New Super Mario Bros. Wii strikes a superb balance between old and new, making it the next big step for 2-D platformers.
Like many Mario platformers, the story has Mario once again traveling across the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach from Bowser, Bowser Jr., and for the first time in years, the Koopalings. From that simple story to the actual gameplay itself, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is full of nostalgic bliss. The Wii Remote is played on its side, a la an NES controller, with some minor motion controls thrown in for lifting enemies or using certain item abilities. Even though the motion controls can be a bit tough to get used to, they feel tight and refined, allowing Mario's repertoire of skills to grow significantly. It makes diving into the already inviting game world that much easier.
The minor additions to the tried-and-true Super Mario Bros. formula, aside from the controls, include some new power-ups like the Propeller Hat (which allows Mario to fly extra high with a shake of the Wii Remote) and the Penguin Suit (which lets Mario slide down slippery slopes and throw ice balls). While the power-ups are appreciated and plenty fun, they don't do too much to change the gameplay. Another addition is the implementation of the Super Guide, where if a player fails a level multiple times in a row, the game shows a way to the end of a level in the form of a CPU-controlled Luigi. This lets the player see some of the more skillful paths to the level's end, even getting a chance to skip the level entirely. The Super Guide doesn't feel necessary to New Super Mario Bros. Wii's gameplay, but its inclusion is a unique and surprisingly helpful way for newcomers to learn the intricacies of the Super Mario Bros. design. The changes that New Super Mario Bros. Wii makes aren't groundbreaking, but these subtle inclusions do help the gameplay progress, albeit a small bit.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the first game in the Super Mario Bros. series to put a serious emphasis on multiplayer. Mario doesn't have to go it alone this time, as Luigi and two Toads arrive, allowing up to four players to trek through the many levels in the game. The multiplayer can be played both cooperatively or competitively, though cooperative play is hindered by the frantic nature of the gameplay. Players must work together in close tandem to get the most benefit in co-op play, so it can get very difficult when all of the players are jumping around randomly. However, if you're looking for a fun and frantic party game that could very well rival Super Smash Bros. Brawl in terms of over-the-top chaos, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is it. Players will leap around grabbing coins, power-ups, and points; despite the lack of any serious structure in the competitive multiplayer, New Super Mario Bros. Wii puts a brand new spin on the platformer design. It's one of the most fun multiplayer experiences seen on any console this generation.
To those who demand a solid single-player experience in their Super Mario Bros. title, you will find it in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. With eight main worlds to explore, each with plenty of variety, you're bound to find creativity in the game's design. Also, each stage has three Star Coins to find. Star Coins can be spent on hint videos, videos that show shortcuts, secrets, or simply ways to get to the level as quickly as possible. The complex ways in collecting the Star Coins demands plenty of skill and platformer creativity, so those looking for a challenge in their platforming game will find New Super Mario Bros. Wii to deliver. The overall design of the levels is diverse, unique, and full of clever environmental quirks. The single-player experience isn't the main focus of New Super Mario Bros. Wii; still, it remains a satisfying one that hosts enough nostalgic drive and old-school difficulty to keep gamers going for quite a while.
The presentation in New Super Mario Bros. Wii is bright, colorful, and full of the charm that many have grown to know. The quiet glow of the power-ups, the way Mario's acrobatics are animated, and even how the light dims when in dark areas all show plenty of subtleties in the graphics. The frame rate is consistent even in the chaos of a multiplayer mode and the overall performance feels tight and tuned. They aren't a tremendous step up from the original DS game, but it's good to see a decent progression in graphic capabilities. The soundtrack has a slew of hit Mario tracks, each with abundant nostalgic charm. If you've heard it in another Super Mario Bros. game, there's a good chance that it makes a solid reappearance in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It doesn't push the Wii system to its limits, but New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a sharp looking title with a strikingly solid presentation.
+ Challenging, but rewarding level design
+ Hidden Star Coins and unlockable videos are plentiful
+ Sharp and colorful graphics are creatively rendered
+ Multiplayer is a blast to play
+ Tight controls are near perfect
- Playing cooperatively in multiplayer demands unparalleled communication
- Isn't too big of a step from the DS game
The 2-D platformer has become one of the most neglected genres in this generation, but leave it to Nintendo and Mario to bring it back, literally better than ever. New Super Mario Bros. Wii takes everything that made the original Mario side-scrollers great and by adding in sharp new level design, an addictive multiplayer mode, and some remarkably progressive choices in making the game fun for both newcomers and veterans, this is the next big step for this struggling genre. Many will dismiss New Super Mario Bros. Wii as a game running solely on nostalgia, but that's a mistake not worth making. Playing through New Super Mario Bros. Wii is challenging in all of the right ways, but just as accessible as any other great game on the market today. Playing the game with friends is just as enjoyable; there's a bedlam in the multiplayer that Nintendo has mastered, and it's this chaos that makes it unquestionably fun. With hidden Star Coins and unlockable extras, the longevity in New Super Mario Bros. Wii is huge. Whether you grew up playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES or are just getting into gaming with the Wii Remote in your hand, you're bound to find something to love in Mario's newest side-scrolling adventure. And feel free to bring some friends too.