There is something magical about 2D platforming games which hark back to a golden age of gaming, cheap 8-bit thrills and tinny yet awesome mono beats. However, no game has enjoyed as much cross-generational success as the Mario franchise.
Mario has enjoyed many successful leaps from one console to the next, smashing Goombas and game reviews with each new venture. The lovable plumber in red has come a long way since his 2D years and has enjoyed as much success in the 3D realm.
Judging from the title of the latest release, New Super Mario Bros Wii, we can deduce the following: A. It's new. B. It features the both the Mario Bros (it must suck being Luigi with your greatest call to fame being known as a Mario Bro). And C. it's on the Wii. Pretty straightforward, right? Wrong! (with a silent capital 'W'). The title fails to mention the two extra toad characters and the four man wrecking team which provide the defining characteristic of the Mario Bros' latest adventure.
The franchise, once again, returns to its side-scrolling roots. However, unlike its 2D predecessors, it allows up to four players to play at once. Players take on the role of Mario, Luigi and two other mushroom folk in a quest to (yes you guessed it) save Princess Peach.
If you've ever heard the saying "too many cooks spoil the broth", you'll be able to grasp the multiplayer mayhem of four unassuming heroes attempting to navigate the rigours of a dangerously surreal Mushroom Kingdom. Players bounce off each other, block each other's paths, steal power ups and essentially get in each other's way while all attempting to get to that elusive flagpole in one piece.
The funny thing about this added confusion is that it seems to make the game even more enjoyable. Shouting and screaming abound, as you and your mates attempt to keep everyone in order, and the frustration of teammates hashing carefully laid plans and manoeuvres can quickly turn to roars and applause when your beleaguered team finally manages to pass that horribly difficult stretch of level.
Having a teammate or two is not always a bad thing as they can help you out with cover fire or lend a helping hand on tricky obstacles. Players can carry, toss or even provide a launch for each other; however, these tactics can often backfire with hilarious results. Sometimes the temptation of throwing a teammate down a pit proves too great and, well, let's just say it may not be a good idea to play this game with a girlfriend or spouse lest you be willing to brave the torment of the "silent treatment".
NSMBW is all about accommodating everyone, from the hardcore down to the total newbs, and this is where it pays to have at least one teammate. If one of the players dies, they'll respawn in a bubble which will float to the nearest player. Once the bubble is popped, the player is allowed to re-enter play. Players can also enter the bubble voluntarily, and this can come in handy for particularly difficult areas or when falling down one of those never-ending pits of doom.
The bubble is a truly great invention, and the enjoyment/relief factor of cheating death and being tapped back to life is pretty sweet. Another clever innovation is the Super Guide, which provides a pre-recorded player who shows you how to complete the level. This is a great invention for newbs around the world and for those who often allow frustration to get the better of them. And if you feel you're up to the challenge, you can simply tap in and continue from the point your guide reached.
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