Sitting on a train, 3D is nothing new. You’ve got that old man over there, in full 3D, wiping his nose on a hankerchief which probably hasn’t been washed in years, and then there’s the undesirable youth, who is writing “Karl was here” on the chair with a Sharpie. By this description, 3D is a sad reality, one full of adverse animate objects that do their best to ruin your day. Before 3DS, I’d have dived into a book, or a game on my phone to escape this sad train journey. Even with the 3DS, I’d have rather dived into a book or a game on my phone – let’s be honest, the 3DS has been short of cracking titles, with the exception of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the rest of the 3D offerings have been mediocre at best. Still, when Mario shows his face, you know he’s going to have a good go at putting things right. My first impressions? This should have been a release title.
Super Mario 3D Land is diamond release, there’s no beating around the bush – and if Karl had a 3DS instead of a Sharpie, he’d be far too busy taking in the stunning 3D visuals in this Wii-looking title. It’s like having a home console in your pocket, with the added bonus of 3D. The game seamlessly blends 2D side scrolling action with 3D distractions so you can venture off into the background to pick up items and deal with enemies. It’s not until you get this game in your hand and turn up the 3D when you come to fully appreciate how much effort has gone into making Super Mario 3D Land a standout title visually. And because the 3D on the 3DS is inwards as opposed to coming out of the screen, it adds a new dimension when walking into the background, where you’re rewarded for your exploration and curiosity.
At its heart, Super Mario 3D Land is a platforming game, as you’d expect from a Mario game – and while most of the game is side scrolling, the game keeps things fresh by throwing in Mario 64-style levels, before returning to the 2D/3D background chic. There are plenty of enemies to do battle with, and with new items like the blue boomerang – which is handy for taking down multiple enemies before having it return to you – as well as old favourites, you’ll be sure to find a play style that suites you.
Mario has never been about the story – thankfully we’re not judging it on such merits. You can probably guess the story, but just in case you’re new to the series, I won’t delve into detail. All you have to know is that you play as Mario and go up against all sorts of bosses and puzzles, and this is where Super Mario 3D Land comes into its own. Mario has always been about challenging puzzles and levels to get your teeth into – there’s nothing here that will frustrate the hell out of you, but the odd outburst of mild swears may follow falling from a folding bridge as you fall to your doom on more than one occasion.
The 3rd dimension adds to the puzzles in a welcomed way, some jumping platforms may stretch diagonally into the background, while the welcomed return of the Tanooki Suit will take you upward above the enemies and beyond – although I do feel a little bit cheated by the Tanooki Suit, it doesn’t so much fly as it does float. It’s a bit of a rip off, but it does the job, and breaks up gameplay between other suits and power-ups found in the game.
There are 8 worlds to go at, and that should last you about six to eight hours if you explore all the worlds and take in the beauty. A lot of the levels are quite short – either that, or time flies when you’re having fun; perhaps it’s a mixture of the two. When you’re done with the 8 worlds, you can reply on ‘special’ mode which is like a pumped up version of the game with harder enemies, bosses, and less lives – it’s a bit like prodding yourself with a compass, you won’t enjoy it, but you’ll want to endure it to see if you can.
A decent Mario soundtrack matches the visuals nicely, with great sound effects as you’d come to expect from a game of this caliber. Older gamers who grew up with Mario will feel nostalgic as they adventure through the different styles of worlds, with nods towards the older games in the series: coin collecting, drain pipes, flagpoles, classic themed levels, and, of course, the rip off that is the Tanooki Suit! There are bonus levels too, which are welcomed and fun to discover, although if you have trouble with 3D visuals, these levels are pretty boring and difficult to play with the 3D turned off – it’s as if Nintendo snub those who would prefer to have their 3D off. Having said that, if your eyes can handle 3D, you won’t want to be switching it off, as mentioned previously, the visuals are stunning and pretty.
Super Mario 3D Land is the reason to have a 3DS. It’s gorgeous to look at, fun to play, and a great distraction from dimwits on your commute. It’s a little bit short and the controls can be a little rigid despite the analogue stick. Sometimes the transitions between 2D and 3D action can seem less fluid to control than it appears, but you get used to it. So, in short, it’s the only game of its kind worth having on Nintendo’s 3D console. If it’s not already on your list, put it on, unless scribing your name on public transport chairs with a Sharpie is more your cup of tea. Yes, I’m looking at you Karl.
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