New Super Mario Bros. Wii Review (Wii)
Posted by Jim Cook, Jan 11, 2010 20:23
It’s rare for a game to excel at entertaining both a lone player and a gathering of them, but New Super Mario Bros. Wii ("NSMB Wii" from here on) manages it. Combining a mix of traditional Mario platforming action with a few multiplayer versus modes and an interesting way of allowing cooperative play on the normal levels, NSMB Wii should thrill series veterans and still appeal to most newcomers.
find myself addressing two distinct audiences: One crowd that grew up playing classics like Super Mario Bros. 3 on the old 8-bit NES, and another audience that may not have even been alive when that game was released or simply didn’t have a game console at the time. I would like to give the first group a quick review that should help them: "It’s like Mario 3 and Super Mario World had a baby, updated the controls a little, changed a few power-ups, and then put the result on the Wii. It’s also easily on par with those classics, and you should go pick it up." The rest of this review will assume the reader has no clue what an old-school Mario game is like.
With that group taken care of, an explanation for the newcomers is in order. NSMB Wii is a side-scrolling platformer, where you hold the Wii Remote sideways and use its directional pad and buttons to move Mario and his friends from one end of the stage to the other. You’ll have to do a lot of running and jumping along the way, landing on top of various monsters, completing trick jumps, and collecting power-ups that give you new abilities. It starts off simple and adds complexity as you go, so most new players shouldn’t be overwhelmed and the manual and some unlockable tutorial videos can provide extra help.
That’s a very simple explanation, but NSMB Wii is a relatively simple game whose real depth lies in its creative level design. It may start off with basic plains and just a few platforms, but later on you’ll find yourself guiding Mario down a sand dune, or leaping from wall to wall, or even exploring a haunted house (complete with ghosts). Power-ups will give you new abilities so long as you can avoid being hit by enemies, including some classics that let you fling fireballs, ride atop Yoshi (a cute little dinosaur who can easily eat enemies Mario normally has trouble fighting), or briefly charge through enemies. These are joined by newer power-ups that let Mario fling ice balls, fly for short periods of time, or even partially turn into a penguin and belly-slide around on the ice (it’s more useful than it seems, in some stages). It’s pretty easy to learn, since new power-ups are introduced to the game at a gradual pace that ensures you have already mastered the previous ones.
After each stage, you’re allowed to explore a simple map that leads to other stages as well as bonus areas where you can collect additional power-ups as well as 1-ups; ’extra lives’ that let you retry a level if you fail to complete it. The game is reasonably generous with the former, and very much so with the latter, so it remains fairly challenging without becoming mean. And after every few stages, you get to enjoy a mini-boss or boss battle where make your way through a castle and confront its leader, who requires several hits to defeat and has unusual attacks you must learn to avoid. This process of clearing a few normal levels and facing off against a boss repeats over several ’worlds’; collections of about a half-dozen stages apiece, so the game should last you a fair while.
While most of what I just said describes any given Mario game of this type, there are two major things that make NSMB Wii different from previous Mario side-scrollers: The addition of true multiplayer modes, and limited use of the Wii Remote’s motion controls. The motion controls are pretty simple and done in an intuitive way so they don’t become annoying, with things such as flicking your Remote upward to start flying with Mario’s propeller hat (then keep pumping it to increase his air-time), or tilting the controller sideways to balance a see-saw you’re on. Rather than trying to add motion controls in every place they could, Nintendo has wisely used it to add just a few new elements to the classic Mario game play and it works out very well.
The multiplayer modes deserve special mention. The main mode is co-op play with up to three other friends (for a total of four players), where Mario, Luigi, and a pair of Toads (short, mushroom-hat-clad people) can team up to take on the stages of the main game. This has its benefits and drawbacks, with the main perks being that you can use teamwork to handle problems and use your extra lives right where you died; a lone player has to return to the level’s mid-point instead. On the other hand, the team can easily get in one another’s way and cause themselves more problems than they solve... something the back of NSMB Wii’s box seems to encourage. There are also a pair of versus modes, one where you race one another to see who can grab the most coins and defeat the most enemies while completing the stage, and another where you fight one another while trying to grab coins and avoid dying. These are all at least reasonably interesting additions to a Mario game, though it’s just as well that a lone player can enjoy most of NSMB Wii just fine. The only strike against all this is there is no online play, which is unfortunate but can be tolerated.
NSMB Wii adds up to being a classic Mario side-scrolling platformer with a few new twists, and the ability to simultaneously play with a few friends. It starts off simple, then adds more depth through various power-ups and excellent level design to make things more challenging. While I wouldn’t recommend it to those who find virtually any conventional video game to be too hard, I certainly do recommend it to nearly everyone else. Fans of classic Mario gaming will find a lot to like here, and newcomers should be just as thrilled. The only ways NSMB Wii could have been better were if it was a little longer and had it been a launch title. Regardless, NSMB Wii justifies its $50 price tag!
Rating: 5.0, votes: 2