To be brutally honest, the excitement of playing this latest reiteration in the Super Mario Bros. franchise waned just after I started it up. At first I was greeted by a familiar block layout from the initial level of the original Super Mario Bros. Nice. However, I couldn't help but wince at the overly gleeful rainbow facade (far outweighing that of previous Mario games), followed by a second wince after witnessing Koopa Troopers swinging their arms in time to the upbeat music, while background flowers pulsed to the beat.
In short order though, I managed to look past the lollipop sheen and became accustomed.
As I'm sure we all know, almost any game from the Mario franchise is going to be a pretty safe bet. And for me, as long as it doesn't involve Mario and the gang playing a game of tennis or kicking flaming soccer balls around, I'm going to waste a lot of time completing the game and all the side quests.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii lived up to my platforming expectations and as per usual, adds a few new elements in for good measure. Hrm… did I say "few"? I meant heaps
. You can now play Mario four-player; same screen, same level, same story. Mario has gone multiplayer.
How does it work? The camera zooms in and out depending on the characters' positions (which works surprisingly well), so there's no need to worry about being knocked off the edge by a closing camera view, instead you might as well blame Luigi - he'll most likely be the culprit, or was it one of the two Toads? You can choose to play co-op or change your mind halfway when you grab your "friends" with a quick shake of your Wiimote and throw them off the edge like the devious bastards I know you really are. Hinder or help - it's all up to you.
If you're a veteran Mario player you will probably skip the multiplayer and try to plow through the game without taking your finger of that coveted run button. But trust me, don't dismiss it yet. Just make sure you're last to the flagpole, get your timing right and get those fireworks. Or you can just take part in the coin battle mode (easily the best multiplayer game): Play through a level of your choosing and whoever has the most coins at the end is the victor, bragging rights and all. In saying that though, as with a lot of Wii games, stats are not saved after the game is over and no Mii can be selected and attached to your character during multiplayer, another oversight by Nintendo.
The basic game elements and layout directly follow from the DS version of the game, although I noticed a decidedly nostalgic Super Mario Bros. 3/Super Mario World feeling. Your level select screen finds you traversing eight quasi-3D maps complete with moving enemies, to both attack and block specific routes, and canons to shoot you to later worlds.
The levels and worlds are varied and creative enough that you're constantly battling new enemies while facing new and fresh challenges (with some worlds needing revisits to finish 100%). You can collect power-ups at mushroom houses and apply them when on the map screen (ala Super Mario Bros 3) allowing you to tactically reproach difficult stages. Among the best levels in the game are the dungeon levels of which some scroll vertical and appear a lot more sinister than we are used to in the world of Mario games.
But even in the wake of so much cool stuff on offer, it's not without disappointment, the biggest of which is the lack of controller support. You have no options other than the Wiimote sideways - NES style - or the strange option of Wiimote with nunchuk. The nunchuk option is useless providing nothing but an awkward way of playing. The classic controller has been left awry and is a strange and missed opportunity as the Classic Controller is much more comfortable and effective.
The controls remain relatively the same as all previous Mario games. Triple jump, spin jump, ground pound, wall jump - they're all here. Although this time the Wii's motion sensing controller is the only possible method to do a spin jump, pick up block, or execute certain power-up moves. You'll find the slightest movement causes your character to spin when you are about to execute an integral jump and you'll likely fall to your doom. The motion sensing controller is used more effectively in-game to rotate certain platforms all whilst still controlling your character and while I understand Nintendo's desire to utilise the Wii's motion controls in this way, it's unnecessary.
Several new power-ups, unseen before, give Mario a slew of new abilities to help you challenge the new character and level designs, including a propeller mushroom, ice flower and penguin suit. They all do exactly what you would expect them to and are all well executed. The ice flower for example, gives Mario balls of ice (insert pun here...) to freeze enemies with, using them as a floating platform when in water, or projectiles to hurl at enemies/friends. Adding more depth you can use it to extinguish flames or anything fire-based.
Nintendo are clever enough to know that nostalgia and Super Mario Bros are inseparable, and they have blended the two perfectly. All the aforementioned alterations have been incorporated whilst maintaining the core side-scrolling gameplay. Familiar bosses, level themes and characters all give us the chance to reminisce, which may be where a lot of the games appeal comes from. But really that's been the case with Mario platformers of late.
From an aural perspective, overall the sound offers a lot of rehashed classic Mario tunes, all of which sound great. The underworld music is awesome, but other music, such as a techno version of the invincibility tempo, seems a little odd and don't fare nearly as well amidst such classic bleeps and bops. There're plenty of familiar sounds, such as losing a life, power-ups, reaching the flagpole (and more), which have remained almost unaltered from their original midi forms.
New Super Mario Bros Wii - overall - is a brilliant platformer. The only real issue being a lack of controller options. It's been a long time coming and the inclusion of four-player multiplayer is just an added bonus when thinking about buying a game that you should own regardless. Now it's time for me to sit down with my all-Rush mix-tape, a two-litre bottle of Shasta and get to finishing 100%. If only Nintendo had some Xbox style achievement system, then someone might notice.