For decades, Mario has jumped, stomped and hurled fireballs. Now he scratches, pounces and climbs.
“Super Mario 3D World” begins like any other Super Mario game — with Mario running after Bowser, who has just staged a kidnapping. This time, however, Mario does not have to go it alone. Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach join him in this one- to four-player adventure through the Sprixie Kingdom. All four characters are playable from the beginning, and each moves differently. Luigi jumps super high. Toad runs incredibly fast. Peach can float for a few seconds. Mario’s specialty is his maneuverability. This sounds lame, but when one needs to take out a team of Chargin’ Chucks (those baddies with football helmets) with a few wall-jumps or run from Boos in a trap-filled corridor, Mario’s specialty means something.
Although the levels are relatively short, the sprawling and whimsical landscapes of “Super Mario 3D World” offer the in-depth gameplay that has made the Super Mario series legendary. Every level is a spectacle of color and agility. Mario dashes across lakes of blue lava, familiar and sunny beaches and hazy jungles where goombas idle in the shade. The new environments astonish. One level begins at the foot of a modern skyscraper on a dark and stormy night. Another has players leaping from car to car on a moving cargo train. The last world is literally a circus.
At its core, “Super Mario 3D World” — which is offered exclusively on the Nintendo Wii U — is lighthearted, challenging and fun. Cat Mario is one of the most ingenious inventions that I’ve come across in my life as a gamer. First, it takes my two favorite things— Mario and kitties — and somehow combines them together. Second, Cat Mario changes the way Mario moves entirely. Cat Mario can pounce enemies at a perfect 45-degree angle, climb walls and goalposts and claw his way to victory. This new power-up adds more depth to the gameplay and replay value.
The game is fun and challenging whether with four players or just one, although the multiplayer mode takes Super Mario to a whole new level. The story mode takes six to eight hours to beat. Players can unlock three bonus worlds, a playable character, a new power-up and a mini-game. The soundtrack ranges from spritely to adventuresome — in a word, epic. Also, the Meso-American and Japanese-inspired stages have been beautifully realized. This is one of the best Mario games to date and is recommended for gamers, whether they be hardcore or new.