Super Mario 3D World Review

With Sony and Microsoft both putting their best foot forward this holiday season, Nintendo needs to move mountains to convince customers that it's worth investing in a Wii U over a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One. The house of Mario had the head start down, with a full year between the launch of the Wii U and other next-gen systems, but they squandered it with a drought of releases. Now, their latest and biggest game for the platform is going head to head with the likes of shiny new games like Killer Instinct and Killzone: Shadow Fall. So what's the deal; does Super Mario 3D World have what it takes to make the Wii U a must-buy?

Super Mario 3D World is beautiful even by other console standards

That much depends on your fondness for classic 3D platforming and Nintendo's trademark cuteness. A hybrid of the overworld-based New Super Mario Bros. and the 3D worlds of games like Galaxy (which this particular team also developed), 3D World never quite settles comfortably into either of the grooves that Mario games typically occupy. It's reminiscent of the 3DS' Suepr Mario 3D Land in its general structure - levels are short but numerous, and your time spent on the overworld will be primarily taken up moving between those levels - but this time you can move around freely on the overworld and aren't stuck on the rigid path forward.

This means there's even more secrets to be found, including extra coins and even bonus levels that are buried underneath of hidden pipes. It's a nice but shallow addition; there aren't a ton of secrets to be found on the overworld, but those that are there are worth finding. Perhaps the most fun aspect of the new overworld is how other players' Miis appear on the overworld with messages that they've written about parts of the game. Some of them are pretty funny. Same goes for the similar messages which scroll by after you beat each level. You'll have the option to post one of your own from in-game after each level.

Inside of the levels, the game hews very close to the line. The four characters of Mario Bros. 2 are back, and their powers return as well. Mario is a solid all-arounder, Luigi can jump high, Peach can hover, and Toad is faster than the others. Most levels don't demand a particular amount of speed, making Toad useful only for the auto-scrolling levels, while Mario fails to stand out thanks to a lack of any real specialties. This makes Peach and Luigi, as well as late-game addition Rosalina, the victors in terms of the powers competition.

Those massive mushrooms are awesome, but rarely utilized

Up to four players can run through the levels at any time, but like in the New Super Mario Bros. games two players seems to be the sweet spot for multiplayer. To accomodate four players, early levels tend to be very wide, making them feel a little empty in comparison to previous games. Once you reach Bowser's castle, you'll see the level design begin to tighten up and you'll be challenged more strictly. There are plenty of levels after beating Bowser that will challenge you even more.

Unfortunately, some of the challenge of 3D World comes from a poor sense of depth rather than the need for precision platforming. Like 3D Land on the 3DS, some of the levels have a level of depth that's not immediately apparent upon first glance. Unlike that game, however, this one doesn't output in 3D even on televisions that support the option. This can lead to some frustrating moments where you over or under shoot a jump because the game's color palette doesn't lend itself well to a sense of depth. This makes 3D World feel in a way inferior to its handheld predecessor.

Still, many of the levels in Mario's latest outing are creative and a downright joy to play, especially towards the middle and end of the game. Don't take the challenge too seriously, and you'll have a great time playing through the game's numerous and varied worlds. Highlights include a level that places you offscreen, forcing you to rely on the positioning of your shadow to make it through the level, and a group of levels that utilize a new cloning Cherry power-up to double the number of characters you're controlling.

Hope you like cats, because you'll spend like half the game as one

Other new power-ups include a Goomba disguise that lets you slip right past enemies, and a portable Piranha Plant that you can carry around and chomp enemies with. Both of these power-ups are lots of fun, but are hardly utilized in the grand scheme of the game. On the other hand, the new Cat Suit is leaned upon to an almost debilitating extent. This power-up allows users to climb walls, scratch enemies, and dive bomb from up high.

The first problem with this suit is that it more or less renders the Tanooki Suit, a returning power-up, more or less pointless. Playing as Peach or Rosalina (which, let's face it, you should be), the Cat Suit does all the Tanooki Suit can and more. The second problem with the Cat Suit is how frequently Nintendo utilizes it. Many levels demand that players have the new suit in order to get the collectables, which can become a frustration if you die and lose access to the suit, forcing you to pass by the collectable Stamps and Stars teeth clenched in frustration.

Mild complaints aside, Super Mario 3D World represents one of the best Wii U titles to date - and given the high quality of many of the system's recent exclusives, that's actually saying something. The game looks gorgeous in HD, and the gameplay is as simple yet solid as ever. The levels are numerous, too. Provided you collect all the Stars and Stamps to unlock secret levels, the game will run you a solid 10+ hours. Given the simple nature of the mechanics, this runtime actually felt like a bit much to me, but rest assured you'll get the most for your money out of the latest Mario.

Late-game levels can get pretty rough

Super Mario 3D World is a beautiful game, and one of the best yet on the Wii U. But that doesn't mean it comes without issue. The depth of the 3DS' 3D Land is missed, and the gameplay is a little too simplistic to support the game's full runtime. With four players, the game is unbridled chaos. All that said, the creative design of most of the game's levels and the brief thrill of using new power-ups like the Cherry and the Goomba disguise make this one of the better Mario games in recent years.


Score: 8.5/10

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