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SummaryHonestly, this is the best "straight up platformer" in years and years, and the first step up for the 2D mario formula in just as long.
- Classic Mario style is still fun
- Responsive controls
- Tons of variety and creativity in levels
- Impressive technicals for a handheld
- Perfectly balanced platforming
- Rewards exploration, without losing focus
- Actually feels somewhat fresh compared to more recent "Classic" style Mario games
- Just plain fun
- No 2 player option :(
- Some odd usage of 3D can sometimes lead to unfair tricks and deaths
- Worlds aren't as long as in some other classic style Mario titles
- Have to beat the game twice to get to play as Luigi
- None of the fun minigames found in other recent Classic style Marios
The Bottom LineDo I need to explain Super Mario, or why his games are so darned popular? It's as simple as this: They are just plain old fashioned fun. I, like many others, was happy when they released New Super Mario Bros. for the DS and returned the series to its roots - pure platforming, while the console iterations continued to mess around with a more action-adventure oriented formula. I'm cool with that, but sometimes I just like to beat a series of challenging platforms, old school style.
Yet the one big flaw of New Super Mario Bros. is that, despite its name, it wasn't really "new" in terms of how it played out - I'm glad they didn't change the formula too much, but I knew that the Classic Mario formula couldn't have been completely tapped out of new ideas save for the odd power up and simultaneous multiplayer but when New Super Mario Bros. Wii came out, I seemingly gave up hope to see the old school formula take a few new steps. Then, this little gem popped out and surprised me.
I initially expected it to be more like the recent console Marios, a 3D action-adventure with surreal, slightly sandboxy levels focused on exploration and completing objectives for stars to move on. Much to my surprise, Super Mario 3D Land is indeed a 2D Mario game - but with the added depth of a world to run around in. The levels are still mostly linear, but the addition of the 3D movement and controls means that some of the more recent console iterations exploration can make an appearance, and more importantly - there is quite a bit of added replay value to each level due to various alternate paths on top of the expected secret areas. Everything you loved about the old Mario games is here: Great controls, great platforming, a charming aesthetic with great graphics (They are almost on par with Super Mario Galaxy this entry easily has the most creative levels of a Classic styled Mario game.
The biggest issue for me though is the lack of any multiplayer at all. My wife & I still play the 2D Marios all the time, from the original to New Super Mario Bros. Wii and when we realized that this was essentially a 2D Mario with 3D movement, we expected there to be a 2 player option. I can understand why it would be hard to truly implement a 2 player option in the full on 3D, exploration based Mario games but I don't understand how it would be hard to bring in a second player here, especially since New Super Mario Bros. biggest leap forward was the ability to have 2 players simultaneously instead of taking turns clearing the world. This is a massive opportunity missed. Another admitted disappointment, is the fact that you can't unlock Luigi from the get-go. Funnily enough, I preferred playing as Luigi in New Super Mario Bros. and always made that secret button press to play as him. I looked online to try and find him, but found out that to play as him - you must beat the game twice. It isn't the end of the world, and like all Mario games the replay value here is quite High - but I didn't want to wait that long to see his little legs waddling through the air and have the extra jump power.
The new dimension can also bring a few frustrations to gameplay at times, there are times where the camera is unfriendly and the game expects you to have magic depth perception (Even with 3D on) and you'll sometimes find yourself making jumps off the ledge without having known how far that platform was, or you may have slipped the thumbstick and ran off a ledge that you didn't even know was there due to camera positioning. This isn't a huge issue, but the game can play these tricks - and they never feel fair.
It also lacks the little mini-games that served as a nice distraction in other Classic style Mario titles, but once again - this is just a small loss and doesn't really hurt the overall product too much.
If you have a 3DS - this is probably the game you've been waiting for, and it's just as good - if not better - than you've been hearing. It's easily the best pure platformer in the Mario series since Super Mario Bros. 3 and arguably the best pure platformer in years.