February 22, 2010
I'll get a new game and play it to death, taking an hour every day or two (or four or five hours if we happen to have a few snow days) until I'm good and done with the game, rarely to pick it up again except for a nostalgic play or two months or even years later.
In the past year to so, I've gone through Mario Kart and Tiger Woods '10. Now I'm almost through with Super Mario Bros. Wii, and I can safely say that it's a hell of a game, another in the outstanding line of the Mario franchise.
The basics of game play stay largely the same as they have been since Super Mario Bros. for the NES - you start on the left and run to the right (with occasional levels of climbing to the top) in standard side scrolling fashion, but to call it an old-school side-scroller would be to sell it woefully short as the Nintendo crew have added dozens of outstanding new wrinkles to this one.
The wrinkle that I actually enjoy the least is the most typically Wii aspect to the new game, the multiplayer format. The Girl and I played together for the first third of the game or so (through three of the nine worlds), and I found the teamwork aspect more frustrating than helpful throughout. There were a number of times when one player would be trying a particularly challenging stage and would be impeded by the other player. They have provided a method through which a stronger player can assist a weaker through by allowing the weaker player to hop into a bubble in which they are impervious to damage and unable to affect the game in any way until the other player bumps into them. It's a neat creation, but I enjoyed the two-thirds of the game play that I went through solo much more than I did working as a team.
There are certain skills that can only be accomplished with teamwork, but there is nothing in the game that can't be achieved playing solo. It might be a little more entertaining to make it through with four players, but I prefer the solo options.
The other additions to the game - new penguin and flying suit costumes for the players - are far more useful and well integrated into the flow of the game. The game includes a number of levels that are most easily played with particular power-ups (penguin suit, fire flower, shrinking mushroom, etc), but in almost every case, the level can be solved without that particular power-up - just not quite as easily. With the increased options in power-ups, players are able to attempt each level in dozens of new ways.
As the levels become more difficult and - correspondingly more frustrating - the game doesn't force players to attempt the same levels over and over and over until the game is simply put away, never to be solved, instead they have added in what they refer to as a super guide in which - after a player dies eight straight times on any one level - a green power-up block with appear allowing the player to have a computer-contrlled Luigi show the way through the level. The Luigi won't show any secret rooms or find any of the super coins - more on them in a moment - but it will allow the player to progress beyond the most frustrating levels without giving up on the game entirely. It's a great option and one I took advantage of on one of the most challenging levels.
The super coins also allow for further game play, with three on each game level - some in very obvious locations, some hidden in deviously challenging but hinted-at locations. None of the super coins have to be gotten in order to beat the game, but a secret ninth world appears which can only be played once all of the super coins from a particular world are found and retrieved. This let me get through many of the levels without paying any attention to these super coins but gave me something to go back through and play the levels once I could take the time to work through each level with increased skills.
Admittedly, the existence of a fully complete walkthru on IGN made finding a number of these coins far easier - or in some cases possible - than they would ever have been otherwise, but I'm okay with using a walkthru like that. To me, it's not cheating because I'm the only one playing here. If I want to use hints, I'm going to use them.
All in all, it's a great game and one that - as the Wikipedia entry quotes Nintendo Power in saying - "works as a sequel because it maintains what made the original Mario games great while adding new features".