Super Mario 3D Land 3DS
The release of a new Mario platform game is cause for celebration, even at their worst they are still better than just about everything else in the genre. Super Mario 3D Land is no exception to this, although it does make some changes to the tried and tested formulas.
In the past the 3D Mario games have been different to their 2D counterparts in gameplay style. In 2D it’s always been about reaching the end of the level, whereas in 3D it was more about exploration and finding stuff. 3D Land does things a bit differently, with the core gameplay being more like the 2D games, whilst keeping some of the exploratory aspects of the 3D games. It’s a hybrid of the two styles that works well together. As someone who has always preferred the 2D games this is always what I wanted from a 3D Mario game. Better late than never, eh?
3D Land strikes the perfect balance between new and old, drawing on the franchise’s rich history to create quite possibly the best Mario game yet. Old favourites like the Tanooki suit and the fire flower sit comfortably alongside newer power ups like the propeller block, clearly inspired from the propeller jump in New Super Mario Bros Wii, and the all new boomerang suit. Old school level design blends seamlessly with newer elements from the Galaxy games to create some wonderfully well thought out levels. All your favourite bad guys are back too. Goombas, some with a Tanooki twist, Koopas, Bullet Bills, Dry Bones, and of course Bowser himself with a whole bundle of his kids, to make things hard for you, but not too hard to start off with.
Yes, things aren’t very hard in the beginning. Hardly a challenge at all, in fact, and as much as it is a joy to play you can’t help but feel it is a little bit too easy. This feeling continues throughout all of the game’s eight worlds, although some do start to get a bit tricky towards the end. It doesn’t help that Nintendo have thrown in their now usual aids if you die a certain amount of times on a level. Rather than have the game finish the level for you they have given us something different this time, the super Tanooki suit. This gives you all the powers of the regular Tanooki suit, but makes you indestructible. You can still fall off to your death though, so although the bad guys are nothing to worry about, you’ll still need to time your jumps well. If you still can’t finish a level with the Super Tanooki suit, well you probably deserve a slap round the head, but instead you’ll get a pair of wings which handily fly you right to the flagpole at the end. So you will never end up getting stuck on a level, which I suppose is a good thing if you are bad at games, but if you are that bad you probably shouldn’t be playing them anyway.
As you watch Bowser slowly fall in to the lava, pointlessly clawing at the air to halt his fall, you think it’s all over, Bowser is defeated yet again, Princess Peach is saved, what more could there be? Well that’s not the end, for the real hardcore Mario fans that is just the beginning. The eight worlds you found so easy first time around are remixed to provide an extra challenge. And this time it really is a challenge, there’s no helpful super Tanooki suits, and definitely no wings, this time you have to do it all yourself. If that wasn’t enough the difficulty has also been kicked up a notch or two. They are still essentially the same levels as first time round, but almost everything has been moved around in the levels to create a real challenge. They still start off easy, but by the time you reach the third world that massive stockpile of lives you racked up on the first playthrough will have shrunk considerably, and there’s a real chance you will never get to the end without losing them all.
One thing I’ve failed to mention so far is the game’s 3D. Well as they say, I’ve been saving the best bit till last. In 3D Land the 3D isn’t just a visual effect like in so many other games on the 3DS, this time it’s actually integral to the gameplay. It’s hard to envision without actually playing it, but the sense of depth really does make it easier to judge those all important jumps where you would be unsure you could make it on a 2D display. Not only that but it helps on some of the Escher like isometric mini levels you’ll find along the way where everything is not always as it seems. It is definitely the best use of 3D in a game yet, and hopefully the sign of things to come for future games on the 3DS.
So, another great Mario game, was there ever any doubt about it? Nintendo have given us something for everyone, an easy game for the youngsters and newcomers, which is hiding a serious old school hard platformer behind it for all us old grizzled gamers.