Super Mario 3D Land
On a dark and stormy night, when only the shrill sounds of the wind and the rain streaked across the slopes of Mushroom Kingdom, the sounds of laughter break through. Bowser’s kidnapped Princess Peach so many times, this new iteration of Mario skips over the abduction and goes straight to Mario’s discovery that crime is afoot. Mario games, discounting his parties and efforts at sport, tend to function along the same path. His adventure is a nostalgiac one with levels that pattern themselves off of classic Mario games, creating a simple, yet engaging platformer.
It’s a new Mario title, but it feels like more of an homage to the old classics than it is a spin-off of any of the new. Boss battles borrow, and build, off the mechanics in the first Super Mario Bros., while the tanooki suit of number three is everywhere. The game, much like Sonic Generations, is built off of nostalgia, only the foundation for Mario is much more solid. There is a lot borrowed from the old to create new experiences, providing a lot of variety as you travel between various worlds on your quest to save the princess.
At first the controls seem a little off. Not necessarily because they’re bad, but rather because Mario seems a little heavier in his movement than in his Wii adventures. Cake overeating theories aside, this weight gives a tightness to the controls that goes along with the smaller level design. The areas that you traverse are less like platforms and more like a series of narrow catwalks and ledges, providing just enough depth for Mario to utilize the third dimension.
And the 3D works. Now, it’s not the kind of 3D functionality that will set the world on fire and end all arguments on whether extra dimension will add to the gaming experience. It’s a subtle flavoring, like seasoning to a salad, that emerges every now and again to delight and surprise. The positioning of the camera, along with the layout of the levels help push the 3D every now and again. One of the more clever designs is in the form of special bonus rooms. With only two dimensions it would look as though you’re seeing a pyramid of blocks, but add in that third dimension and it’ll become clear that one of these blocks is in fact a dislodged floating platform.
The one thing that has always been consistent amongst Mario games is the challenge they present. There’s an always present learning curve that starts out low, accepting all gamers, and slowly but surely builds itself up. While Super Mario 3D Land could hardly be considered a difficult game, it’s definitely not a walk in the park. Simple jumping from platform to platform becomes a lot trickier when the pieces are rotating, the floor is disappearing and tanooki bullet bills are being launched at you from the distance.
While this game doesn’t play itself for you, if the going gets tough, or allow you to skip parts of the level, there is a crutch system built into the game. Lose a few lives (five) in a row on one level without reaching a checkpoint, and when you start up again you’ll find yourself standing next to a new item block. Pop the block and a golden tanooki leaf appears, which renders you invincible for the rest of the level. No goomba, no koopa, no thwomp can stop you; only your own clumsiness can lead to death. There’s always a need for quick victories, but it seems like something that makes the more challenging sections too easy. Like there’s no need to learn from failure.
Although there’s a reason for that. Super Mario 3D Land is a game for everyone, young or old, casual or hardcore. It’s an easy game to get into and an easy game to latch onto. The levels are inventive, colorful and varied, constantly providing a new experience at each turn. It’s a fun, polished game, but then it’s a Mario, and I’d have expected nothing less.