Eurogamer Expo 2011: Super Mario 3D Land
It must be pretty damn hard thinking of new ideas for a Mario game; you’d imagine all bases have been covered. We’ve had castles, galaxies, towns, volcanoes, shipwrecks, ice caverns, minigames, sports, submarines and sandstorms. We’ve had tropical paradises, magic carpet rides, rainbow roads, gusty gardens, underground caves, giant caterpillars, candy lands, libraries, never-ending staircases and clockwork worlds. We’ve had rockets, bunnies, mushrooms, haunted houses, toy towns, penguins, oak trees, Easter islands and towers made of honeycomb. We’ve had it all. This article might as well list the whole Mario universe, summarised at the end with Super Mario 3D Land contains X, Y and Z, with a little bit of C and V.
But then it’s not as simple as that. Super Mario 3D Land is a completely new 3D Mario game, from the minds behind platforming juggernauts Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, and quite (un)surprisingly, it somehow feels fresh and traditional.
And that tradition lies in the many staple Mario elements that we’ve come to know and love. Each of the four levels on show were littered with recognisable enemies, locations and objects, and nothing more familiar than the flagpole that beckoned at the end of each world. Just like in the original 2D games, the real challenge is getting to the top of the pole, using the environment to the best of your ability.
The levels were all surprisingly short – bite-sized nuggets of pure platforming nirvana. The inevitable influence of Super Mario Galaxy is noticeable in two levels especially – a boss battle in amongst airships and exploding cannons, and a puzzling world of floating platforms, unravelling before your eyes upon the press of a button. In this level, you must act quickly as these folding platforms come and go, with you constantly having to plan ahead. The visuals are suitably chunky like in Galaxy, with glowing borders working their magic once again. Mario is as plump as pie, and exaggerated proportions apply to all but the most body-conscious of goombas.
There is a great blend of 2D and 3D elements in the game, and the camera angles used are brilliant – one particular pipe room uses an isometric camera view in amongst a 2D world, and shows how a simple change of perspective can make something feel unique. Combined with the 3D autostereoscopic technology, it became effortless to perceive the depth of a dozen coins laid out in front of you, or precisely judge the pendulum swing of a spiked mace. Fireballs bounce back into the screen with aplomb, while later the ink from a Piranha Plant decorates your vision. At one point, a rectangular platform rotates full circle on a 2.5D plane, and suddenly such a simple mechanism has a new lease of life. It’s an effect to get used to, but one that puts a massive smile on your face every time it’s used.
No particularly original ideas stood out in the four worlds – well, they were probably all used up in Galaxy, but everything feels so joyous it’s hard to care. The return of the Tanooki costume was great to see, with one of the levels giving you full control over its abilities as your striped tail flaps in the wind and slaps foes. Marked ‘!’ boxes transport you rapidly through the air to nearby locations, with the camera panning to follow, giving you a new view on the world, and making further use of the 3D visuals.
Much like the original New Super Mario Bros for DS, Super Mario 3D Land doesn’t do a whole lot new, but what it does it does extremely well. The game felt polished and balanced, with mechanics we take for granted weighed to perfection – from jumping on a flying goomba to the temporary flutter of a Tanooki tail. Add in the subtle 3D elements that don’t resort to fist-through-the-screen novelty, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Mario controls really well, and the levels demoed suggest an abundance of variety, much like in the themed planets of Super Mario Galaxy.
Some may criticise Nintendo for resting on their laurels with this one, but Super Mario 3D Land is still shaping up to be a barrelful of fun. With its classy combination of 2D and 3D elements and trademark platforming brilliance, it’s impossible to doubt that this new Mario won’t succeed in shipping fun to the masses once again.