Defining the Video Game Medium

User Rating: 9 | Super Mario 3D World WIIU

No matter your taste in video games, it is hard to argue the fact that Super Mario 3D World is a perfect video game. After watching the thirty-or-so second intro to the game, you will actually be playing one of the most pure video game experiences that has been offered this year, and that truly is 3D World’s greatest achievement.

As overblown as that whole paragraph may have seemed to you just now, let me at least try to convince you. I define a ‘pure video game’ as a game that offers an experience that purely consists of constant interaction between the player and the game. You play the game as soon as you start, and you don’t stop until you decide to turn it off. Moreover, a pure video game delivers that kind of experience without any noticeable interference, technical or otherwise.

Super Mario 3D World offers you that experience. It offers you non-stop gameplay and there is nothing that will interfere as you interact with the game.

I would like to quickly get the technical aspects out of the way. There are no noticeable frame-rate drops, texture problems, sound problems, or any other kind of technical issues afflicting the gameplay. In fact, the game is so perfectly made players will not even think about the game as a product of technology. I am not sure whether that last bit made any sense, but let me put it this way: The fact that my opinion on the game is solely formed on the basis of its gameplay is an amazing thing, since most other video games released on consoles are always hampered by even the smallest of technical issues, no matter how much I try to ignore them so that I may focus entirely on the gameplay.

So, what kind of gameplay does 3D World offer you? To put it bluntly, it offers well-designed 3D plattforming. That means that you will be guiding the character of your choice through a variety of different levels, each littered with obstacles as you might expect, while also gathering collectibles that will allow you to advance to later levels.

The game’s pace is a little bit off due to its slow progression in difficulty if you ask me, though I would like to stress that that might not necessarily be the case for you. Personally, I enjoyed the first two worlds immensely and was very motivated to finish every level and collect everything there was to collect; after that, the lack of increase in difficulty just made me want to rush through each world so that I could finally reach the harder levels. I would like to hear your opinion on the difficulty curve of this game and whether or not you felt the same way as I did. That said, it was not until the latter half of the game, which mostly featured the optional worlds, that I became absolutely engaged with 3D World again.

The level-design is great in the sense that it will offer you a fun experience. However, and this is by far my biggest gripe with 3D World, it does not immerse you. The designs of each world, while perfectly good looking, are generic, at least in my opinion. I did not get any sense of atmosphere, no emotions were conveyed through my surroundings, and it just felt a little bit empty. At first I thought that that was due to me being so engaged with the gameplay, but then I forced myself to stop and look around, and I noticed that nothing really got me other than the occasional sunset-backdrop seen in a few levels. As much as I hate comparing two different games, I feel that Super Mario Galaxy, the original mind you, had such a profound sense of atmosphere that you could not help but feel joy even when you were standing perfectly still.

Fortunately, the soundtrack of 3D World does make you feel like part of an interesting world, as it mostly offers new tunes that will absolutely influence the way you play and enjoy the game. Even the hardest levels will not be frustrating with its happy and invigorating music encouraging you to go on. There are many stand-out tracks, but I would say the main theme, the castle theme and the Gusty Gardens Remix are my favorite of the bunch.

Last but not least, I would just like to note that this is not a game that wants you to explore each level in detail. Levels are short and linear, and the branching paths were just that, small branches in the path. The game gives you a time-limit, so it seems that it was never truly designed to be played with exploration in mind. I was able to find every Green Star very easily after getting a general feel for how the game hides them, and it remains constant when it comes to the hiding spots. That is not to say that it is easy to actually obtain the stars, but finding the general area in which they are hidden is not the challenge.

All in all, Super Mario 3D World is everything it wants to be, and it is flawless in its execution. I feel quite uneasy to give the game a score lower than the perfect ten since I am unsure whether my gripe with the design of the worlds is personal or truly a legitimate flaw of the game, which is why I would very much like to hear your opinion on the matter to be able to assess that. Until then, I will have to give the game a near-perfect score simply because it was not able to truly ‘wow’ me.

Let me be the first to admit, though, that that may not be the most professional assessment of the game because my immense love for Galaxy certainly affected my enjoyment of this game. Either way, you should not miss out on this wonderful experience, because you will not often get the chance to play such a pure video game. It is fun, it is engaging, and it will keep you playing for quite a few hours; especially if you are a Completionist like me.