New Super Mario Bros. Wii Review

By Rob Manuel - Posted Nov 13, 2009

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a love note to the 2D series, and in that sense, it evokes the wonderful splendor of the game's past. Enemies long forgotten and mechanics which kept this plumber employed even during the hard times are all present in this title. However, Mario is not without his missteps.

The Pros
  • Old-Fashioned Platforming
  • Old-Fashioned Difficulty
  • Some Inspiring Levels
The Cons
  • Multiplayer feels tacked on
  • Controls are not always spot-on
  • Uneven Difficulty
  • Some Not-So Inspiring Levels

It’s good to know that some things never change. Mario jumps. He lands on platforms and enemies. Occasionally, he throws fireballs.   If you’ve been playing with Mario since the days of blowing on your cartridge, then New Super Mario Bros. Wii will feel just like throwing on a Members Only jacket. The game retains every part of what made the original great -- solid platforming, the need for precise timing, and just enough whimsy to make falling down the same pit for the tenth time hurt a little bit less. While the idea of hitting a series of jumps or waiting for the perfect moment might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there are still enough of us out there who remember the joys of the original Super Mario Bros.

New Super Mario Bros.

It’s a… You-Know-Who.

That’s not to say that Mario hasn’t learned a thing or two during all that platforming. Moves that have become the staple of Mario titles such as the triple jump and the butt stomp make their return in this title. New items such as the ice flower and penguin suit give the game a nice twist. When hit with frozen balls, enemies become solid blocks ice that you can pick up and throw. Enemies can also freeze in midair or float to the surface when you’re underwater, which leads to some rather fancy platforming problems. The Propeller Suit, on the other hand, flings you straight into the air with a shake of the Wiimote. Unlike the Raccoon Suit or Feather Cape featured in previous iterations, this over-powered beanie lacks the delicate control that would make this power-up anything more than a “skip over this pit” gimmick.

There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to understanding the physics of Mario in this game. Years of fatty mushrooms have finally caught up with our plumber. Think of Mario as a lead locomotive -- slow to start but hard to stop once he’s moving. Different surfaces have different amounts of friction, and there’s no telling what it may be until you land on it. There were too many times where Mario would hit a new surface and not stop. Instead of nailing that dismount, you’ll often be greeted with an exaggerated sliding animation before hitting one of those bottomless pits that the series is so famous for. In a game that’s all about control, it’s frustrating when you can never quite tell how he’ll land.

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On the Level

The real star of the game is not Mario, but the levels. Most of the time you’re looking for your next clod of solid ground, developers over at Nintendo have tried to make those clods as fun as possible. Some of the levels really have some ingenious mechanics behind them. You’ll swim through floating globes of water, ride on the backs of flying stingrays, and travel on rafts where you control your only source of light in the level. Unfortunately, not all the levels have the same attention to detail or quirky fun to them. You’ll often pass from left to right without batting an eyelash. While difficult at times, the levels never feel as though you’re applying what you’ve learned from previous rounds. Even the Koopa kids can be a bit uneven at times -- their mid-level base is much harder to beat than their final fortress. While looking back on the game, I remember enjoying my trip through the Mushroom Kingdom, but only a few of the levels stand out as truly innovative.

After E3, many people thought of New Super Mario Bros. Wii as the game that plays itself. It doesn’t really work like that. The “Super Guide” skips players over bits that they just cannot get around such as a tricky jump or past a nasty enemy. After the seventh death (yes, seven), a green block appears at the beginning of the stage that let you watch Luigi play through the level with the minimum amount of effort. He won’t go for coins or 1-Ups, but he will get you past those sticky spots. It’s a crutch, but it’s only temporary. Players under a certain level won’t be able to coast through the game. Those who are veterans of the series will probably turn up their noses in disdain. There’s an odd midrange of players who might actually take advantage of the Super Guide – most likely those who only need a little bit of help and aren’t afraid to ask for it.

New Super Mario Bros.

Playing with Fiends

Just like Zelda with Four Swords, Mario wants to bring you and three of your friends to the adventure. Moving people in and out of the main game is easy and there’s a separate Free-Play mode as well as a Coin Battle mode. But playing through the main game with a friend can be more of a challenge than it’s worth. In boards that often require you to hit jumps with less than an inch to give and a second to spare, a second body can become dead weight. The camera stretches out, but only so far. With two people, one person often acts as the lead while the second person just tries to survive. If they try for more than that, you end up watching at a comedy of errors. There’s little in the way of cooperation here, since all of the obstacles the game throws at you can be handled by one person. In Four Swords, you needed those extra people to by pass blocks or help with enemies. Here, a second person acts as more of an anchor than a companion. 

Multiplayer isn’t without its upside. When you don’t have to pass the level, elbowing your friends or arguing about who will talk to the ice flower makes for an enjoyable couple of minutes. The specially made Coin Battle levels, all five of them, are actually really fun to play with a couple of people. If nothing else, you have to check out their homage to the original level in Super Mario Bros. My only wish is that Nintendo made special co-op levels that required multiple players or at least adding in elements to the single player campaign that made the use of multiple players a necessity instead of a liability. As it is now, you’re better off beating the game by yourself to unlock levels for your multiplayer parties.

New Super Mario Bros.

Almost Super


New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a love note to the 2D series, and in that sense, it evokes the wonderful splendor of the game’s past. Enemies long forgotten and mechanics which kept this plumber employed even during the hard times are all present in this title. However, Mario is not without his missteps. The game’s multiplayer mayhem, varying difficulty, and sometimes uninspiring level design hurt the experience. It’s built on one of the most sound foundations you can get, but it really makes me hungry for the next Mario title to come out.

 

Interested to hear what reviewer Rob Manuel had to say after the review was said and done? Check out the video below where he sits down with Adam Sessler to discuss New Super Mario Bros. Wii and his review!

Adam Sessler and Reviewer Rob Manuel Talk About New Super Mario Bros. Wii