When Nintendo originally announced Super Mario 3D World, the response was mixed. People wanted a new game to rival the magnificent Super Mario Galaxy games. Instead of a sweeping soundtrack and glorious visuals, Super Mario 3D World opts for Mario gaming on a smaller scale. While Super Mario 3D World doesn’t soar to the intergalactic heights of Super Mario Galaxy, it is more than worth your time and hard-earned cash.
As a direct follow-up to the fantastic Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS, 3D World largely forgoes large, open stages for something altogether more compact. 3D World shares more in common with the 2D Mario titles than it does with the 3D ones. The camera angle (although you can change it, freely with a press of a button on the gamepad screen too) is largely isometric, akin to Sonic 3D. The change in viewpoint alters how you perceive jumps and distances, and for a while I struggled to get to grips with it, sending Mario and co. to untimely deaths, but it did eventually click into place.
Being able to freely move the camera (with the right stick or by use of physical, gyroscopic movement) with a press of a button is a great feature. There are typically four secret items to collect in each stage – 3 Green Stars and a Miiverse Stamp – and moving the camera around to find them is a fun and useful trick to have up your sleeves. 3D World makes great use of the Wii U’s unique features. A swipe on the screen uncovers hidden question blocks, coins and can even stop moving platforms and enemies in their tracks – useful if you’re finding certain areas tricky.
Interacting with the environment with your fingers is fun, and it’s worth your while seeing what you can and cannot do with the touchscreen. A blow into the gamepad’ microphone will show you hidden coins and question blocks too, as well as activating certain mechanisms – just as with the touchscreen. Miiverse is fully integrated into the experience too, as you’ll see posts from other people on the game’s brilliant open map screens. There is some online experience in the game to boot, when replaying a level; you’ll go up against three ghosts, trying to beat their time if you really want to.
A mad dash to the flag pole can be fun, but you’ll want to take your time in 3D World’s expertly crafted levels, learning their secrets and having a hell of a good time. Stages are relatively short, yes, but they are ridiculously fun, crammed full of brilliant ideas only Nintendo could have come up with. Skate around an ice rink in a giant ice skate? You bet. Ride down rapids on a giant orange dinosaur? Oh yes. Shoot cannonballs out of your head at enemies and objects? Count me in. The diversity in level design is unmatched, with a personal highlight being the stage where you sneak past Goombas dressed as a Goomba – incredible, made even better with the game’s incredible soundtrack.
There’s a huge amount of delightfully wacky ideas stuffed into each and every level, with both new and old power-ups. Your usual mix of Fire Flowers, Mushrooms and the Super Leaf all return, alongside the Propeller Box, Boomerang Flower and Mega Mushroom, but the icing on the richly flavoured cake are the new power-ups. There are two types of icing on this delicious cake however: Double Cherries and the Cat Suit. The Cat Suit is the big new thing here. Donning this suit (which you can by picking up a golden bell) adorns your character in some furry cat regalia. Cute, then. But it’s what you can do with the power-up that impresses. Once you’re decked out in your Cat Suit, you can scramble up vertical walls, swipe at foes with your claws and dive in mid-air, useful for long distance jumps. It’s a brilliantly realised power-up and one I’m sure will become a fan favourite.
Double Cherries clone your character and the more you pick up, the more clones you have on the screen; four Marios? I’m seeing double. The amount of characters on screen can get overwhelming and platforming becomes harder to navigate, but Nintendo were kind enough to use this item for some devilishly tricky puzzles… oh wait. The Double Cherries come into their own in multiplayer however. Yep, that’s right. Multiplayer. 3D World brings the crazy co-op of the New Super Mario Bros. series into the third dimension. Up to four people can play any level at any time, with Mario, Luigi, Blue Toad and Princess Peach available to play as.
Co-op is mental, but a lot of fun. Some will prefer the madness, but others will like to know that single-player is just as good. You can choose any of the four characters before each stage and each offers something different (just as they did in Super Mario Bros. 2). Mario is the all-rounder, Luigi’s jump is the highest and he falls the slowest, but will skid a little bit around the map, Peach can float a little bit at the end of her jump, but she is slower than the rest and Toad is seriously quick, but is heavier than the rest. It doesn’t really matter what character you use, but there is the odd (cheap) button to press as the right character to unlock something.
The diversity in the play-styles of each character is great, each with their own personalities and charm as well. It would’ve been easy for Nintendo to lump us with characters that played in the same way, but I’m so glad they didn’t. Just as the characters are full of charm, 3D World is crammed full of charm. The visuals may not be as glorious as the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, but neat little visual touches are scattered throughout the game. Light plays and sparkles off water magnificently; enemies are wonderfully animated, the see-through pipes allowing you to see how they work as well as giving you puzzles. Goombas adorned in Cat Suits of their own, lava plumes look ferociously hot. Super Mario 3D World may be on a smaller scale to the Galaxy games, but it is incredibly nice to look at.
The little touches and attention to detail move 3D World beyond most other platformers, despite the smaller scale. There is a huge amount going on in each level, and for the life of me, I cannot remember a game where the developers had as good a time making the game as we would playing it. There are more ideas present in Super Mario 3D World than the rest of the Wii U’s line-up. It’s totally bonkers, sure, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a game that leaves you with as big a grin as this one does. I haven’t even touched on the best of it yet, either.
Boss fights in 3D Mario games have always been special. 3D World doesn’t disappoint in this department. The awe-inspiring scale of Mario Galaxy’s boss fights still are yet to be matched, but the ones 3D World presents the most fun you’ll have dishing out the pain to big bads. Climbing up snakes that shoot out of the ground dressed as a cat to smash their heads in is fun, yes, but kicking bombs back at Bowser’s (Wario inspired) hot-rod is on a whole other level. After all these inventive levels, awesome power-ups and brilliant visual design is Captain Toad.
Feeling exhausted? Good. On top of everything are Captain Toad stages. In these, you control Captain Toad (as last seen in Mario Galaxy); a Toad obsessed with collecting treasures (Green Stars) but with a fatal flaw for a Mario game – he cannot jump. These are puzzle stages, in which you have complete control of the camera, moving the cubic stage around to see past obstacles. These stages are brilliant fun, adding another impressive, tasty layer to this already massive tiered-cake.
You can catch your breath now.
Super Mario 3D World is an incredible game. It’s crammed with inventive, fun ideas, looks great, plays great and has so much extra content that it puts other platformers to shame. The worst thing about 3D World is that it doesn’t quite match up to the unparalleled heights of the Mario Galaxy games. If you haven’t already, buy a copy of this game and have one hell of a good time.