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New Super Mario Bros Wii review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • A handful of brilliant levels
  • Amazing final battle (surprise!)
  • Two-player mode is the best
  • Too simplistic for longtime players
  • Motion controls detract from the experience
  • Four-player mode seems to be love it or hate it

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.


Above: 47% new content!

The core game is precisely what you expect - guide Mario through eight themed worlds filled with spinning platforms, tricky jumps and power-ups aplenty. On paper, it sounds wonderful, as we’ve been dying for a 2D Mario entry for years. Unfortunately, the levels are extremely basic and lack the imagination of the NES/SNES classics. We thought the first two worlds were warming us up for some really crazy stuff later on, but even worlds five, six and seven feel more like lighthearted obstacle courses than true Mario levels. Yes, there a handful of powerfully tough areas we had to try over and over (and we’re quite happy with them), but the vast majority are too simple and too short on thrills.


Above: Some levels, like 8-5, are amazing. Most are not

Nintendo might have been aware of this, as New SMB Wii is loaded with shout-outs to both Mario 3 and Mario World, two games often held up as the pinnacle of platforming. Instead of designing memorable levels, it feels like Nintendo referenced memorable levels in an attempt to win us over with nostalgia.


Above: Hey look it’s those airships from Mario 3 (now pitifully easy)


Above: Remember that time Bowser was in that thing? Here’s another!


Above: Gates that flip Mario between layers? Where have we seen that before?


Above: The Koopalings are back... and all go down with minimal effort

We’re all for homages to our favorite games. Hell, that’s half the fun of Smash Bros and the primary reason we buy Nintendo products. But when a game expends more energy calling out great moments of the past instead of making its own, something’s wrong. It spends so much time looking back, you eventually realize just about everything found in the single player game has been done before (and better) by earlier Mario games, from level layout to boss battles to power-ups. New SMB Wii may still be competent and more fun than a large portion of Wii titles, but it pales next to its predecessors and does little to step out of their long shadow. And they’re all on Virtual Console for substantially less money.

It’s not just the so-so level design, either. Control, usually a 10/10 in any Mario adventure, is somewhat compromised by a motion-controlled spin jump. This is a game built around tight, precise jumps, and we ended up dying more than once because we jolted the controller a tad too hard, causing Mario to leap up into fire or spikes or fire spikes or whatever the hell else he’s surrounded by at the time. You also have to shake the controller to grab and throw enemies or trigger the new propeller suit’s flying ability, actions that would have been easily mapped to the Classic Controller or an old GameCube pad, saving us all a few unnecessary deaths.


Above: Wii-Waggle also controls these seesaw-like platforms

Then there are downright baffling quirks we can’t wrap our heads around. You can’t throw items (like turtle shells) straight up as you could in Mario World. You can’t store items and call them down mid-level as in both Mario World and New SMB DS (instead, you hoard items on the world map and use them pre-level as in Mario 3, a step back in our eyes). Mario himself seems to have increased inertia, slipping and sliding more often than usual. Yoshi, who was brought up as a “guess who’s back!” selling point, is barely in the game at all. If memory serves, we rode the green dino no more than two or three times through the entire game.

These are admittedly minor issues, but strangely out of place for a Nintendo-crafted holiday release. Odds are most of the nine million people who buy this won’t notice or care - we’re sure the longtime Mario fanatics will prove us right.

What about that four-player mode?

When New SMB Wii was first revealed (just five months ago, btw), the key bullet point was its up-to-four-players party atmosphere. You and three pals would take control of Mario, Luigi and two Toads, and run through the entire game together in a cooperative goofabout. Sounds like a great concept, but playing it was another story.


Above: Four players gets crowded pretty damn quick

This explains why the levels are so sparse – they’re making room for three other characters and need to have them in play for the full effect. Fair enough, we can review it with that in mind. We grabbed four remotes and four adept Mario players, and at best we thought it was “OK,” not uproarious or hilarious or any kind of rowdy descriptor. Each character occupies physical space, so you’re constantly bumping into each other, ruining jumps, falling into pits, losing your power-ups and so on. The disharmony created by all this unintentional shoving is immensely frustrating for people who grew up honing their skills on this exact style of game, not fun. Not even in a “whoa this is so chaotic and crazy!” way.


