The Alien Critic Reviews...
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TAC Reviews...New Super Mario Bros. Wii

 

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is not surprisingly a Wii game that is the sequel to New Super Mario Bros. It is a side scrolling platform game made by Nintendo. This is the first Mario game that I have played (not including Mario Kart for the Wii) since playing Super Mario World on the SNES back in the early 1990s.

 

New Super Mario Bros. Wii Boxart

 

If anyone out there is unaware of the plot of a Mario game allow me to enlighten you…ahem…Princess Peach is kidnapped by a large reptile called Bowser, and it is up to plumbers Mario and Luigi to rescue her. That is pretty much it, oh no wait, they live in the Mushroom Kingdom. If you are playing a Mario game then it is a pretty safe bet that Peach is kidnapped at the beginning and Mario must battle his way through several worlds to get her back. Those worlds are invariably desert, ice, fire and then Mario must face a boss. Those bosses are almost always extensions of Bowser’s family that are defeated after three well timed kicks to the head.

 

The reason that I picked up this game was because Abbie and I are rather sick of Lego games and as I had very fond memories of Super Mario World I thought this would make a great game to play through together. Back in the early 1990s when Super Mario World was released I spent hours exploring every inch of the world. Any map that had a red dot meant that there were at least two exits which would open up new and secret levels that unlocked different types of Yoshi plus more of the game to explore

 

The game was a side scrolling platformer just like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and it encouraged me to play through time and time again to find all the different levels plus all the secrets. Being a SNES game the 2-player option was limited to say the least, basically there wasn’t really a 2-player option. If you tried to play with 2 players then one would control Mario, the other Luigi, and you’d each have to do one level at a time. So it wasn’t so much 2 player as taking it in turns to do each level.

 

The game was so popular that on one occasion when I had to use human transportation to go to the United States for various important reasons, the airliner that I flew with had a SNES controller (that could be removed) in the armrest and a copy of Super Mario World was on the entertainment system loaded on the screen in the back of the chair in front.

 

So the game became popular enough for an airliner to port a copy of it onto their entertainment systems and develop a small controller that was in the passengers’ seat…could you imagine an airliner doing that now??

 

Admittedly I haven’t been on a plane for while so maybe airlines are still doing such things but I doubt it.

 

Anyway, the point that I’m going for is that the last side scroller I played was really good fun and considering the console it was released on is now almost thirty years old I was expecting Super Mario Bros. Wii to be at least as good as that.

 

So was it??

 

Hell No!!!!!!

 

How could it be so bad I hear you ask…well not surprisingly I am going to tell you.

 

Like I said I got this game so that Abbie and I could play it together and almost immediately that caused problems. The game is designed so it can be played with up to four players, naturally two of you would play as Mario and Luigi and the other two would be either a Blue Toad or a Yellow Toad. When Abbie and I loaded up the first map we immediately ran into issues, the main one being that the characters will literally bounce off one another. This can be useful if you are trying to reach coins that are high but nine times out of ten you will be trying to make a jump accidently land on your partner and get catapulted into an enemy that will either kill you or cause you damage. Seriously the amount of times that one of us bounced off the other and ended up being killed became too many to count, so much so that within the first couple of levels we were already on continues. I don’t understand why there couldn’t be an option to hit a button when you wanted to bounce off your teammate instead of it happening constantly.

 

Despite being advertised that four players can play together such a thing would be virtually impossible. Aside from bouncing off each other, the characters will continuously bump into one another too. I was standing still awaiting a spiky whomper (I think they are called) to move back up so I could pass when the yellow Toad Abbie was playing as bumped into me and knocked me into the spikes. As I was not super powered at the time I died. Abbie swore that she’d done it by accident but it became a trend, one of us would be waiting on a platform for the right moment to jump, the other would jump onto the same platform and invariably knock the other one down a murder hole.

 

This wasn’t the only issue that we encountered trying to play together. Again despite being for four players this game would be impossible to do with Mario, Luigi and a couple of Toads in tow as well. The screen can only expand so far, so if one of you gets left behind whilst the other is scouting ahead, or skidding down a hill on their arse, the one who was left behind dies. If you are trying to scale something high, and one of you miss-times a jump and fall out of the bottom of the screen, you die. Even if you know that there is a platform beneath you when you fall, you will still lose a life which is just infuriating.

