I have been a Mario fan my whole life. I clearly remember the first time I saw him scuttle across a TV screen when I was five, have been hooked ever since. I remember when Mario Bros. 3 was revealed to American audiences through the Fred Savage film, The Wizard. I remember seeing a picture of the graphics for the SNES Super Mario World and rushing to show both my parents, as if they cared at all or even understood what they were seeing. Teen years were spent perfecting skills in Mariokart, and college years involved a lot of Mario Parting. Needless to say, I’m somewhat of an expert when it comes to the plucky little pipe plunger. Last March, I gambled on an expensive experiment in gaming and bought a Nintendo 3DS. I was thrilled by the idea of glasses free 3D gaming. Despite a small number of games at launch, I was confident that my favorite game company, besides CAPCOM that is, would not disappoint me. I am glad to report that I was correct. I had already been wowed by The Starfox 64 and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time remakes, but I needed something new. Mario 3D Land offers just that.
The game was released on November 13, 2011. It plays like a cross between the Mario Galaxy series and the New Super Mario Bros games. Some level are classic linear side- scroll, while others are top view or just third person open world levels. The story is nothing new. Bowser kidnaps the Princess Peach and Mario must travel through eight worlds to save her. Classic enemies like Goombas and Koopas inhabit the world. A new enemy, the Inky Piranha Plant, spits ink into the foreground and blocks the player’s view, which is extremely effective in 3D. Like in many Mario games before it, the final level in each world is a castle or airship. Sounds like a pretty run of the mill Mario game, but it is the 3D perspective that really sets it apart from predecessors. I’ve always believed that a good Mario game should cause vertigo. Almost missing jumps and plummeting to my virtual death has always caused my stomach to dizzily curl up. In this game, I can actually see the depths of my falls. Sometimes the falls are about 50 yards or more. I get the queasy sensation of going over the first hill on a rollercoaster. There are times when obstacles like giant spiked rods extend from the furthest background to the foreground. Sometimes in top view levels, Mario seems to jump up out of the screen, or there will be six or more Goombas stacked on top of each other to give the same effect. Many levels have binocular stations were Mario switches into a first person view. The gamer then needs to move the gyroscopic 3DS system itself around like a real pair of binoculars to find hidden items in the game. Large spiked balls roll toward Mario and the gamer in third person perspectives to get almost uncomfortably close. There are too many tricks to list in a simple review, but rest assured that there is not a single level that isn’t constantly throwing them at the gamer. That being said, if the 3D view is too much for players or causes headaches, it can be turned off at any time. I played a few levels without it, and found that I didn’t notice it was off until I happened upon a partially neat effect that would have looked better in 3D. Yet, the 3D dynamics are not the only worthy aspects of the game. New power-ups like the boomerang suit allow gamers to take out enemies with a new strategy than merely throwing fireballs, which are also in the game. The Tanooki suit from SMB3 returns and allows players to hoover a bit. This becomes very impressive when the next platform is way below the first. Super Mushrooms and invincibility stars are also abundant. One of the most refreshing things about Mario 3D Land is that it is not meant to drive you crazy with frustration like some previous titles in the franchise. At first, I though the game was a little too easy, but soon found myself grunting as I got too close to a baddie or gasp as I missed my platform and hurdled to my death. The game is very 1-up happy. Playing through a level yields at least two extras lives each play, so even the worst of players should be able to rack up lives. This makes the game accessible to player of any age. All in all, I love this game and already consider it one of my favorite Mario experiences. I am elated to give this game such a positive review.
I hope I will be able to report a similar review next week when I tackle The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.