It's-a-him, Mario, back with three friends on another quest to save Princess Peach from the vile clutches of Bowser. Is the New Super Mario Bros. Wii new enough?
Old-school charm can only get you so far, or can it? New Super Mario Bros. Wii puts that notion to the test, upgrading classic Mario gameplay with support for four players at once, throwing in a few new power-ups, and letting gamers and their friends go to town on an all-new adventure that seems amazingly familiar.
Is this a whole new experience? Is it old, but in a good way? The assembled video game critics help us figure that out.
Startling fact: this is the first traditional Mario game to appear on a console since 1991's Super Mario World. That's a huge burden to bear, as this is the exact type of game that transformed Nintendo into the worldwide juggernaut it is today. With such a grand legacy to live up to, we expected New Super Mario Bros Wii to exemplify Nintendo's creativity and unrivaled skill, but despite "New" being right there in the title, we honestly feel this is the least inspired entry to date.
With this product, Nintendo is simply reselling your childhood to you in a way that's playable on its latest hardware. Or, if you're still a child, it's doing the Disney thing by repacking its history in ways that are still palatable. By modernizing some bits around the edges, this doesn't feel like some kind of cheap rehash or shameless cash-in. By giving you more control over the characters via the additional jumping moves and power-ups like the ice flower, which lets you freeze enemies into blocks of ice that you can then stand on, the game provides a path for players who want to play with reckless abandon, holding down the run button at all times and just doing everything they can to stay alive during a mad break for the finish line.
You'll need to dig deep and mine whatever experience you have with previous Mario offerings because New Super Mario Bros. Wii is by far the most challenging game in the series for many years (certainly more so than New Super Mario Bros. on the DS or Super Mario Galaxy). It starts off innocuously enough, but by the start of the second world, things get noticeably more difficult. It doesn't let up as you make your way through to the fiery eighth world and a particularly epic Bowser boss battle. It's a welcome challenge because despite the fact that you'll no doubt lose plenty of lives and at times be tempted to throw the Wii Remote in frustration, the game never feels cheap, thanks to its consistently outstanding level design.
While the entire game can be played as solo Mario, this is the first Mario game that will allow you to play cooperatively with up to four players. Whether or not this is a blast or completely frustrating is mostly up to the player and his or her partners. In some cases, four players on the screen makes the game slightly more difficult. The camera will pan back, and it's easy to lose yourself, or accidentally bump a player on the head and knock him or her into a bottomless pit or an enemy. Of course, this can be done intentionally (which can lend to a lot of laughs), but more often than not it's simply a product of too many cooks in the kitchen at once.
Heck, there's even a help system in place that will have Luigi play the level for you showing you the best way to beat any of the regular levels in the game. Couple the game's amazingly challenging level designs with a wide range of pattern-based bosses and you have one of the most solid and impressive gameplay systems available on the Wii console and a testament to just how viable and creative 2D gaming can still be when in the right developer's hands.
I haven't had this much goodhearted, simple fun on a video game console since my days playing the original Super Mario Bros. snowed in at my house in Maryland. Sure, a lot of what makes a game like New Super Mario Bros. Wii so much fun for someone like me to play is the nostalgia factor. But there's more to it than that. This is a delightful game, one that delivers a lasting and challenging experience without making you feel like you need to learn how to walk again. If Nintendo still needed a reason for people to buy a Wii, this is the ultimate argument winner.