'New Super Mario Bros. Wii' Review - Hell Is Other People

New Super Mario Bros.

While other franchises boldly venture into the future, with fully 3D worlds, procedural gameplay and killstreak unlocks, "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" takes a look back. But can this retro reboot stand the test of time?

The Basics

Imagine the classic "Super Mario Bros." gameplay. Now add four people, all playing at once, jumping off one another, throwing each other into pits, stealing mushrooms. Suddenly it's a whole new experience. Well, that's the idea behind "New Super Mario Bros. Wii," a multiplayer-centric Mario game.

The Highs

Classic Mario To A T

The gameplay in "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" is far from revolutionary, but that doesn't make it any less fun. There are eight different worlds, each with unique enemies, obstacles and power-ups to discover. The traditional Mario formula of teaching you new elements and then throwing difficulty curve balls returns here, and the game slowly ramps up to a frantic, undeniably difficult pace by the end. It's one of the best 2D "Mario" games ever made and arguably matches the genius of "Super Mario Bros. 3."

Mulitplayer Makes Mario More Fun...To A Point

Playing "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" with one person alongside you (taking on the role of Luigi or a variety of Toad) makes the game at least twice as enjoyable. Seriously, if you don't at least try this with one other person you're missing out on the joy of cooperative/adversarial multiplayer in a Mario setting. Note how I said "one person alongside you." We'll get to that.

Presentation

The visuals and music combine to make "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" feel like a fresh experience, while still recalling classic themes and level designs. Twists on old favorites (like the underground theme) are freshened by lighting effects and every enemy and hero really shows a level of care and thoughtfulness.

The Lows

4 Players Is Nearly Impossible

I can't say for sure if this is a "low," per se, as the novelty of playing Mario with 4 people is pretty fun...for a level or two. After that you'll begin to understand that the game just ends up becoming more frustrating and less fun beyond the first two people. Because everyone is able to interact with everyone else there's a level of chaos that simply can't be avoided. It's with 4 players that I feel like the game gets to "Contra" difficulty levels. With 2 it's considerably easier, but still challenging enough to require a handful of restarts from a veteran.

No Drop-In, Drop-Out

A relatively minor issue, but in order to add new players to a game you have to be back at the level selection screen. If you're in the middle of a level the only option is to die before you can add more people. Seems like it wouldn't have been that hard to toss in new characters on the fly (hell, "Contra" did it like 20 years ago!).

Power-Up Variety

I wish there was a little more variety in the power-ups for "New Super Mario Bros. Wii." As it is, the only brand new power-up is the penguin costume (gives Mario the ability to slide across water and throw ice balls), while the others have appeared in previous Mario games.

Final Word

If you're a fan of Mario games, "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" is a can't miss title. Playing with other people adds a whole new layer to the franchise (for good and bad) and even if you're just playing alone, you'll still get an enjoyable experience hopscotching through the game's dozens of levels. It's also the sort of game that's great to introduce to non-gamers, as it allows you to pick up their character and carry them over the tricky bits. That's assuming you're not an amoral jerk, which apparently I am.