It’s been almost two decades since a 2D platformer starring Mr. Mario has appeared on a console, his last traditional outing was Super Mario World which launched alongside the Super Nintendo in 1991. Until this day Super Mario World remains to be my favorite game of all time so it should come as no surprise that my excitement for New Super Mario Bros. Wii has been through the roof ever since it was announced at E3. As the title suggests New Super Mario Bros. Wii is essentially a sequel of Mario’s DS outing but on the Wii. The art-style is identical, the progression structure is the same and it even borrows music and sound effects directly from the DS game so if you’re a fan looking for the next evolution of the Mario Bros. franchise you’re not going to find it here.
Despite being over 20 years old, the core game design hasn’t changed. Once again Bowser has orchestrated the kidnapping of Princess Peach and it’s up to Mario to put put his plumbing duties aside and rescue her. His journey will take him through 8 distinctive worlds where he’ll have to traverse through jungles, tropical islands, deserts and even the beyond the clouds. With each new world comes new enemies and a new challenge but unfortunately none of the worlds feel as unique as say, the Giant World from Super Mario Bros. 3. Every world on Mario Bros. Wii feels like a rehash of locations from the previous games and you’ll probably be able to predict what several of the upcoming worlds are going to be like before you even reach them. The Ice World is still slippery, the Desert World still contains pits of quick sand and surprise, surprise the final world still features Lava and erupting volcanos. Nintendo played it very safe with the creation of this game and the overall experience suffers for it, the only significant new feature they’ve added is the brand new 2-4 player co-op and competitive modes.
Taking a page from LittleBigPlanet’s book, players now have the opportunity to play through the entire game with up to 3 friends as Luigi, Yellow Toad and/or Blue Toad who all control exactly the same as Mario. Unlike LittleBigPlanet you won’t find any level creation tools or online modes here but as an overall experience Mario Bros. Wii is leaps ahead of Media Molecule’s cash-cow. The best thing about multi-player Mario is you have the opportunity to both assist and screw over your fellow players at will. If you’re a genuinely nice person you can lift your buddy above your head to help them reach high areas, you can share objects with them and when they die and reappear on-screen inside of a bubble you can burst it to allow them to rejoin the game. However if you’re anything like me you could instead choose to throw them down pits, stomp on their heads to obstruct their jumps, collect all the items for yourself even If you don’t need them and when they die leave them to float around aimlessly inside of their bubble until you complete the level.
If you’re like me then you should jump straight in to the Coin Battle mode where you’re object is to collect more coins than your opponent(s), as long as you and the people you’re playing won’t get butt-hurt if someone throws you down a pit just to for a laugh you can’t help but have fun here. As you can imagine the more people you’re playing with, the more hectic the game becomes but it never gets hard to keep track of what’s going on. If players are too far away of each other the screen pans out to give you all a better view, If one person goes up a beanstalk or down a pipe you all end up there with them and the game doesn’t end unless each player has lost all of their lives or every one is in a bubble at the same time. The single player campaign can also be completed with up to 4 friends and there’s even a Free Play Mode where you can select a playlist of your favorite levels and play them in sequence.
As fun as multiplayer can be I think it’s safe to assume that most players won’t have a friend to play with for the majority of the game so the crux of this title has to it’s single player offering. Many gamers have expressed fears that the heavy emphasis on family-friendly multiplayer will somehow dilute the solo experience especially since each of the levels were designed to accommodate up to 4 players but I can honestly say that not once during my entire play-through did I feel that the solo campaign had been compromised in any way.
Don’t let the TV ads fool you, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is definitely hardcore and one of the most difficult Mario games to date. Thankfully 1up’s are easy to attain and the age-old 99 lives exploit still works. If you do happen to come across that one stage that you just can’t seem to beat you’ll be pleased to know that Nintendo have included a Super Guide feature which essentially plays the level for you. If you die 8 consecutive times on any level a green item block will appear in the game world, activating that block will run a video of Luigi playing through the level on your behalf after-which you can simply move on to the next one. The inclusion of this feature caused quiet an uproar amongst the Nintendo community as they felt it was yet another case of Nintendo games being dumbed down to cater for a more casual audience but I don’t see what any of the fuss is about. The feature is optional and it provides a way for everyone to finish and continually enjoy the game regardless of their age or skill-level.
One thing fans can be happy about is the return of Yoshi, who makes an appearance in a select few levels. Yoshi has the ability to swallow enemies, float for a few seconds and save Mario from plummeting to his death by ejecting him off of his back. Unlike Super Mario World, Yoshi can only be used on the specific levels he’s found in and once that level has been completed he gets left behind. Mario should be just fine without him though because as well as the usual Mushrooms, Stars and Fire Flowers, Mario also has some all new items to see him through his quest. The most useful of which are Propeller Hats which, by shaking the Wii remote, rockets him up in to the air and allows him to float back down gently. Other new items include the enemy-freezing Ice Flowers and a Penguin Suits which are pretty much the same as Ice Flowers but also enables Mario to swim faster and slide on his stomach. Any of the items available in the game can be won and subsequently added to your Items List by entering red Toad Huts located on the map screen, once an item is in your Items List you can pre-select it before you enter any of the levels to give yourself an advantage right from the start. As well as serving as a hub to all of the levels the map screen also hints to hidden paths and shortcuts which only become available once you find a secret exit in a near-by level.
Each of the worlds contain a Fortress and a Castle (placed mid-way through, and at the end of each world respectively) both of which cap-off with a boss flights against one of the 7 Koopa Kids who have been missing from the Nintendo universe for far too long. Some worlds also feature tricky Ghost Houses and Air Ships which are a welcome returns from previous Mario titles and enemies even patrol portions of the map screen forcing you to engage in a battle ala the Hammer Brothers in Super Mario Bros. 3. Playing the game with the Wii remote held sideways feels right as does tilting it to control moving platforms but I could have done without having to shake the remote to make Mario perform a spin jump or pick up items. You have the option to connect a nun-chuk if you crave inaccurate analog controls but no other peripherial is supported.
If you have nostalgia for the Mario games of yester-year there are plenty of things in Mario Bros. Wii that are guaranteed to make you smile. The music, the enemies, the flag posts, the Koopa Kids, Yoshi, air ships, the list goes on. The release of the New Super Mario Bros. on DS just a few ago dampens the excitement a new 2D Mario game should have Mario Bros. Wii is an excellent, excellent title with a tremendous ammount of replay value. The lack of originality, Classic Controller support, online play and a level editor are unfortunate oversights but hopefully Nintendo will address these issues and take cues from Media Molecule for a sequel. Regardless, as it stands this is an essential Wii purchase that will hopefully replace Wii Sports as the “must play” title during family gatherings. Buy. This. Now.