I'll admit it. I groaned when Nintendo first unveiled Super Mario 3D World to the masses. I was one of the many who thought that Nintendo has officially run out of ideas, and is instead re-using one of their older ideas (from the 3DS). Boy was I wrong! Super Mario 3D World convinced me that Nintendo not only has enough creativity to make an enterily new game based on an old concept, but add in a slew of new features that completely revitalize not only the franchise but the genre itself.
Bowser's at it again
Surprise! Bowser and his minions are up to no good once again. It's not the Princess he's gunning for though, it's the fairy-like beings called Sprixies. Upon discovering a strange clear pipe and watch as Bowser nabs a completely innocent and cute looking Sprixie, the gang hops in to be transported into Sprixie Kingdom. And oh what a glorious place this is.
Bye Mushroom Kingdom, hello Sprixie Kingdom
It's insane how many Mario games we've had over the years and Nintendo still manages to cook up ingenius levels packed with some stellar level design and fun platforming elements.
Make no mistake, Sprixie Kingdom is still packed with levels that don't stray from the formula that much. You'll still have snow levels, desert levels, underwater levels, levels that constantly scroll to the right, etc. Except it's what Nintendo does with these tried and true designs to completely mix them up.
For example, one of the snow levels starts out relatively formulaic, but then presents a new ice skate enemy. Remember that green shoe enemy from Super Mario Bros. 3? It works pretty similarly here. Hop on in and ice skate your way around the once slippery ice with precision and mow over your enemies. It felt great, and even a minor change-up like this made the snow level way more bareable.
When you start the game, you might find that the levels are something of a cakewalk, and that's because they are. The first few worlds won't really pose that much of a challenge outside of a few well timed jumps. The later half of the game, not to mention the post game content (come on, we all knew it was coming) is a reminder that despite its bubbly and colorful graphics, it can still kick your butt with some truly devilish design. Mario 3D Land gave us a surplus of coins and 1-Ups that made dying feel somewhat non-threatening. Mario 3D World on the other hand doesn't hand them out as generously, making you work just a little bit harder to complete levels with as few lives lost as possible.
Power ups galore
There are a ton of power ups in the game. Here is a general overview of all the different power ups and items you can pick up and use, but reading about them doesn't nearly give them justice. Everything from the awesomely obscure Double Cherry which keeps multiplying your character each time you pick up one up, to the amazingly over-powered yet utterly necessary Cat Suit.
Donning that adorable Cat Suit will give you more powers than necessary. You run faster, pummel enemies with your cat claws, jump and dash into enemies, and run up walls and flag poles. It's crazy how much mileage you get out of just one power up. It's so good in fact, I even preferred to my previous favorite, the Tanooki Suit.
Outside of suits, you also get access to a variety of 'box' power ups. Returning from Super Mario 3D Land are Coin Box which gives the wearer constant supply of coins as long as they're running fast, and the Propeller Box, which allows the wearer to soar high into the sky and then slowly descend down. New ones to 3D World are the Cannon Box which will shoot cannon balls at enemies and the ever so uself Light Box, which can finally put an end to those pesky ghosts.
Don't just play just as Mario
Seriously, every member of the cast is useful in their own special way, with reprising special powers from Super Mario Bros. 2. Princess Peach for example has the ever-so-cheap float when she jumps, Luigi has the high jump, and Toad zips around the levels with his much speedier run.
It's a blast to try out each character and utilize them differently in each level. The game allows you to pick a character before each level, so you're not stuck just playing as the first character you picked. Not sure about who you want to play as? Just press the + Button and let the game choose at random for you. That's honestly one of the best ways to experience the game, since it always mixes up how you're tackling some of the level designs.
Go it alone, or with friends
Had this been yet another 2D Mario game, I'd say don't the multiplayer. Like don't even hover over it on the Main Menu. Multiplayer on Mario games has amounted to nothing more than a push-fest, and what is supposed to be a fun albeit lightly competitive game becomes a nightmare of cheap deaths.
Super Mario 3D World is actually nothing like that. Since players are no longer confined to a 2D space, it actually makes exploring each level with friends that much more enjoyable.
As in previous Mario games that supported multiplayer, 3D World is just as much about cooperation, as it is about competition. Players must work together, especially in later levels that get deviously hard and require some spot on coordination. However, the competitive aspect is ever present. Each player will be vying for first place and everything from coins to green stars will contribute to the overall score. Whoever wins that level gets to wear a shiny crown in the next, effectively painting a bullseye on that player's head.
Much like Super Mario Galaxy 2 took an existing idea and expanded on it, SM3DW does it in troves. With multiple characters to play as (harking back to Super Mario Bros. 2) and an unlockable fifth, a fantastic and unobtrusive multiplayer component and enough new power-ups to make even Mario's head spin, you're bound to have a highly enjoyable time with one of the best 3D platformers released thus far.