Mario and Luigi are not unfamiliar with multiplayer gaming. The original “Mario Bros” had simultaneous two-player action that was equal parts cooperation and competition and “New Super Mario Bros” had its own devoted one-on-one competitive mode that saw the brothers battling it out for stars in endlessly scrolling levels. There has, however, never been anything quite like “New Super Mario Bros Wii”. It’s a traditional, old school Mario platformer with sidescrolling levels full of secret paths, hidden rooms, and littered with Goombas, Koopas, and edible, body-morphing mushrooms. Four people can play through these levels at the same time. Sweet.
You play as either Mario, Luigi, a blue Toad, or a yellow Toad and you tear through giant levels similar to those seen in the first “New Super Mario Bros”. The game is constantly keeping players together. When one goes down a pipe, the rest follow. If someone dies mid-level, they reappear on the right side of the screen trapped in a bubble and must be freed by another player. When you find a question box with a power up in it, four of them are unleashed. It’s frantic and good fun.
I got to try out a desert level, one of eight playable on the E3 show floor, and came away much impressed. First, even though I was playing with three other people, it was clear that the level would be just as satisfying as a solo experience. The new power ups, like the helicopter suit and the ice-throwing penguin suit, are slick additions to the Mario power up stable (and markedly better than “NSMB”’s mini-mushroom and turtle shell.) The game’s looking fantastic but I’ve got to ask: where the hell is Princess Peach?! What kind of “Super Mario Bros 2” reunion are you pawning off on us, Nintendo!