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Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Kotaku review


First, the bad news: Super Mario Bros. Wonder does not cure covid-19. Trust me on this. But if you ignore that flaw and focus on everything else – the great graphics, the extremely creative levels, the perfect music – it’s easy to see that this is one of Nintnedo’s best. Mario games in years.

Check Super Mario Bros. Wonder : Amazon

Super Mario Bros. Wondernow available on Switch, is the latest entry in Nintendo’s history Mario franchise, and the first traditional 2D side-scroller featuring everyone’s favorite plumber in over a decade. Wonder is also the first new Mario game to launch after the hugely popular animated film starring Chris Pratt and Jack Black. And let’s not forget, it’s also the first Mario game to introduce a new voice actor in the role of the famous Italian hero. This all adds up to a weird, higher-than-normal amount of pressure and eyeballs on what was already a highly publicized and highly anticipated film. Super Mario Bros. game.

In a similar situation, I suspect other studios and developers could play it safe, creating something solid but familiar. Fortunately, history has shown us time and time again that Nintendo is not like most other gaming companies, and Wonder is proof of this.

At first glance, one might assume Super Mario Bros. Wonder it’s just another 2D Mario platform game, featuring the iconic character, all of his friends, the evil Bowser, and a plethora of new levels to play through while collecting coins. And yes, that’s still the basic formula at work here Wonder. But Nintendo uses this simple, tried-and-true design as the basis for something wacky and fresh.

Wild and wacky weeds

This is especially evident in the new Wonder Flowers, power-ups hidden throughout most levels that, when activated, trigger wild changes that alter Mario’s appearance, movements, or interactions with the world. These changes aren’t simple either, like making Mario run a little faster or simply making the levels change color. Instead, Wonder Flowers dramatically and playfully rejects all of the Mario rules and lore that veteran players might expect.

Once you trigger a flower, pipes may start slithering like snakes, the world may fill with water, Mario may transform into a very large monstrosity, or the entire level may stop and invite you to answer a few trivia questions.

Some of my favorite effects have completely changed the way I play, with a flower changing the perspective of the scene, rotating Super Mario Bros. Wonder in a top-down action game instead of a 2D platformer. Another time, a flower turned me into a Goomba, unable to jump or move quickly, and filled the level with enemies who wanted to eat me. This meant I had to time my movements and use mushrooms to hide and… oh wait a minute, will you watch this! I’m playing a stealth game with Mario.

None of these Wonder Flower experiences last too long, ending after a few minutes at most, and you can ignore the flower and complete the level normally if you want. But every time I started a lesson in Wonder, I couldn’t wait to see Mario’s next creative twist. It reminded me of the first time I played Super Mario 64 when I was a kid and didn’t know much about the show or what to expect. Every new enemy and world threw me for a loop. And Wonder recreates that feeling of well-being… wonder that was missing in so many 2D Mario games for so long.

It’s not just the Wonder Flowers that add to this sense of wonder, but Nintendo’s decision to fill the game primarily with new enemies and power-ups. (Though some classics like Fire Flower and Koopas are also making a return.)

I would often encounter a strange new enemy, like a walking firework, and I would have to take a moment to figure it out. And once I discovered it, I would come across a new power-up, like the famous elephant fruit, and then learn a new way to interact with it or use it. Other power-ups like the Drill Helmet and Bubble Flower change the way you explore levels or eliminate enemies. The result is that Super Mario Bros. Wonder is endlessly fresh and one of the most creative video games I’ve played in a long time.

It’s fun, but is it difficult?

Of course, all these wacky Wonder Flower tricks aren’t enough to create a Mario good game. The other important factor is the actual feeling of playing, and Wonder nails this aspect perfectly.

Running and jumping feel heavy, but not too heavy. Mario has a sense of momentum and weight, but he doesn’t feel like a lead weight holding the action back. Likewise, it doesn’t bounce wildly like a grease-covered bouncy ball. I always felt like I had complete control over Mario, no matter how crazy things got. So when I pulled off a cool move or nailed a tricky jump, I felt like I did it. And when Mario died, it was still my fault and I knew what I did wrong and how not to screw it up next time.

Nintendo

Now how many times you fail Super Mario Bros. Wonder is at the center of some online discourse. It seems like a lot of people are worried that Nintendo’s latest platformer won’t be a difficult experience to get through. And the short answer is yes, it’s not very difficult. If you’ve ever played platformers and Mario games, there’s a good chance you’ll end up Wonder with a surplus of additional lives and not too many deaths. Even I, someone who is not a pro at platform games, am finished Wonder with almost 80 additional lives, and that’s without abusing any bugs or exploits. But that suits me.

If you want a super hard Mario game, the Internet has spent years creating ROM hacks and Mario Creator levels that will give you all the Kaizo action you could want. I also think that some complaints about Wonder being “too easy” come from people who have played hundreds or thousands of official matches. Mario levels, fan hacks and other monstrosities, and these people will never be challenged by anything from modern Nintendo. And that’s okay. I’d rather Nintendo make creative, silly Mario games for the other 95% of gamers who just want to enjoy the Mario platform without a pixel-perfect platform.

In other words, if you want a Mario game, there are many options. However, I also recognize that Wonder could probably increase the difficulty a bit without losing less experienced players, especially in the early worlds and courses, as some of them are almost impossibly easy.

Screenshot: Nintendo

In Nintendo’s defense, Wonder seems to be trying to appease experts and newcomers with its badge system. Once equipped, the different badges you unlock throughout the campaign can allow Mario to jump higher, move faster, collect coins by defeating enemies or even shoot with a grappling hook.

Some of the weirdest badges Super Mario Bros. Wonder can make the game harder to complete, like the one that makes Mario jump all the time. Other badges have the opposite effect, adding blocks into levels to make them easier or giving Mario a Super Mushroom at each checkpoint or start of a level. It’s a system, like Wonder Flowers, that seems designed to shake up the Mario formula but can also be skipped by players who prefer a pure platforming experience.

The best medicine

I guess before I wrap up I should mention the “story” of the game. The creativity and freshness found in the rest of the game doesn’t extend to the story of Wonderin which Bowser steals magical power and becomes a big threat, and Mario travels through seven worlds to collect the resources needed to stop the famous villain.

It’s not very revolutionary, although the final fight against Bowser is very good. But I don’t play Mario games for the exciting narratives or dramatic character arcs. I come back to these games because they – the best ones at least – make me smile, are endlessly inventive and really make me feel good to play.

A screenshot shows Mario running over a moving pipe.

Screenshot: Nintendo

I mentioned above that Super Mario Bros. Wonder didn’t cure my covid-19 infection, which is true, but I made that joke because if a video game could help someone feel better physically, this would be it.

Wonder is a magnificent explosion of creativity and cartoonish silliness that makes me smile every time I play it. I really felt better after a few hours of Super Mario Bros. Wonder. It made me feel like a little kid again. Everything was possible in each of its courses, and by the end I had seen things I didn’t expect to see in a Mario game. The feeling of playing Wonder didn’t cure my illness, but if I could bottle it and save it for a rainy day, I definitely would.

Instead I guess I’ll just play Wonder again next time I need a pick-me-up. It’s easier and seems a lot more fun.

Check Super Mario Bros. Wonder : Amazon

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