The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The 3DS has a couple of great games from Nintendo. The problem is
that they’re remakes of N64 titles. Gamers were glad to experience
classics like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64, but
no one buys a new system to play games over a decade old. That all
changes with the excellent Super Mario 3D Land, an all-new adventure in
the Mushroom Kingdom – that mixes in plenty of entertaining references
to Mario’s back catalog.
3D Land takes level progression all the
way back to the original Super Mario Bros., with eight linear worlds to
beat one by one. Every stage ends with Mario jumping onto a flagpole,
and when he takes damage he shrinks down rather than losing a slice of
pie from a circular health bar. All levels include three hidden star
coins to collect, which you’ll eventually spend to gain access to later
areas. At first you may be concerned that each world only contains five
or six levels, but don’t worry. After you complete the main career,
there’s more than enough content to keep you busy for quite some time.
looking at screenshots, it can be tough to determine what kind of
platformer 3D Land is. The simple answer? All of them. Sometimes it
feels like 2D platformer New Super Mario. Bros. Other times the camera
will follow behind you like Mario 64 or Galaxy. You’ll also see
isometric views and a top-down perspective inspired by classic Zelda
games. The camera often changes multiple times during a single level,
but it’s done so smoothly that you’ll hardly notice. I always felt like I
was in complete control of Mario no matter what the theme of the level,
and the camera is always in the perfect spot for the situation.
controls are spot-on and easy to pick up right away. I initially
questioned why 3D Land needs a run button in addition to the analog
controls of the circle pad, but I was thankful during later tricky
sections that require a deft touch. I eventually played 3D Land like a
2D Mario game, with my thumb covering both the run and jump buttons. The
left shoulder button rounds out the arsenal making Mario crouch so that
he can get into small tunnels and toggle long and high jumps.
blend the classics in with a few new ones. Fireballs provide an
offensive boost while the Tanooki Suit (not seen since Super Mario 3)
grants an infinitely useful floating ability that’ll help you past more
difficult areas. You can store an extra power-up on the lower
touchscreen and tap it anytime to access it. The old item then goes down
to the bottom screen so you can easily toggle back and forth between
the two. The new boomerang ability fits right in with these classics,
and you can purposely dodge the returning projectile to keep it flying
around and destroying enemies. Mario can also climb inside propeller
blocks for some extra vertical flying power similarly to the propeller
helmets from New Super Mario Bros.
The level designs are as clever
as ever, and provide plenty of new Mario memories. You stomp koopas in
green fields, walk along tightropes, hit the gas on a controllable
platform, and swim away from a giant sea serpent. I loved navigating the
many ominous airships and taking down Bowser by running under his jump
and hitting a switch to make him fall into hot lava just like in the
first game. Few things are more satisfying than crushing a goomba
underfoot after falling several hundred feet.
What surprises me
most about 3D Land is how well the 3D effect is handled. I kept the 3D
slider up most of the game, since the levels pop to life with added
depth and plenty of effects. Massive spike pillars thrust toward the
screen on airships, Mario looks like he’s swimming around in a tiny
handheld fish tank during underwater scenes, and the heights feel even
more staggering when you have to jump off a massive cliff and navigate
small platforms on the way to the flagpole far below. Rest your arms on a
table to keep the 3D screen in the sweet spot and you won’t be
Super Mario 3D Land isn’t perfect, but the few
complaints I have (like the lack of variety in boss fights and some
re-hashed levels) can’t bring down this entertaining mix of nostalgia
and innovation. It lives up to the level of quality set by previous
entries and is easily the best reason to own a 3DS.
Email the author Bryan Vore, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.