Sometimes Mario must despair, for it seems that no sooner has he rescued his beloved Princess Peach from the nefarious clutches of chief nemesis Bowser, than she’s recaptured by any number of other ne’er-do-wells, in this case Bowser Jnr (the evil son of Bowser). A plumber’s work is never done.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is Nintendo’s attempt at presenting the classic side-scrolling platform action of old-school Mario releases to those who missed Mario the first time. The mass-appeal of the Wii is such that Nintendo suddenly has an all-new audience to sell its long-time mascot to, and while the likes of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong and StarFox are all massive in their own right it’s surely Mario who is king.
So what do Nintendo do to the established Mario gameplay to bring it kicking and screaming into the late noughties? Simple: maintain the tried-and-tested ingenious level design, introduce four-player cooperative (or competitive) simultaneous play and spruce up the visuals. The resulting game is the most polished 2D Mario game yet created, the perfect mixture of depth and accessibility to appeal to Mario newcomers and stalwarts alike.
That means you should expect to be head-stomping the cutesy villains of the Mushroom Kingdom while collecting the usual power-ups (mushroom, fire-flowers, invincibility stars, etc) and a few new ones – such as the ice-flower which enables Mario and his allies to temporarily trap enemies in blocks of ice. While the stages offer little innovation over previous titles each is still its own master class in platform game design and thanks to a number of hidden secrets lend themselves to repeated plays.
The biggest draw of New Super Mario Bros. Wii however is of course the multiplayer mode. Up to a maximum of four-players can traverse the Mushroom Kingdom, taking the guise of either Mario, Luigi or a Toad (a bipedal mushroom – what else?). The fun derived from navigating the environments in a gang of four is large indeed although successfully keeping all four players alive can take more luck than skill – the symptom of level design which at times feels slightly too claustrophobic for four. Far better suited to four-players is the more competitive ‘Coin Battle’ mode where the object is to collect more coins than other players by any means necessary.
Disappointingly, there is no online multiplayer, the official Nintendo line being that the design studio never planned online content as part of the experience, preferring instead that players jostle with each other in real life as they jostle on-screen. There’s no doubting that watching the face of a friend contort into rage as you throw him into a lava pit is great, but the lack of online options feels like a massive opportunity wasted as the Nintendo continue to shun online multiplayer.
Even with the slight multiplayer limitations this is still a magnificent game, brimming with ideas and enough sheer fun to keep players coming back time and again. Mario truly is king of the platformer and New Super Mario Bros. Wii deserves to be adopted by anybody looking for a title to remind them of why they bought a Wii in the first place.