E3 is over, but that doesn’t mean Gamer Limit has ran out of things to cover!
New Super Mario Brothers Wii came as a surprise announcement for some, and a sigh of relief for others, who had heard the rumored confirmation leak some weeks ago. Many nostalgic gamers (myself included) have always wanted a traditional 2D Mario game that supported multiple players simultaneously. Although taking turns with 1-3 was fun, obviously no one wants to wait on the sidelines. Jump right in and find out if playing with 4 players is feasibly an option on a single screen.
As you can see above, the version we tested included 10 stages, all reminiscent of old Mario titles. I was able to get 3 stages in before the 20 minute timed demo build ended: the snow stage, a traditional Mario 1 stage, and the castle stage. Each had it’s own unique, yet nostalgically familiar feel. I played with 3 other strangers, all who were 18-ish, and very, very hyper. Player One was Mario; Player Two, Luigi; myself, as Player Three, had Blue Toad; and Player Four had Yellow Toad.
The controls were as simple as you can imagine. We held the Wii-mote to it’s side like an NES controller, and used buttons 1 and 2 to run, and jump. If you waggled the remote, you did a Smash Brothers-esque (and New SMB) spin punch. To those who are new to the New Super Mario Brothers series, various animation cues are taken from other Mario games. For instance, the Super Mario 64 wall-kick was there, as was the butt-slide when you fall down hills. All-in-all, I’d say New Super Mario Bothers Wii controlled as it should.
Whenever a player hits a block and earns a power up, one pops out for each player in play. Now, that doesn’t mean you automatically get one! Often times one of the other players would swoop in and steal my mushroom, just for points (teamwork!). Fireflowers were also in abundance, and given the fairly easy nature of the game, completely owned the level. If one player happened to find a secret pipe, the faster you got into it, the faster you come out at the bottom and can start grabbing the goods. If any player didn’t make it in a time-span of about 5 seconds, the level would just shift to the exit pipe anyways.
Now on to the nitty gritty: does multiplayer on a Mario game work? Well, yes and no. Often times players would jump on your heads, leaving you a bit disoriented, and stunned for half a second. In a platforming game, timing is everything, so it’s really hard to manage 3 other players who are entropically jumping around with their heads cut off. It almost turns into a strategy title: forcing you to plot out your next move, not only to avoid your enemies, but your friends as well.
Also, the game does that “de-power up half second freeze” whenever you’re hit, which is very jarring when you’re trying to make a precise jump. I hope they take that out in the final version, because while it’s nostalgic, if you’re playing with 3 other amateurs, they’re going to get hit a lot: meaning, lots and lots of freezing when you’re trying to jump around.
Still, 4-player multiplayer wasn’t unplayable, it just required some sort of unity between the players. If you had a “follow-the-leader” system, I’m sure this would be even more manageable. I still found myself having fun even if the other 3 players may or may not have been out to get me. Jumping around in classic fashion, with 3 other players yelling “get that mushroom! Stomp that guy!” was an experience in itself.
As a huge Super Mario World fan, I immediately recognized a few nostalgic designs. For instance, in the Koopa Kid castle stage, the boss entry door is the same bolted red design as is it is in Mario World. The actual boss fight itself was classically easy (and overkill with 4 players). In fact, I’d probably say it was easier than Super Mario World, but it was still fun.
Super Mario Brothers Wii didn’t blow me out of the water, but it was still fun. I found it taxing playing with 3 others who just liked to jump around with no goal, but I’m sure it’s more enjoyable with veterans. I have no idea what the staying power of New Super Mario Brothers will be. We were told by the demonstrator that more modes and levels would be available, which is a good sign. As it is, the game’s difficulty does no stem from the level designs or enemies: it’s from your own teammates!