 

What I don’t understand is why the game didn’t have a split screen option like numerous Lego games, and don’t tell me that wouldn’t be possible on the Wii hardware because Indiana Jones had a Lego game which was on the console. In case you don’t know, if you are playing a Lego game in co-op and both players are on the same screen you can see both, however if they get too far apart the screen will split so you could separate from one another without the one who ran ahead getting the person lagging behind killed!!

 

Honestly we were going through lives at a rate of knots, Abbie was up to ten continues by the time we were mid-way through the second world. TEN Continues!!!!! You start with five lives per continue so for those of you paying attention that is fifty lives, FIFTY LIVES that Abbie had gone through just getting to the second world. I wasn’t doing much better as I was up to around my seventh continue by the time we’d completed World 1 and moved onto World 2.

 

Most of these deaths had been caused by us either accidently bouncing off one another and getting killed, bumping each other off platforms and getting killed, one mistakenly leaving the other behind which got them killed, or finally mistiming a jump which…not surprisingly ended up getting us killed.

 

Now when two of you are playing two power ups will spawn, but there is nothing to stop one player picking up both. Sometimes this is unavoidable but more often than not one will bounce down a murder hole or somewhere you cannot reach it. This allows one player to be the Super one but if they are then accidently knocked down a murder hole then the other player is left to fend for themselves without any abilities. Plus unlike Super Mario World in which if you picked up a power-up when you were already using one it would appear in a box at the top of the screen which meant that should you get hit, it would drop down giving you a fighting chance, here you just get points for picking up a second power-up if you already had one. If your partner is still small it isn’t like they will automatically get something if any player picks up say a mushroom or whatever. In addition the mid-level check point will make whichever character that touches it “Super” but not both. Due to the amount of deaths that Abbie and I were getting, if she spotted the marker flag she would race towards it so we wouldn’t have to start from the beginning of the level again. Unfortunately the amount of times she had a super and I wasn’t and yet she’d hit the marker anyway resulted in me getting killed by the next enemy we encountered.

 

How the hell anyone would manage to complete any of the levels with four players is beyond me.

 

The ground on every single level also seemed to be made of ice as your chubby plumbers have to run on the spot for a second or two in order to build up enough momentum to actually move. When trying to jump onto small platforms they would also slide when they landed which invariably knocked the other player off if they were on that platform too. I expect to slip and slide on an ice level but not on a desert or fire world. It makes it incredibly difficult to time jumps because the characters don’t have as much momentum as you think they do which often means you miss jumps, and that invariably ends with your character being killed.

 

I also despised using the Wii remote, you have to hold it sideways, hitting 2 will cause you to jump and 1 will launch any ability you have (like launching fireballs or whatever). If you move the remote your character does this weird spinney jump that invariably ended getting me killed because Mario would jump up into the path of an enemy or straight up leap into a murder hole. I attempted to simply plug my GameCube controller into the Wii console to eliminate this motion-control issue but no such luck. You have to use the remote as there is simply no other option so you are stuck using the shitty rectangular remotes that are not exactly comfortable to hold in your hands for any length of time. Both Abbie and I also found that the wireless remotes didn’t necessarily respond to our button prompts, we both died multiple times because we’d hit the jump button but neither Mario or the Yellow Toad would jump for a split second. The batteries in both controllers were full so it wasn’t iffy batteries that caused a problem or meant the controls were sluggish, it might have been the location of the Wii sensor, alternatively it could have been that because we were holding both remotes the sensors on them were being pressed into our hands. But again there is no other way to hold them so if our own hands were blocking them then again that is a pretty big design flaw with the remotes and a game mechanic that uses them.

 

I was honestly starting to wonder if I was really just that bad at the game and had forgotten my former platforming skills in the intervening years between when I played Super Mario World or a decent Sonic the Hedgehog game and now. So I decided to conduct an experiment…

 

I loaded up a new save file and started playing the game in single player mode from the beginning and by the time I reached the place Abbie and I had in world 2, I had fifteen odd lives and was not even close to needing to use a continue. I had died two or three times during the first castle level because of dodgy jumping mechanics but I was mostly sailing through the levels with ease. I reached the level Abbie and I had repeatedly tried and failed to complete in under half an hour, something that had taken Abbie and I at least a few hours to achieve.

 

I didn’t play the game by myself either, I did a level then I handed the remote to Abbie who did the next level, then I did the next and so on. So it wasn’t Abbie being crap at the game which resulted in me and herself getting killing time and again when we tried the game in co-op.

