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Super Mario 3D World review

Super Mario 3D World
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £40
inc VAT

It never quite breaks out of the shadow of Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS, but this is a great Mario game for friends and solo players alike

With the Xbox One and PS4 now hot on the Wii U’s heels, Nintendo needed a big hitter this Christmas to help give its ailing console a much-needed boost in the ‘next-gen’ arena. So who better to call upon in its hour of need than Mario himself? Except he’s not alone this time, as for the first time since Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES in 1989, he’s joined by Luigi, Peach and Toad, which players can switch between at will regardless of whether they’re playing alone or with friends.

Super Mario 3D World
Players share lives in multiplayer, but there’s more than enough coins to go round to make sure you don’t run out

It’s an assured and reliable choice, and one that helped see the Wii U safely through its own launch last year with New Super Mario Bros. U. But Super Mario 3D World is anything but safe. Rather than follow the tried-and-tested route of the 2D Mario titles or chase after the coattails of the fully 3D Super Mario Galaxy games, Super Mario 3D World attempts to combine both schools of platforming. It’s an experiment that began on 3DS with the superb Super Mario 3D Land, and for the most part, this console iteration is a resounding success.

Worlds are bigger and more expansive than their 3DS counterparts, and while each world map is based around a specific theme, individual stages are wonderfully abstract in their design. In the hands of a less confident developer, this kind of free-flowing structure might have suggested a weaker sense of purpose, but here it plays to Nintendo’s strength, showcasing its mine of ideas while always presenting a new and fresh challenge that keeps players guessing and engaged.

Super Mario 3D World
Mario takes a leaf out of Donkey Kong Country Returns with its own silhouette level

It’s odd, then, that 3D World repeatedly sells itself short by curtailing its ideas before they’ve reached full maturity. The end flagpole always came a little too soon for our liking, and some levels seemed to barely get off the ground before the finish line was in sight. At times, this made 3D World feel less like a console game and more like its handheld counterpart. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there were quite a few stages that almost seemed tailor-made for 3D Land, and we wished our Wii U GamePad had a 3D slider so we could have worked with the extra dimension.

This was most evident in the Captain Toad levels. Here, you have to guide Captain Toad through tightly compact 3D cube puzzles to collect green stars. He can’t jump due to his stubby legs, so you’ll need to keep tilting the camera to avoid walking into danger. These levels are a refreshing change of pace from the rest of 3D World, but when they rely so heavily on depth perception, we wouldn’t be surprised if these levels re-appeared in the next 3DS Mario game.

Super Mario 3D World
You’ll need to make sure you don’t whizz past any green stars in this Mario Kart themed level

In this sense, 3D World never quite delivers the same kind of sublime console platforming as rival Rayman Legends, but that’s not to say 3D World doesn’t have its own moments of ingenuity. Finding every last green star and hidden Miiverse stamp requires true dexterity and later stages in particular will test even the most nimble of platforming fans, not least because keeping hold of Mario’s power-ups is vital for a 100 per cent completion rate.

Luckily, you can store power-ups for later if you come across more than one, allowing resourceful players to pull out sneaky trump cards in times of need to reach new areas. This is particularly true of Mario’s newest power-up, the cat suit. Just as the tanooki suit was the star item of Super Mario 3D Land, the cat suit features heavily in 3D World and it turns Mario into a four-legged feline who can scale walls, pounce and swipe his claws at enemies.

Super Mario 3D World
Cat Mario’s claws aren’t sharp enough to climb walls forever sadly, and he’ll slide back down with visible scratch marks if you leave him hanging for too long

It brings a welcome sense of height and scale to the game, even though each course is still a strictly linear affair compared to the open worlds of Super Mario 64, and it makes Mario even more playful than before. Get your timing right and you could almost mistake 3D World for a third-person brawler in the way it allows you to string together different moves to take down your enemies. The cat suit is by far the most versatile power-up, but Nintendo’s made everyone more flexible this time round, as you can now spring upwards out of a butt-stomp alongside the usual long-jumps and back-flips.

Super Mario 3D World
The Double Cherry is another new power up, one that multiples the number of Marios you control

We were a little disappointed by the absence of Mario’s signature triple-jump, but the individual abilities of each playable character more than make up for it. For instance, Luigi can jump much higher than everyone, Peach can float for short periods of time, and Toad’s can race ahead thanks to his extra speed. Less forgivable is limiting Mario to a mere eight planes of movement rather than giving him the freedom of full analogue control. This is mostly to accommodate players using a Wii Remote in multiplayer, but it nevertheless feels like a step backward after running round spherical planetoids in Super Mario Galaxy.

You’ll also need to choose your multiplayer partners wisely, as play quickly descends into complete chaos if there’s a disparity in everyone’s skill level. This is fine if you’re having a laugh with the family, but it can make finding all the hidden extras frustrating if you’re playing a level for the first time and everyone’s barrelling ahead. The camera keeps track of whoever’s in front, so stragglers will be transported back to the fray via bubble if they get left behind.

Super Mario 3D World
You’ll need to work together to control new friend Plessie, as everyone can influence which route she takes

If you’re just playing through a level for fun, though, multiplayer is brilliantly competitive as players are ranked at the end of each level depending on how many points they’ve accumulated. The winner is then awarded a crown to wear in the next level, but they’ll need to make sure they keep hold of it as devious players can dethrone their companions at any time and steal the crown’s extra windfall of points in the process.

Had Nintendo managed to combine this kind of multiplayer madness with the same level of clever and inventive design it showed in Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario 3D World could have been the perfect melting pot of platforming excellence. As it stands, we feel it’s a little too firmly grounded in the ways of Super Mario 3D Land to deliver the same kind of impact we might expect from a Mario console title. It’s still a superb game, and one that will no doubt provide more fun and enjoyment than many of the new games arriving for other consoles this Christmas, but those hoping for a true Galaxy successor will have to wait a little longer.



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