Game: Super Mario 3D Land
Available on: Nintendo 3DS only
How do you solve a problem like the Nintendo 3DS? It is clearly a superb device with potential through the roof, but a price drop caused by poor sales has done the 3DS no favours from the consumer point of view and gamers are still complaining about the lack of games. Just what were Nintendo to do? Mario of course; the answer is always Mario. Nintendo announced titles containing most of their stable of favourites; Luigi’s Mansion 2, Mario Kart 7 and of course, Super Mario 3D Land.
Can Mario yet again be all things to all people?
I bet you can’t guess what has happened to Princess Peach of the Mushroom Kingdom. Yes, that (expletive deleted) Bowser has yet again kidnapped the princess, causing Mario to have to run the length and breadth of the world to rescue her, having all manner of japes and larks along the way. The story has been told a few times now and the twist this time around is that super leaves have blown across the land, falling from a tree that has been ripped out of Princess Peach’s castle-grounds during a storm. As usual Bowser leaves Mario a note, and Mario sets off once again to rescue his would-be sweetheart.
Tanooki suits are the order of the day and you’ll be spending a lot of time in them if you are a half-decent player. Despite not having been in any other game apart from Super Mario Bros. 3, the Tanooki suit feels like an old friend returning; you’ll love every moment in the suit. This isn’t the only suit to return, as you’ll also get to play around in suits like the traditional fire flower, as well as the invincibility that comes from collecting a star. The only other suits you’ll get to use are a boomerang suit (but this isn’t nearly as prevalent as the other suits) and a helicopter block-hat suit, which is ace fun and makes for some great fun on certain levels.
Up until this point, you could be forgiven for thinking that Super Mario 3D Land sounded like any other Mario game to date, but you would be dead wrong. For years, the star of Super Mario titles has been the titular Mario himself, but this time the star of the show is the level design.
All the superlatives in the world cannot do justice to the sheer design genius on display throughout the entirety of this title. From level 1-1 to the very last time you’ll fight Bowser, the levels are designed with such care and attention to detail that you’ll almost shed tears at the beauty. The move to a fully 3D enabled world is justified over and over again as you find a sneaky little hole containing the final of the three coins you were hunting for, that was hidden by the 3D geometry. It will make you smile so much that it’ll hurt.
It may at first appear that it is simply a case of being able to move in and out, instead of just side-to-side, but this isn’t actually new. Modern Mario titles have been fully 3D for a while now (Mario Sunshine, Galaxy etc) but Super Mario 3D Land is up there with the best of them in terms of how the levels reveal themselves to you. The simplicity of the single touch for the stored power-up on the bottom screen, the two button run and jump gameplay, it all just works so well. Even the new additions are marvelous. There are binoculars attached to the floor in some levels which you can control with the motion controls of the 3DS (if you want to, you can just use the circle-pad) and you can zoom in and out to find Toad, who will then lead you to a secret, or throw you an extra life. Nobody makes platforming games like Nintendo. Nobody.
But it isn’t just the level design that has had care and expertise lavished upon it, far from it. A common complaint from 3DS users is that they find the 3D effect itself is too strong. Indeed, most people will say “I turn it off”, but in Super Mario 3D Land you’ll happily be able to play the entire 8 worlds from start to finish with the 3D slider fully on. In fact, you’ll want to play it like this because it looks so incredible. The visuals are easily some of the best on the device to date, and wouldn’t look out of place as a fully fledged Nintendo Wii title.
In a similar manner to Sonic Generations, a lot of the music is reimagined from older titles, but given a modern twist, as are the sound effects. The now familiar cry as you fall to your death, or as you jump atop the “goal” pole (steady on boys) are all present and correct and like pretty much everything else in the entire game, are all there with the absolute aim of creating fun for the gamer, whilst making them smile.
Frustration begone, due to the magnificence of the level design, there isn’t really any trial and error as such. If you die, it’s your fault. An unfortunate by-product of this is that the game is rather easy. It would be horrible to spoil the surprise waiting for players when they complete the 8 worlds on offer, but the incredulity that you have finished it with 100+ lives (it’s really that easy) will subside when the curtain is unveiled on the real Super Mario 3D Land, the one that will pose a far greater challenge and that will keep you playing for much longer.
As with previous titles in the franchise, there are 3 coins to collect on each level which form the currency that allows you to unlock further, non-essential levels. You probably won’t get all of them first time around, but you’ll definitely return to collect them just to savour the levels again. This isn’t the only throwback to the past though and the very first ever pixelated Mario that shows your progress on the side-scrolling world map reminds us all of exactly how far we’ve come.
Somehow Nintendo have managed to make a game that looks like a 3D Mario game, but plays like a 2D one. The controls are responsive and more precise than ever, which is of huge importance, as all the skills in the world can’t save a game that plays badly. Thankfully, Super Mario 3D land plays like a dream.
VERDICT: There is so little to complain about in Super Mario 3D Land (aside from the actual title of the game itself) that it really is a rip-roaring recommendation for all gamers and not just owners of the 3DS. Yes, it is very easy for the first 5 or so hours and this may make people feel a little concerned, but there is a lot of game here and it really is the best that the genre has to offer. If you need it to, Super Mario 3D Land will remind you why you love gaming again. In a world where grit and drama are lauded for advancements to the art-form, this is the antidote, yet in itself it is a phenomenal achievement on every level.
Come for the Mario, stay for the exquisite level design, visuals and audio with near-perfect controls. This is the best platform title released on any device this year and a reason to own a Nintendo 3DS. If you already own one however, you finally get to say “I told you so”.