 

On our own we were able to play through the game with little to no difficulty, so it was the mechanics of trying to do it in 2 player that led to the problems above, and not us being rubbish at the game itself.

 

The world map seemed to have more in common with Super Mario Bros 3 as you move through them, complete the level and then you can move to the next level, that is simple enough but there doesn’t seem to be branching paths like there was in Super Mario World which is a pity. I liked the expanded world of Super Mario World but this one seemed to be far more linier with no other branching paths.

 

You are able to visit various Toad houses along the way which can grant you different power-up bonuses, but these power-ups need to be activated in the world map, and cannot be done during a level. So if you are struggling with a boss you can’t load up a power-up you have secured in order to help you out. On the subject of bosses if you die during a boss fight, you don’t restart only having to face the boss again, you start at the mid-way point of the level and have to fight your way through to them again. I can’t honestly remember if it was always like that but you’d think that in this day and age you’d be able to resume a level at the boss fight rather than having to go through the effort of reaching them again.

 

The game has a save mechanic but the game only lets you save after a castle level, if you attempt to save the game manually you are informed that you’ll only be able to load that save file once. Why?? Seriously, why can we not save the game as and when we want?? When Abbie and I were playing together we had a Game Over screen drop in front of us because we’d both run out of lives, and were booted back to the beginning of the World to try the whole thing again. Something that Abbie had no intention of doing. We did come back to the game to try World 2 again but had all of the problems talked about above so we made very little progress. Apparently once you beat the game you “unlock” the ability to save whenever you want but what kind of unlockable is the ability to simply save your game as and when you choose?? Plus if you have completed the game then why would you need to be saving it anymore because you’ve already completed it??

 

Ultimately I think the only way to do the game is by taking it in turns rather than trying to play it 2 player because the game just isn’t designed to do that. Abbie, however, got very grumpy when I started playing the game and then give her the remote after I had completed a level because she wanted to play the game together not take it in turns. On the other hand I was getting very frustrated and angry  trying to play the game 2 player because of all the problems discussed above.

 

This might be another Catch-22 situation. If you’ve read my Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 review then you’ll know that Abbie and I reached an impasse with that game because she got sick of playing it, but wouldn’t let me play through it alone to get all the trophies and unlockable characters. As a result that game is still sitting on the shelf waiting to be finished and I wonder if New Super Mario Bros. Wii is destined to have the same fate. Playing it in co-op is an exercise in frustration and is just no fun, so I have no desire to continue fighting with the game itself whilst trying to complete the various levels. If I play it by myself I have no doubt I’ll be able to complete it, and I might even have some fun along the way but I seriously doubt Abbie will want to play the game like that.

 

As of writing this article I have only managed to reach World 2 but the problems we had getting that far make me not want to continue the game if Abbie is insistent on playing through it together rather than taking it in turns. I don’t think that the game is necessarily bad but considering that the main reason we bought it was so we could play through it in co-op it seems like just bad game mechanics which cause your characters to bounce off one another or be able to push each other off ledges. I cannot say that I enjoyed the game when Abbie and I were playing it together because I got so frustrated watching Mario getting bumped into enemies or bouncing off her Toad character and getting killed. How could we possible have used between seven and ten continues just getting to World 2, whereas on my own it was better but I wouldn’t have bothered with the game at all if I had known it would play on co-op like this.

 

The truth is that I did not like the game, it was so frustrating to play together, and not having the branching levels like Super Mario World was also annoying. Perhaps my opinion of it will improve if Abbie and I continue to play it but considering the levels are going to get harder from this point on and we died dozens of times on the easier levels I doubt it will get any better.

 

I am fully aware that I am reviewing the game after only getting to World 2 but so far it has not been much fun and I don’t see how the issues that I have had with it will improve if we continue trying to do it in co-op. As a result my Thumb is Down. The game is just no fun if you are trying to play it together and I imagine attempting it with four players would be damn near impossible.

 

 

4/10 – I got the game so Abbie and I would have a fun alternative to Lego games but in co-op the game just isn’t any fun. Watching Mario or Toad go bouncing off one another into murder holes to die time and again, or get knocked into enemies to die time and again, or mistiming a jump to drop off the screen to die time and again…just made the game frustrating and no fun to play. My advice, pick this one up if you are planning on playing it alone, otherwise unless you want to quickly lose friends or loved ones, then avoid the co-op option at all costs.

 

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© Chris Sharman