Saturday, 7 January 2012

Super Mario 3D - PANNED!

Where are all the views for this post coming from? Please, let me know!

I meant to review this a long time ago, but I didn't have a 3DS... or this game. I still don't have a 3DS but - for some reason - somebody I know does. He bought 3D land around Christmas and, being the top guy he is, let me borrow it for a bit to write this review. In all honesty, I don't understand the near-universal acclaim it's been getting.

I was playing Galaxy 2 earlier, and it's probably one of the best games I've ever played. Each and every level was interesting, different, and fun to play... with the exception of one or two killer missions anyway. Super Mario 3D Land, however, is easily the most uninspired, uncreative Mario game and probably one of the most unoriginal games I've ever played.

The game feels like a 3D version of New Super Mario Bros as opposed to other 3D outings like Galaxy. Instead of each level having a varying number of episodes and power stars, there is just a series of courses. The Tanooki Suit has returned, as well as the ever-present fire flower. Also introduced is the boomerang flower which... lets Mario throw boomerangs. Levels have a time limit again, flagpoles at the end of levels have returned, and so have all of the classic enemies and traps that everyone loves to jump all over. It's basically the good ol' fashioned Mario platformer... BUT IN 3D!

I have no issues with saying controlling Mario has never been so precise. With every jump and every dash, Mario will go exactly where you want him to... As long as you have the Tanooki Suit, which you will pretty much need to land some trickier jumps correct; something I don't entirely approve of. It's embarrassing how much you need the Tanooki Suit and how many star coins are reliant on it. But even without the Tanooki Suit, you'll very rarely find yourself dying in this game and thinking "what the hell was Mario doing?" It's quite like Galaxy 2 in the sense that most of the time you'll be dying due to your own errors rather than due to the computer being a cheating bastard. However, while the controls are more accurate, they're certainly not as fun as in, for example, the two Galaxy games. There's no feeling of having crazy jumping skills, there aren't many shortcuts to take that make you feel like a total badass. THERE IS NO TRIPLE JUMP!

The story - spoiler alert - is about Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach again. I'll be honest, you cannot really expect much more than that from a Mario game. However, and I know I'm doing this a lot, remember the start of Super Mario Galaxy? Bowsers fleet actively invaded the mushroom kingdom and airlifted the entire castle in a battery of spectacular kabooms? Well this time we're shown a few photos and are told the Princess has been kidnapped. Make what you will of that.

This is about as interesting as the World Maps gets.
I think the greatest example of the lack of creativity in this game can be seen in the World Maps. Most Mario games have them, and they usually have some some interesting quirks, such as optional paths and levels. 3D land, on the other hand, is just one long line. There are no roaming enemies, no branching pathways, not even interesting backgrounds. The few optional levels are located on the line, hidden with a question marked box. The world maps in this game are but an interactive menu, and not a very interesting one. There is absolutely nothing to do in the world map other than go to the next level, and it that sense, they may as well have just made a menu. It's almost as if they're just not even trying.

This is about as interesting as the levels get.
Bear in mind that this could easily be ANY setting.
The levels themselves aren't the most interesting themselves. Thinking back, there are very few levels that spring to mind as being particularly fun to play or even memorable. There are some pretty interesting concepts, like a level made of biscuits and another composed of musical instruments, but very little is done with these ideas. For the most part, level themes are just textures that could be swapped around with no ramifications. That shouldn't be the case. There are too many monotonous platforming levels in this game. While the crisp, cartoony visuals do make it at least pretty, it's no excuse for pretty much all of the levels being completely forgettable due to being just basic platforming.

This isn't helped by the 8 special worlds. Unlocked after beating the main game, the special worlds are designed to provide a challenge to more hardcore gamers. They're also mostly just clones of earlier levels with a few changes made to make them harder. One level is even cloned twice! Padding at its absolute worst. To unlock the equally uninteresting final, final level, you have to beat all of these levels. collect all of the star coins, then beat all of the levels again with Luigi. I'm not kidding.

The bosses aren't much better in this respect. There are only three bosses in this game: Bowser, Boom Boom (from Super Mario Bros 3) and Pom Pom. None of them are very interesting. Bowser's "fights" are merely an obstacle course, sometimes involving barrels; Boom Boom swings his arms around and Pom Pom throws around an easily dodged boomerang. Across 16 worlds, these are the only three bosses, and they're not very good ones. The Mario series isn't renowned for its innovative boss fights, but recycling the same boring three - with the only difference being that some spikes might spring out the floor at some point - is just lazy.
This is about as interesting as the -
oh, you get the picture, this game is boring!
The few interesting features in this game are recycled. Airships are back, the flipping panels from Galaxy 2 are back, so are the star coins from the New Super Mario games. That's not a bad thing, I love it when games bring back concepts and introduce them to different situations. Portal 2 in particular did an amazing job with this. The problem is that nothing new is introduced to keep the recycled features fresh and interesting. The only new thing in this game is the Boomerang Flower, which is sadly not often used, and really not enough to carry an entire game if it was.

Super Mario 3D Land is not great. Everything about this game makes me think that the developers weren't really interested. Unlike previous titles, there is no creativity, no spark, no life. It's almost as if the developers were told that the 3DS needed a Mario title, but they didn't have a good concept to work with so they just threw a load of random objects together and slapped some settings on them. Say what you like about Sunshine, at least it tried something different. Say what you like about Galaxy,  it tried something different. 3D Land does nothing. I wanted to enjoy this game, and I did, but if this is meant to be the killer app in the 3DS's awful games library, then I can see the system crashing and burning.


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