New Super Mario Bros. Wii Review
Andre Segers
March 9, 2010, 1:09 am

GameXplain reviews single player and multiplayer separately
A fun, if familiar jaunt through the Mushroom Kingdom.

New Super Mario Bros Wii is a return to side-scrolling form for everyone's favorite plumber. Granted, we saw his 2D reappearance on the DS a few years back, but the consoles have always been his home. Of course, the main draw is that the game is playable with up to four people at the same time, but for now, let's discuss how this game plays as a single-player affair, much as the Mario series has long been known.

As soon as I began playing the game, I was instantly taken back to a simpler time. A time when proceeding through a level was as simple as moving right and camera control was never an issue. A time when story took a backseat to gameplay and a game was built around a small set of mechanics (i.e. run and jump.).  The simple gameplay offers an immediate gratification that many modern games don't quite grasp, in which nearly every action has an immediate effect on the surrounding world. In short, it's Mario, and that is both its greatest asset and greatest weakness.

While the game's predecessor was essentially an updated Super Mario Bros., the Wii edition plays more along the lines of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World in that it's less linear with a greater emphasis on exploration. The world map, which connects all of the game's levels, now offers numerous alternate paths accessible via secret exits sprinkled throughout the levels. On top of that, levels feature a much greater vertical density, complete with a flying power-up that enables high-altitude exploration. Speaking of which, NSMBW introduces a handful of new power-ups (alongside established classics, such as the mushroom or fire flower) that throw in a few twists. The previously alluded to Propeller Hat enables a player to take to the sky with a quick flick of the Wii Remote before either gently or violently drilling their way back to the ground. On the other hand, the Penguin Suit improves your swimming capabilities, which includes gliding along the surface, while enabling you to freeze enemies with ice balls.

Besides the new power-ups, nearly every level contains some unique gameplay mechanic that helps the game from wearing thin. Whether it's floating water bubbles that you can swim through, pesky sand storms that blow you around, or crazy Wii Remote-controlled tilting platforms, there's nearly always something new to play around. For everything new, there's also a throwback to a previous Mario, such as the return of the Mushroom Houses from Super Mario Bros. 3, though instead of a memory-based card-flipping game, they've been replaced largely by games that depend entirely on luck, resulting in a less engaging experience. Thankfully, Yoshi also makes his long-awaited return, enabling riders to jump higher, float further, and generally consume anything in their path. Sadly, the number of levels that contain him can be counted on one hand and he cannot be taken with you to other levels. 

The visuals, though technically adequate, lack the charm of the sprites used in older Mario titles or the elegance of Mario's latest 3D adventure. The environments often look more artificial (in that 'made out of plastic' kind of way) than they do alive, and it takes away some of the magic of Mario's world. Musically, the game's a bit of a mixed-bag as well. While it's always great to hear the return of some classic Mario tunes, such as the Doomship theme, the new tracks lack the pop and catchiness of the originals. Oh, and the game's main theme really starts to grate after the first few levels, although the enemies that dance in beat with the music is a nice touch.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a perfectly competent, if too familiar entry in the franchise. It actually does some interesting things never before seen in a Mario game, but lacks the soul that its predecessors did. Everything in the game is perfectly adequate, but little of it amounts to more, depriving New Super Mario Bros. Wii of feeling as fun or fresh as Mario's previous outings.

Cooperative gameplay has never been less productive.

While New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a passable single-player experience, it's an entirely different beast when playing with friends--even though everything but the number of players remains exactly the same. That's right, the entire game is playable by up to four people at a time, with the gameplay growing exponentially crazier and less predictable with each additional player. While the complaints I outlined in the single-player section hold true for multi-player as well, they're off-set by the ridiculous fun of playing with others. The game becomes a much more hectic free-for-all where your friends' actions are nearly indistinguishable from enemies--even if they don't intend to be. Let it be known that this game will destroy both friendships and relationships (I still love you mom!).
So if the levels themselves are identical, what makes the game play so differently? It all comes down to how the players interact with one another. Whether it's bounding off a friend's head, picking them up and tossing them into a bottomless pit, accidentally stealing all of the power-ups for yourself, or being gobbled up by a supposedly friendly Yoshi, you'll often find playing with others is more of a hindrance than it is a help. And yet, the game can be an absolute blast as long as you don't mind progressing through the game at a slower pace than were you playing by yourself.

Thankfully, the game features some unique concepts to help lessen the skill gap between players. The most obvious of which is the bubble mechanic. Basically, any player can--at any time--hop inside a bubble and float carelessly around the world while their teammates pick up the slack and actually finish the level. While it might seem like a cop-out, it can be instrumental in simply helping the group push forward, especially if one of your less gifted gaming friends gets stuck (they should have checked our V-Guide). The game also features a generous amount of lives, even awarding those who run out completely with five more after returning for the next level.

My only major complaint: after playing through the game a few times with friends, I really don't have much interest in revisiting Mario's world anytime soon. It's a joy while it lasts, but lacks the sheer re-playability of some of Mario's other multi-player outings, such as Mario Kart or Smash Bros.  A few additional modes could have gone a long way toward extending the replayability of the game, such as the oddly enjoyable Star Theif mode of the original New Super Mario Bros. But even so, it's a journey well worth taking if you have friends around--or better yet, your enemies.
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Background Check: Andre
The Mario series contains some of my favorite games of all-time, with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World being my personal favorites of the side-scrolling variety. However, while I'm not usually let down by a new Mario game, I was less than impressed with this game's predecessor, New Super Mario Bros (DS), due to its tired and uninspiring mechanics, worthless power-ups (the blue shell suit? Come on), and overall lack of difficulty. Strangely enough, perhaps this game's closest equivalent, when playing multiplayer at least, is another single-player turned multi-player adventure: Four Swords Adventures.

Similar Titles Played:

Super Mario Bros 3 - Loved

Super Mario World - Loved

New Super Mario Bros DS - Meh

Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures - Liked