I have completed Mario's newest adventure and this is what I thought of it!
Last Monday, I was very fortunate to play Super Mario 3D Land from start to finish. While I can't tell you every single detail or element that is going to be in the game, I have to say that I'm very impressed with how Mario's newest adventure turned out. While it is a mixture of the best Mario has to offer on both the 2D and 3D side of things, it always kept the feeling of the Galaxy games for me. This isn't a bad thing by any stretch and actually expands on some existing concepts. One instance I noticed was a more difficult version of the rhythmic challenge from Super Mario Galaxy 2, where two different colored blocks would alternately appear and disappear. This concept makes a return, but now with more colors and a shorter time to react. Seeing things like this makes me realize how far the platforming in the Mario games has evolved, and how it has grown into a richer experience. Of course, many other elements are thrown in to keep the game from being a simple rehash. You’ll fly high with Propeller Mario over a pallet of pixilated characters, discover brand new underwater sections with polished controls, and explore mazes with Monty Moles around every corner.
The developers clearly had fun making those levels as well as throwing in many classic references. You know about the flagpole, but do you know the note blocks from Super Mario Bros. 3 make a big return? There are even rainbow-colored versions, which grant you access to classic bonus levels in the sky. It is just an example of the many strong elements represented in this game. The big disappointment, however, comes in the form of the bosses. The levels leading up to them are fine, but they are a bit underwhelming in comparison to the rest of the package.
Going from level to level happens on a world screen. Per world, there are around 4 or 5 levels, a castle or ship, and sometimes a Toad House or a Secret Box. In the Toad Houses, you will be able to find power-ups that can help on the quest. This is akin to the Toad Houses in Super Mario Bros. 3, where you would find the occasional house with a treasure chest. The Secret Box, on the other hand, is a completely different story. In these Secret Boxes you will find micro-challenges, in which collecting as many items as possible is the goal. You will able to gather (within 10 seconds) coins, power-ups and even Star Medals! Each world also has an additional level to explore, if you have enough Star Medals. There are three medals in every level, and they become crucial at a later point in the game, so collecting them is a must.
Power-ups are a big part of Mario's appeal, and Super Mario 3D Land keeps that thought alive. There may be fewer power-up suits in 3D Land than in some of the games before it, but the few present are way more effectively used. In the rare cases they aren't, the levels are focused on Mario's own strengths rather than those of a particular suit, which makes for fleshed-out ideas on both sides of the spectrum. In addition to Fire Mario, Propeller Mario, and Tanooki Mario, Boomerang Mario makes his debut, and his boomerang is quite useful. Players will be able to use it to collect items (including Star Medals) and defeat enemies from a longer distance. You are limited to one boomerang at a time, though, so strategic use is important.
If I had to find any major complaints with Super Mario 3D Land aside from the bosses, there wouldn’t be much left to worry about. You will have to get used to the various camera angles that the game presents (overhead, side-scrolling, isometric, and behind-the-back) and perhaps you will get frustrated in some places, but this is nothing too major. If you have real trouble with a level, the special Invincible Tanooki Suit will appear before you. This makes you immune to enemy attacks and lets you focus on the platforming bits without extra worries. You can still explore the levels without restrictions; this encourages exploration, rather than letting the level be played for you.
The game looks fantastic. It is just as vibrant and colorful as the highly polished Super Mario Galaxy games. The game also makes effective use of 3D in meaningful ways. Never did I turn the 3D effect off during my play session, and it was all the better for it. When platforming becomes tricky, the 3D will be your guide to completion. In the later Propeller Mario levels, for example, you will have to discern distance. In 2D this might have been a problem, but in 3D I managed to beat the level in just a couple of tries. The same depth is used in all the puzzles, in all of the camera angles, and even on the map screen. This is one of those rare times where 3D makes the game even better.
My lengthy play session wore me out by the end of it, but never stopped my excitement. I can't wait till November; I can't wait to tell you more. Come back next week for a few new reveals, including the return of something truly classic, and what you receive once your adventure is complete!