Sometimes reinventing the wheel isn't necessary. Sometimes just giving the wheel a nice spit-and-polish is all that is needed to make the wheel seem shiny and new and tons of fun. As old as the wheel might be, even if it, horror of horrors, is from the 8-bit world, it can still sometimes be tweaked and updated to be wonderful on the consoles of today. Case in point – New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
For this entry into the venerable Mario franchise, the series has been converted from the 3D version we've gotten used to seeing on home consoles (save the Paper Mario series) back to a 2D side-scroller (Super Mario Galaxy 2, which is scheduled to be released next year, is going to be 3D). It's a change that hearkens back to Mario's early days (and the New Super Mario Bros. for DS, which though it has a similar name to this game, isn't the same). It also lends an air of nostalgia to the game. The fact that worlds are labeled old-school style with the traditional 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, etc. only further enhances the nostalgic effect.
Make no mistake however, this is not the same Super Mario Bros. that was originally released on the NES. Levels still end with jumping on a flag and heading into a castle, and the set-up of some levels may look similar, but it is not the same game. Where it was possible to breeze through Super Mario Bros. (and even Super Mario Bros. 3 if one used a flute or two) in a single sitting, New Super Mario Bros. Wii will take far, far more time and be far, far more difficult. It is, however, time well spent.
Following in the footsteps of the latter 2D Mario games, this one features maps of the various worlds Mario visits, as well as, occasionally, the opportunity to choose which level within a world one will visit (multiple paths sometimes exist). As the game is so enjoyable though, the odds are that anyone playing will want to visit every single level available for play.
The gameplay itself unfolds just as one would expect from a 2D side-scroller. More often than not, Mario will start on the left side of the screen and have to progress to the right over the course of the level. Every few levels, Mario meets up with one of the Koopalings, who, in truly dastardly fashion have dared to kidnap Princess Peach on her birthday. Mario also comes face-to-face with tons of other old enemiess – Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Hammer Bros., Piranha Plants, and Dry Bones to name a few.
The levels are not only filled with enemies however; several other elements combine to make the game an often difficult one to progress through gracefully. Levels have plenty of moving (back and forth, up and down, and rotating) parts that Mario has to run on, jump off of, avoid completely, and any other possible combination one can imagine. Few of the worlds actually progress as simple point A to point B runs, as there is always a trick and always the huge potential for loss of plumber life.
While it might be wrong to suggest that the game is very hard, it is certainly tricky and certainly harder than many (maybe all) of Mario's other adventures. The one disappointment in this aspect are the battles with the Koopa kids who are not particularly worthy of being "bosses."
Mario does have some new tricks up his sleeve though. This game not only has power-ups we've seen before (stars, fire flowers, etc.), it also features new ones like a Penguin Suit and a Propeller Suit. The former of these allows Mario to fly briefly while the latter allows him to slide and throw snowballs (snowballs can also be tossed if Mario has received an ice flower power-up). The game also includes something called the Super Guide which can be activated after dying enough times on a particular level. Once active, Luigi will appear as an NPC and finish the level for the player (the player can take over for Luigi, but Luigi cannot be reactivated). Luigi won't find all the secrets on his way through the level, but one can get a good idea for where things are, and one can replay the course after Luigi has completed it. The Super Guide is a good addition to the game, one which helps broaden the age ranges who can successfully play the game. Some may see it as cheating, but, if used by one who doesn't actually need it, they're only really cheating themselves (and it will cost them a whole lot of lives to boot). Video tutorials can also be accessed to help players, but they have to be earned.
One of the other fantastic additions to the game is the ability to play simultaneous multiplayer. Up to four people can sit in front of a single Wii, all playing the game at the same time – one as Mario, one as Luigi, and two as Toads. While this mode can be a huge amount of fun, anyone that actually wants to progress in the game should avoid the mode – getting other people to do what one wants them to do when one wants them to do it in the game is not easy. Additionally, the game will zoom in and out (only so far) as players come together and separate – if one player causes the game to zoom out as another is trying to execute a tricky jump, the jumper will almost certainly fail.
Playable with either the remote alone or remote and nunchuk and complete with good graphics, peppy Mario music, a fast pace, tons to do, and containing a great formula at its center, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is an outstanding game. It is nice to know that Mario still has a place in this world, and that even when he's in a game which consciously looks to his past, he still seems a few steps ahead of everyone else.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief.
five stars out of five