E3 2009: The Five: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
The 10-Cent Tour: Mario returns to his two-dimensional roots with a new focus on multiplayer mayhem in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
1. The game seems to combine the best bits from old Mario games. You can pick up fellow players and throw them, evoking Super Mario Bros. 2. There's the idea of transformational suits from Super Mario Bros. 3 (more on those below). Mario and friends have the spin jump from Super Mario World and the butt-stomp from Super Mario 64. Yoshi can eat item-granting berries as in Super Mario World, and has his mid-air flutter jump from Yoshi's Island. It's like Mario's greatest gameplay hits.
2. It's not all old stuff, though -- there's all-new stuff, too. Most notable are the new suits: a Propeller Suit that sends you spinning skyward with a shake of the Wii Remote, and a Penguin Suit that lets you quickly slide along the icy levels on your belly. There's also a new Ice Flower that turns enemies into temporary frozen platforms. The Remote's motion sensor is used occasionally to tilt platforms or point spotlights in dark caves. And, of course, the ability for four players to play simultaneously is a first for the series (and a throwback to the two-player cooperation of the original Mario Bros. arcade game).
3. That multiplayer mode can be incredibly competitive -- my 15-minute demo with three strangers from the E3 show floor quickly turned into a trash-talking, player-throwing battle to collect the most coins, stomp the most enemies, and stay alive longer than the competition. But the game can work cooperatively too, as it did in a later two-player demo in which my partner and I coordinated moves and bounced off each others' heads to get to hard-to-reach areas and coins.
4. That said, my short time with the single-player mode was kind of boring. Maybe it was the quick E3 demo environment; maybe it was the specific level I was playing; maybe it was the cruel passage of time -- but I just didn't get the same sense of magic and exploration that I felt with the classic Mario games of old. The improved multiplayer experience makes it even more disappointing that the game has no online play options of any kind.
5. The game has some incredibly vibrant and varied level design. Each of the 10 levels at the E3 demo seemed full of moving parts, including rotating circular platforms; giant interlocking gears; deadly, gigantic falling Thwomps; floating, tilting platforms; lava-traversing boats and more. There will be over 80 levels in all, which director Shigeru Miyamoto says will range from simple to challenging for even experienced players.
The Crispy Forecast: Hard to see this being a huge hit with lonesome players, or a party-time replacement for the likes of Rock Band, but siblings, couples and families will have loads of fun working with (or against) each other to complete this old-school adventure.
This preview is based on a hands-on demo of the game at E3 2009.
Check out more previews from E3: