Created by Nintendo / Rated E / 1-4 Players / MSRP $49.99
Review written by Ray of 2P START!

It’s a brand new 2D Mario game that feels all too familiar, but for all the right reasons. It’s something I feel we take for granted, but the joy found from playing classic Mario titles is not some inherent trait that Nintendo is incapable of screwing up. The reason these games are still brilliant to this day is due to a meticulous level of attention to balanced gameplay mechanics, accessibility, and impeccable controls. Nintendo continues to make this easier than it looks by absolutely nailing these same winning qualities in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Being an owner of the DS game which came before this (New Super Mario Bros.), it’s difficult to enjoy this installment as being ‘new’ when it’s busy piggy-backing off of what made the DS version earn its name. But one terrific new feature is the ability to play simultaneously with up to three of your friends. This new co-op gameplay is not only a natural next step for the series, but also a highly entertaining one. We’ve become so accustomed to the speed and timing of how we play individually, that adding in more friends of this same mindset creates a recipe for disaster. Learning how to work together to avoid these chaotic situations of death and destruction definitely adds a new layer of strategy.

Unfortunately, the ability to choose between playing with friends or going it alone has pressured the level design into a format of ‘one size fits all.’ In other words, nothing is custom tailored to either extreme – resulting in platforms being needlessly large for solo play, but yet not quite large enough for four players. In my opinion Nintendo should have kept the limit to Mario and Luigi, especially since Toad is a little busy handling all of the mini-games. Either that, or design a separate set of challenge levels specifically created for multiplayer. I would recommend the title N+ as an inspiration.

Regardless, the levels themselves are varied, unique, memorable, and fine-tuned with plenty of hidden acrobatic opportunities. The focus is on quality over quantity, which not only forces the developers to make sure they’re not wasting your time, but also encourages strong replay value. That being said, I wish they weren’t so afraid to reuse certain assets. A great example of this is the lack of Yoshi appearances, who was only playable in about five stages. I’d really like to know the reasons why he isn’t allowed to travel with you to the following stage.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the graphics, because on one hand they’re smooth, soft, and colorful, but on the other they’re a bit lackluster, and the backgrounds are painfully simple, flat images. However, I do understand the difficult balance Nintendo is dealing with. Moving away from simple colors and shapes to overly detailed environments can cause a subliminal reaction that it no longer ‘feels’ like a Mario game. If you want a good example of this phenomenon, just compare Super Mario World with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.

The sound design is simply top notch, with the theme from the original DS version being brought back again with a tastefully subtle touch on the instruments. And the sound effects are crisp and cute – everything from the suction pitter-patter while walking in the Penguin suit, to the revitalizing of the classic Yoshi sounds of Super Mario World. It’s all executed with delicate precision.

My one biggest gripe is that Nintendo still seems a tad bit afraid to put in anything very secret. I don’t consider the final “secret world” all that secret when it’s automatically given to you, and while I appreciate the motivation of collecting star coins to unlock the final levels, they felt more like a grab bag of misfit levels that never quite found a spot on the map. Additionally, the lack of online multiplayer is a missed opportunity, along with an ability to save replays, and I think this title could really gain a lot from some type of achievement check list.

But those gripes aside, New Super Mario Bros. Wii ranks right up there with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Nintendo plays it a little too safe, and part of me wishes they would have really tried something new instead of sticking with the tried and true formula. But if it takes this title to get the classic Mario gameplay back in action, then here’s hoping the next title really pushes the envelope with originality.

9/10

Reviewer’s Completion:

Sparkling 5-Star Save File | All Star Coins Collected | All Levels Completed | All Hint Movies Purchased | 99 Lives

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