He’s-a-back! Nintendo’s famous plumber (as opposed to their less famous, on-call plumber, James, who actually does some plumbing) returns in a new, quite literally 3D platformer. It’s his first outing on the 3DS and it manages to capture all the enjoyment that we’ve found in other Mario games. The gameplay has been described as a mix between Mario 64 and Galaxy and, from what I’ve played, it’s as good as them both.
What exactly is it that puts Super Mario 3D Land above the other games in the series, then? Firstly, and most importantly, since it is a 3DS game: the 3D is utilized very well. It turns out that adding depth to a platformer actually makes it better – it makes missing jumps in the more open sections a lot less likely and it even helps in the sidescrolling 2.5D sections, where obstacles that swing by become a lot easier to navigate passed.
3D land is a very traditional style Mario game, not only due to the use of the classic Mario health system and powerups for Mario himself, but in the way the levels are designed. Whilst not in 2D, they are smaller than what we’ve seen in recent games in the series, they’re also timed (and you can increase this by collecting timer items) and to complete them you grab the flagpole like Mario of old. That’s not the only goal, however, as you’ll also be able to collect Star Tokens and Coins which are hidden around the stages.
Perhaps the biggest staple of Mario are the green pipes, ever-present throughout the series; these pipes return in 3D Land and by pressing R whilst standing on them you’re able to visit underground sections. I managed to find my way down into one of these small stages, and I was very impressed – the camera switched to an isometric view and the 3D became far more obvious; it was as if I was looking into a small box with Mario inside, stacked with cubes which I had to navigate up to get the Star Token.
The game is visually wonderful, it’s amazing to see Mario in such high quality on a handheld device. Beautiful, vibrant colours mixed with sharp visuals are brought together with the 3D effect and it’s simply delightful to look at. The soundtrack is great too; it’s all very big for just a portable Mario adventure. Make no mistake, this is a full entry in the Mario series, with many features and a great variety of stages.[drop2]I played four levels in total: one which was an open area filled with enemies, powerups, tokens, coins and the aforementioned pipe, another was a sidescrolling affair which worked really well. The third level I played had panels which disappeared as quickly as they appeared after hitting a switch, making for a quick rush across to avoid falling off the world. The final level began as a sidescrolling level across flying ships, with Bullet Bills flying across the screen. It then led on to a boss battle against a large turtle, which was a lot of fun. The only downside to all of these levels was that they felt very compact, though that seems to be the trend for this game.
Nintendo never seem to fail with entries in the main Super Mario series and Super Mario 3D Land is no exception; the game is a true delight to play and an essential purchase for 3DS owners. From what I’ve seen, it’s a gem of a platformer with great mechanics and a wonderfully executed use of the 3D effect. I have a lot of hope riding on this game, and you should too – it looks to be one of the greatest games starring our little plumber friend and the reason to own a 3DS.