for coins. There are a set of preselected levels in battle mode in which opponents must race through the scene to collect coins. A twist to collecting certain coins involves hitting outlined coins to make them appear. This can make for some interesting battles.
The incorporated new material comes with a cost. One of my main gripes about the game is the control. The Wiimote’s performance was inconsistent and at times frustrating. This especially did not mix well with the fluid physics of the characters. As in Mario 2, the characters have their own distinct calibration of movement. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but mix it with the control scheme and there are some problems. Speaking of control, mixing two to four characters on screen is a double-edged sword. On the bright side, this creates a very interesting and entertaining game environment, depending on which mode you’re playing. In cooperative mode, having additional characters can hinder the balance of the gameplay. Bumping around into each other to make a platform jump can be a daunting task and can make the campaign mode more of a chore. Playing with multiple people in battle for coins is a blast because the goal is to interrupt the others. I just wish having multiple players worked well across all game modes. Lastly, item use has been a staple of all Mario games. This time around, the items are not as interesting as in the previous games, except for the ice flower. Their use is essential, but their execution and appeal are just not there.
Mario is a standard on which all platforming games are based. This iteration is no different. It clearly holds true to what has made Super Mario Bros the success that it has been, while adding a few twists. While most of these added elements are welcome, their execution is questionable. If you are looking for a reason to rehash some nostalgic moments, or you are new to the Mario experience, try this game. You will surely find something to appreciate. I surely did.