E3 2013: Super Mario 3D World, a workmanlike Wii U sequel

Super Mario 3D World 1

By name alone, one can surmise that Super Mario 3D World is a sequel to the 3DS’s 3D Land. It’s so similar, in fact, that it arouses suspicions that it was once a 3DS sequel, quickly diverted for release on Wii U with the understanding that Nintendo’s flagging console needed a Mario game, and quickly. We saw plenty of examples of asset and idea recycling from its 3DS predecessor, including the exclamation mark boxes that teleport the player between stage sections, during our time with the game.

It’s still a delight, though, and not just aesthetically. Mario’s weight and movement is just like Super Mario 3D Land, and the controls are the same, too – buttstomp, long jump and double jump.

The addition of fourplayer co-op will pose some difficult questions of Nintendo’s design team – like Super Mario Bros 2, Mario is the default character, but controlling Luigi, Toad and Peach is subtly different. Toad is quick, but can’t jump as high; Luigi retains his higher, slower jump and feels more slippery in general; Peach retains her ability to float for a short time.

One stage we played through saw us riding on the back of a giant Yoshi through water, slaloming back and forth through rings and steering clear of obstacles. There’s a delightful inertia to steering, reminiscent of Wave Race.

Later, we used the new catsuit powerup – enabled once your character picks up a bell – during a boss battle. It allows Mario to scramble up walls, steep cliffs and, in this case, enemies. Wait for the right moment, when one of the snake-like foes stiffens and turns into an ad-hoc platform, and Mario can pounce, dashing up the side of the bosses’ minions to stomp on the plump, purple king. Three hits and he’s beaten.

There were at least six worlds on show at E3, ones we’re keen to explore further, despite the whiff of conservatism on show here. Like its Nintendo Direct roster, Super Mario 3D World is Nintendo duly giving its fans what it wants, but, on first impressions, it’s lacking the bold platform-defining invention once injected into each and every new Super Mario game.