Super Mario 3D World: Chaos Multiplied

Nintendo has added cooperative play for the first time in a 3D Mario game, but that change takes some getting used to.

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Cartoony chaos. Nintendo has redefined how we experience console Mario games by implementing anything-goes multiplayer amid the side-scrolling hijinks. Navigating death-defying leaps with friends in tow has transformed the precision Mario was founded upon into something more akin to slapdash zaniness. It's a combination that has largely worked in New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. U because even slower players can keep pace in such a small playfield. Nintendo has now expanded this cooperative madness into three dimensions with Super Mario 3D World. It's a strong departure from Mario's previous forays into 3D, but is it a direction that should be embraced?

3D World borrows heavily from Nintendo Tokyo's latest adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom. As in Super Mario 3D Land, you navigate through modest-size environments in search of a flagpole that will transport you to a new level. Stages allow enough freedom to let you stretch your investigative muscle without giving you so much space that you get lost within the happy-go-lucky scenery. It strikes the delicate balance between pure action and careful exploration, always giving you a new place to poke your portly nose into without overwhelming you with the sheer breadth of content. But it's this combination that's particularly scary.

3D World is a bigger version of 3D Land that fully embraces the craziness that has always defined the Mario franchise. Donning a cat suit lets you scurry up dirt walls, ferreting out hidden goodies hidden on high-up cliffs. Slash at a patrolling goomba when he meanders nearby, and then continue your ascent to where no feline Mario has gone before. Enter warp pipes to see what has been hidden inside them all these years. Pipes are clear in 3D World, and once inside, you navigate through the hairpin turns to nab power-ups while avoiding the evil baddies who float with malicious intent. It's a joyous adventure that captures Mario's innate appeal almost immediately.

But that easygoing entertainment has a wrench thrown into its spokes when more players enter the mix. On your own, you adventure forth where and when you see fit. Spend your time trying to reveal hidden blocks to reach higher ground if you want, or sprint toward the exit while leaping on every koopa you meet. It's your choice. With friends, though, things play out quite differently. While you're spending time trying to leap to a secret area, your friends are busy rushing to the exit. And before you can make up the ground between you, you're offscreen, trapped in a bubble, waiting for someone to pop it so you can continue playing.

This disjointed flow is multiplied by the different abilities each character has. Taking a page from Super Mario Bros. 2, the game lets you choose Mario, Luigi, Toad, or Princess Peach. Mario is the all-around superstar, Luigi can jump extremely high, Toad is blessed with super speed (for some reason), and Peach floats through the air. These different traits let you tackle levels in new ways. For instance, Luigi can wall-jump off a cliffside to reach an area far beyond the reach of the average character. You can see how different routes can unfold depending on which character you choose, but seeing all of those variations materialize in real time as everyone goes their separate ways is disconcerting.

There's an odd feeling of helplessness when you simply cannot keep up with your friends, either because they can more skillfully navigate this 3D environment or their play styles are different from your own. And it almost feels as if the multiplayer is overshadowing the core appeal of this adventure. Nintendo Tokyo is well versed in creating delightful Mario games, and it certainly wasn't afraid to go nuts with the level design in its newest offering. But appreciating the varied creations while bumping against friends is mighty tricky. You need all of your concentration just to keep up.

Super Mario 3D World is a difficult game to digest, especially within the demanding confines of the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It contains the undeniable charm and sheer weirdness that has been a part of Mario's games since the very beginning, and even adds a few power-up wrinkles to the expected formula. But the cooperative play is so chaotic that it turns the gung-ho leaping into a mess of blurs and mushrooms and leaps and deaths. Time will tell if this new direction has improved the Mario formula or just added to the frustration. For now, just take a deep breath and breathe.

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Discussion

23 comments
so_hai
so_hai

There was an unimportant arcade game once, three decades ago, that made you play multiplayer. In fact, the game was no fun at all in single player...

When it was released for console, it sold a paltry 1.6 million copies.

The name of the game? It's here.

amaneuvering
amaneuvering

Yeah, I'm not sure this kind of multi-player implementation is what these Mario games needed.

Maybe some online multi-player mode where each player could still choose to play at their own place and explore the level freely while the other players do whatever they want too would be better.

Maybe some other method would have worked better...

I dunno but I just know that this implementation looks more like random chaos that actual deliberate fun imo.

tevic
tevic

Tom, it would have been nice stating for which console is this game.

Wii U, 3DS ?

2w-sephiroth
2w-sephiroth

I was more exited to see a sequel to mario galaxy 2, I however really liked what they did with Mario 3d land, and now with mario 3d world it has a very interesting appeal. However, I still hope they make a Galaxy sequel, the gravity and physics was so gorgeous.

juboner
juboner

i hate the idea of multiplayer in a 3d mario it better be good in single player

EricShadow366
EricShadow366

When I think of a 3D Mario game, I think of collecting stars, and exploring in stages in an open-ended fashion. Not this. The multiplayer looks fun though.

wyan_
wyan_

This seems like quite a step back from the truer 3D Mario games that have already come out in the past. There's no doubt it will be fun to play with my friends when they visit though. I may buy it just for them.

ewjiml
ewjiml

This is the KILLER Mario game?  I am beyond speechless.  Time to sell my Wii U. 

alvesy8777
alvesy8777

pathetic this makes me want to sell my wiiu does this mean there not going to make true 3d mario games anymore?

Shinobishyguy
Shinobishyguy

Tell me tom, how do you feel about this game going in 3d lands direction as opposed to something more grand like Galaxy 3?

MrJoker6688
MrJoker6688

This and Retro making another DK game really killed any excitement I have for Nintendo in the future.

MikeBorn
MikeBorn

How will the final boss turn out? Any ideas?

Please Reply!!

dogpigfish
dogpigfish

Bummer, was hoping for something stellar using the gamepad, but they played it safe. Third party could do it, but they don't want to be drowned out by Mario sales. I guess they are a business after all; but it sure would be nice to see something 'new' from Nindi.

jayd02
jayd02

So Tom just play the game alone?  The problems that you tried to pose with this new game has been the same problems that were in the 2D Mario games.  If you don't want this then don't play with someone else, or play with someone who has some common sense to slow down and let you catch up.  It is that craziness that made the multiplayer fun.  Things that you call problems are what really make the multiplayer spring out and give people a good time.  I can't tell you how many hours me and my friend play multiplayer mario and half the time we spend it sabotaging each other rather then completing the level.

Don't call what made the game fun a problem.

APizzo667
APizzo667

@Clownbabby exactly. It makes me wonder if the Wii U fails that Nintendo would be a top 3rd party publisher. 

SiMgUrL1721
SiMgUrL1721

I think that the people who work for Nintendo will develop Super Mario Galaxy 3 in the future for the Wii U and maybe even Super Mario Sunshine 2 because they already know that those are some of their best games ever made and they tend to listen to their fan base. I was actually disappointed that Super Mario 3D Land didn't have any multiplayer, so Super Mario 3D World makes up for it. Plus, all of the playable characters (Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad) have the same abilities from Super Mario Bros. 2 (the American Doki Doki Panic version). The workers at Nintendo tend to go into different routes such as developing 2D and 3D Mario plat formers, so they still have a chance of developing Super Mario Galaxy 3 and Super Mario Sunshine 2 for the Wii U. :)

TomMcShea
TomMcShea

@jayd02 Good point. It felt a little out-of-control for me, but I know some do like that. I'm really pumped to play this alone (or maybe with one friend).

jayd02
jayd02

@TomMcShea The game is still fun to play alone.  I beat most of the Wii version alone and the Galaxy games were awesome.