A lot of talk has been swirling around about the lack of content available for the Nintendo 3DS. With game releases so sparse lately, owners have to look toward the future for games they'll be able to experience in 3D. Thankfully, Mario is coming to the rescue this November, and we had the opportunity to sample Super Mario 3D Land and tell you what to expect.
Our hour-long session with the game allowed us to play through all of World 1 and most of Worlds 2 and 3. Each stage offered something different. The early stages are straightforward and not much of a challenge to complete, but they give you a good idea of how the game plans to use depth-of-field. In 3D stages, Mario will be able to run around and discover all sorts of secrets, but those secrets aren't limited to those stages. At the same time, side-scrolling levels that typically have the famous plumber moving from left to right even include some situations where he'll be able to traverse the Z-axis and move toward or away from the screen. These scenarios happen often and usually result in the discovery of a new zone or valuable coins.
Progressing into Worlds 2 and 3 gave us some different mechanics to fool around with. One stage in World 2 has Mario head vertically down toward the goal. With the use of a propeller block , there will be times when Mario will be able to float down and bypass a lot of enemies and platforms. Of course, if you try to rush through the area, you're bound to miss out on some cool treats and interesting bonus content, so floating away might not be the best idea your first time through. In the following stage, you begin by shooting Mario out of a cannon towards a tower. The cool aspect to the cannon is that it uses the 3DS's gyroscope for aiming. As you'd expect, there are some extra spots on the tower, so you may not necessarily want to aim at the highest point to move forward immediately. Be sure to pan around to see what cool things you may uncover.
The gyroscope is used in a few other spots as well. In some stages, there are binocular placements that let you see what lies ahead, in most cases showing you where the end of the stage is. The movement is extremely easy to grasp and surprisingly grand with what can be seen. If you want to zoom in and check out the approaching area with a bit more detail, the binoculars can zoom in to a great degree and let you see what may cause you some problems further ahead.
Super Mario Bros. Wii incorporated a help mode, which was there to give gamers of any experience level the ability to get pointers on how to approach a level or have the level played out. This function returns in Super Mario 3D Land with various degrees of assistance. If you die multiple times, upon restarting, a special assist block will appear to give Mario an item. This roulette-style box appeared in previous Mario games and may net you a tanooki leaf or a basic mushroom. In our time with the game, this offering occurred once, and it happened after losing three lives on that particular stage.
But if things still pose a problem, there are two more assists that may come your way. After losing five lives in a given stage, an invisible leaf becomes available that transforms Mario into an invisible tanooki. After 10 lost lives, a P wing block will appear that instantly warps you to the end of a stage. During our session, neither of these situations occurred, which did illustrate our own experience with Mario games and the fact that earlier parts of the game are not that difficult. Chances are, though, like in SMBW, later stages will prove to be much more challenging, and these two benefits may come into use.
Super Mario 3D Land felt as you would expect a Mario game to feel: extremely easy to grasp, fun to play, and with a lot of promising potential. The game's use of 3D worked really well early on, thanks in part to the fantastic level designs and variety. While some have been hesitant to turn the 3DS's 3D option to full, Super Mario 3D Land works well with it at max, but it still looks incredible even if this setting is shut off. Expect to see more of the game as we approach its November 13 launch, exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS.