Thursday, 1 December 2011

Review: Super Mario 3D Land

It's often said that to see what a new Nintendo console can do you look at what they achieve with their flagship enterprise, Super Mario, so does Super Mario 3D Land light a beacon for the 3DS's future? The game is split up into eight worlds and each world contains five to eight sections overall giving you 48 levels to play through, each with three hidden stars to collect. After you have 'completed' the game for the first time you unlock 48 special levels, which are based on the original levels. The special versions vary from very similar to wildly different as enemies, items and even the level design are changed to different extents. The special levels also include new items such as the statue leaf that allows you to turn to stone whilst falling and poison mushrooms that power you down. Like in previous iterations of the series Mario can attain Power-ups like the Tanooki (Raccoon) Leaf, Boomerang Flower and the Fire Flower.
Many of the core mechanics stay the same.
The graphics are bright and beautiful in their simplicity, with blocks of colour and smooth surfaces, giving the game an aesthetic somewhere between Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 64. Levels vary a lot from flying ships to haunted houses but I never found myself astounded by what I saw and whilst it is always obvious where you have to go levels could feel like a collection of idea rather than a cohesive environment. The 3D of the game isn't too overwhelming and in general works really well. In blockbuster films they often really shove the 3D in your face with stuff flying at or away from you but for the most part the 3D is subtle and more about level design than cheap thrills. Whilst 3D games are nothing new actually being able to see them in 3D really helps with the general mechanics of the game though you can play this without it and you wont lose much of the experience.
The game is littered with items and secrets.
The boss fights are disappointing and repetitive with only three characters arranged in a variety of ways over 18 encounters; Bowser, Boom-Boom and Pom-Pom aren't enough to keep boss fights interesting. The Bowser fights always involve you traversing obstacles and dodging fireballs to get to a button to drop him in lava and you always have to jump on the other two's heads three times, with only environmental changes to make any differences. Yet again the story revolves around Peach being kidnapped and Mario having to go save her, so there is nothing new here, and it's barely worth mentioning. If they never plan to add any story they should get rid of the cut-scenes altogether as they don't add anything to the experience and have been done to death over the series' lifespan.
Underwater and sliding levels add variety.
There is a lot to love in Super Mario 3D Land; the animations, the sound effects and the music all combine together to make a wonderful experience, that Nintendo have perfected over the years, but it never really pushes the boat out. It may sound like I am being negative but despite all the downsides I really enjoyed my time with this game as it has some really fun levels and a lot of character. Just because it is suitable for kids, and aimed at all ages, doesn't mean it should be considered a child's game and however manly you think you are you will still enjoy playing it. Super Mario 3D Land is a good game though I think that both the developers and the 3DS system can do better. Whilst it's set quite a high benchmark I don' think it will take long to be beaten; it's arguably already been surpassed by The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but do we count remakes?

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