Weirdly paced multiplayer doesn't stop this game from being awesome!
I had my doubts from the first moment I have played Super Mario 3D World at E3 and the events after. Don't get me wrong, I liked what I played, but I felt that something was lacking. Super Mario 3D Land was, and is, my favorite Mario game of the last couple of years. The adorableness shined through every single piece and showed me that the Nintendo 3DS had still a bright future ahead. Super Mario 3D World doesn't lack ambition, but sometimes it doesn't really know what it wants to be.
Super Mario 3D World opens on the somewhat slower side of the spectrum and personally I think that the first two worlds don't do anything new. It is easy to overcome enemies and obstacles here with the only standouts being riding on the back of Plessie across the water and a very interesting Wii U GamePad level. In the new GamePad levels you touch blocks and blow in the microphone to interact with elements in the environment. Sadly, these elements aren't used very often, but the GamePad player always has instant access to some other functions. You can smash Purple Blocks, reveal invisible elements and freeze enemies and platforms right on the spot.
After the initial bits, the game really starts to shine. While each world has a specific theme, the levels usually stand on their own and are often on par with Super Mario 3D Land. Even better, the game surprises you by making use of every power-up in some quite specific ways. The Cat Suit may seem like a dumb idea to some, but it is the most refreshing element in quite a while. It is used to overcome gigantic gaps, perform swift attacks and of course climb up walls. The multi-use power-up is something I have missed for a while now and with the Cat Suit, Nintendo shows that they can still make them.
Another cool element is the Double Cherry, which allows you to duplicate your character and get caught up in some pretty crazy challenges. There are more of these items also found in other places, like a Handheld Piranha Plant and an Kuribo Skate. All of them are only used in specific levels, but in those levels they work well. More classic power-ups are here to party as well as we see the return of the Tanooki, the Giant Mushroom and the trusty Fire Flower. The items are really needed to progress, and they are a big help finding the three Green Stars and Stamp in every level. Most of them you will be able to find on your first try quite easily and you can always return later to get the rest.
The big feature in this title is the multiplayer, which allows you to play with your friends and family. In the humble beginnings, I was quite fond of the option to play with everyone I know, but now my opinion has changed somewhat. To start off, the camera can be a hassle at certain spots, which leads to some unfortunate deaths. If you can't hold your own against the speed of the other players or the other players just rush ahead, it also affects the fun. The game doesn't always quite know what it wants to be. In moments, you are forced to play on your lonesome like with the Toad Adventures and the Mystery Box challenges. It is also feels nicer sometimes to play alone, as it becomes a more streamlined and focused adventure. The game allows you then also to find the many secrets at your own pace and these are really worth exploring. At other places, the thing just screams multiplayer, because a few levels can feel a bit empty if you are playing alone. That doesn't mean that the experience isn't fun, but it’s noticeably lacking.
The four playable characters bring the same amount of charm to the table as the levels. Mario is overall the best, making him perfect for middle down the road players. Luigi can jump super high, which proves handy for finding secrets. Princess Peach can float, which makes her excellent for beginners, as she will not plunge to her death as fast. Toad is the speedy one of the bunch and that is cool to use for speed runners. You will also find levels with just 100 seconds on the clock, but with Toad at your side, all will be well. I mostly found myself using Luigi, because I was directly searching in every nook and cranny during the adventure. It also makes jumping bosses you encounter way less of an hassle. This variety can also be found in the control options, which supports pretty much every controller under the sun. I mostly used the Wii U GamePad though as it suited the game the best.
It must be said that the game looks absolutely beautiful on the Wii U. The visuals have a sharp and crisp look to them and the amount of color is simply unmatched by anything on the system. The lighting and tricks like rain really encourage this all further, making it a really polished adventure. The same praise can be sung to the music, which is, for the most part, orchestrated. You will hear jazzy tunes, big score action music and tropical tunes. I love this soundtrack even more than 3D Land and the Galaxy games in some regards, which is quite impressive.
Super Mario 3D World is not my favorite game in the franchise, but there is a lot to love. The level designs are stronger than ever before and the presentation evokes sheer awe every time I see it, mostly due to that the fantastic new Cat Suit and plenty of secret content. You should experience this game for yourself and with your own eyes if you own a Wii U. While the first few levels are a bit of a slow burn and that you can run in troubles in multiplayer, that shouldn't stop you from purring at the screen and holding paws tight on your controller of choice.