NSMBW does everything right with great multiplayer and excellent level design, a must-own for Mario fans
Just to give you some background, 2-D Mario games generally involve Bowser (or Bowser Jr.) capturing Princess Peach and taking her off to his castle. If you thought Nintendo was going to recycle that story yet again, well… you're right. Bowser Jr. attacks Peach's castle, kidnaps the princess, and takes off in his giant airship, dropping off a Koopaling for you to contend with in each world. While the story hasn't really changed, story doesn't really matter in Mario games. This time, though, they added the Koopalings into it, which makes for some interesting boss battles and adds some general uniqueness all throughout the game. The game also progresses in the same way previous Super Mario games have: beat a few levels, fight the boss, beat a few more levels, fight the boss again.
The key factor in 2-D platformers such as NSMBW, though, is gameplay, and in this area the game doesn't falter in the least. You still jump on Goombas, throw Koopa shells, and dodge Bullet Bills as always, but there are a few new twists. One is the ability to spin by shaking the Wii remote. This ability comes in handy in plenty of situations and makes some puzzles more interesting, but the spinning highlight definitely lies in one of the new powerup mushrooms that gives you a propeller hat, allowing you to fly into the air. As simple as it sounds, it's actually one of the most fun parts of NSMBW; being able to reach any point in a level is just really nice.
Another interesting new powerup is the penguin suit. I mean, who doesn't love penguins? You can slide along ice and throw ice balls that freeze enemies, and of course Mario in a penguin suit looks pretty funny to boot. There are also your typical fire/ice flowers, super/mini mushrooms, and stars, which contribute their fair share to the game's depth.
Another significant gameplay addition is the use of motion controls to move platforms. These types of levels can be pretty challenging as you need to focus on moving a platform while still dodging enemies and such, but these sections are dispersed evenly enough throughout the game to where the mechanic doesn't feel overused. Motion controls really were a nice addition to NSMBW.
The greatest new element in NSMBW is definitely the multiplayer. Options include playing the whole game in co-op mode, free-for-all competitions, and coin battles, and all can be done with up to four players. Multiplayer is really NSMBW's brightest point, allowing you to enjoy each and every moment of the game with a friend or three. Co-op play does make the game much easier, as you can catch up with your partner or save yourself from falling as long as your partner is on screen. The other modes are still fun but not quite as enjoyable as playing cooperatively, because the Mario Bros. games aren't really designed for competitive multiplayer. Free-for-all pits you against others to acquire the most points and coin battles are competitions to collect the most coins. They are very basic but still enjoyable.
Whether you're playing alone or with friends, however, does not change the game's excellent level design. There are plenty of challenges but they are never overwhelming. There aren't really any puzzles, but, as you would expect from a game of this genre, plenty of great platforming challenges abound in every level. Whether it's a bit of tricky jumping across giant spinning blocks or dodging fireballs and Bullet Bills while jumping across gap after gap, NSMBW keeps on delivering that stellar level design.
Visually speaking, NSMBW does little to differentiate itself from its DS prequel, but it ups the quality considerably. Everything looks sharp and detailed while still retaining the likable cartoon look Mario has taken on in recent years. Animations are smooth and the environments look great. The design is simple but sharp and colorful, creating a very nice look for the game. NSMBW's music and sound is also a strong point. The sound effects seem to have classic Mario goodness with a fresh feel, which is simply fantastic. The music is also very entertaining, with plenty of great themes and catchiness throughout.
NSMBW is a challenging game, but the level of challenge really depends on your gaming experience. As one who has played plenty of video games over more than ten years, I found a few tough spots in the game, but none that I didn't get past after a few tries. However, these harder parts could seem insurmountable to someone who has just started playing games with the Wii, but there is a lot of help offered by the game itself for anyone struggling to advance. If you die a certain number of times on a section of a level, you are given the option to watch a Super Guide, in which Luigi will go through the scene for you and show you how to get through it. While this may seem to make the game too easy we must remember that it is completely optional, in fact I was never given the option to use it myself, and it balances out the difficulty nicely for newer gamers.
The question I always have to ask myself about 2-D platformers on Wii is if they are really worth $50, because they often aren't particularly long. Getting through NSMBW's 8 worlds takes about 6-8 hours, but there is still plenty to do after you initially beat the game. Each level contains three star coins to collect, and if you find all of the star coins in a world, a level is unlocked in World 9 (which is unlocked after you beat World 8). This adds a lot of value to the game for completionists, and multiplayer can also last a long time depending on just how much you enjoy it. NSMBW can be beaten within a rental's allotted time, but if you really love Mario then NSMBW's value pretty much equates to a full price game.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii doesn't have any fatal flaw. As an excellent game with nice new elements, excellent level design, and fun multiplayer, NSMBW succeeds tremendously. My expectations for this game were not very high at all, but I was quite impressed with this game. It's great fun and a great game.
+ classic Mario gameplay is as fun as ever
+ propeller hats and penguin suits are fun
+ motion controls are well-implemented and evenly dispersed
+ multiplayer is great fun
+ excellent level design
+ sharp graphics
+ nice balance of difficulty
- not much of a challenge for experienced players
LAST WORD: NSMBW is a great game for its multiplayer, level design, and penguin suits that is worth a rental for any Wii owner and easily worth a purchase for Mario fans.