Above: Notice the pauses when you get hit or power up – annoying!

On the other hand, this is perfect for people who don’t have much invested in the series or games in general. Bumpy as it is, it’s still mildly fun to jump around and playfully toss friends into pits or knock them away from items, or conversely to team up and tackle some of the bosses. Multiplayer is local-only, and roughly the same regardless of which mode you play (story, free for all or coin battle). Your enjoyment will be inversely proportional to your hardcore love of Mario.

Interestingly enough, playing with two people may be the perfect balance. You still get the team dynamic of helping each other out, and get to avoid the incessant jostling of the two extra Toads. Played solely with Mario and Luigi, this is still the weakest of the 2D Mario games, but it’s notably better than going solo. If you’re dead set on playing New Mario Wii, definitely grab a friend – ONE friend.

It’s clear by now we’re not exactly smitten with New SMB Wii. But that doesn’t mean some of its finer points were lost on us. Take for example the music, which are mostly remixes of existing Mario tunes. Nothing special there, but if you watch enemies and parts of the background, they’ll actually dance in synch with the beat. Small touch, but it’s cute, and that helps ease the pain of trudging through yet another narrow, one-note level.


Above: Are we reaching?

Then there are the 120 Star Coins, which can be spent on various hint movies. Most are meant to help you, either by revealing secret exits or how to rack up extra lives, but some are there just to floor you with expert playing. Here’s a great one:

Above: Nintendo beating YouTube to the punch

Most of us fly through Mario games without a second thought. Others dabble for a few days, then move on. The elite few consider Mario “the” game to break down and destroy, birthing speedruns and unbelievable feats of platforming in the process. It’s cool to see Nintendo acknowledge the daredevil segment of its fanbase, even if the levels themselves are somewhat wanting.


Is it better than?

New Super Mario Bros? Not really. Both suffer from simplistic level design, but there was more boss variation on DS and the controls didn’t feel as jittery. We expect more from a console Mario game; New SMB Wii feels like an upgraded DS port, not a true new game.

Super Mario Galaxy? No way. Galaxy is almost the complete opposite, bursting with ingenious new ideas, amazing visuals and occasionally breathtaking level design. It’s possibly Wii’s best game. New SMB Wii falls way short of that goal.

 


Mario Party 8? Yes. We make the comparison because, well, the four player mode isn’t too far removed from a party atmosphere, and the same crowd may be drawn to both games. But platforming is always better than minigames.


 


Just for you, Metacritic!

Nintendo saved the industry with games like this, so we’re sad to say the latest lacks the imaginative spark found in past entries. Easily the weakest of the 2D Marios, but even the worst Mario is better than most other platformers.

Nov 13, 2009

More Info

Release date: Nov 15 2009 - Wii (US)
Nov 20 2009 - Wii (UK)
Available Platforms: Wii
Genre: Action
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Nintendo
Franchise: Mario
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief
PEGI Rating:
3+

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57 comments

  • goldie10100 - November 10, 2010 8:52 a.m.

    @RyanPaul i see what you did there, But i see your disguise, MISTER PAUL RYAN! :P
  • usucdik - October 27, 2010 12:32 p.m.

    Unlike most of the 'tards that signed up just to claim you are attempting to persuade people to not buy this game, I just want to comment on how incredibly accurate this review is. I had a hard time finding people that didn't think this game was worthy of sky-high praise and also able to explain that reasoning in detail. So far this is the only source I have seen mention how NSMBW is taking a couple steps backward in the gameplay mechanics. I was expecting, hoping, to realize the game expanded on elements of SMW or SMB3, but it seems to have mostly erased them from memory, branching in a new, mundane direction. The gameplay elements seem to mostly be randomly plucked from various Mario games, and most of them are superfluous. For instance, the red coins from Yoshi's Island. Did we really need yet another way to get a 1-up, in what is really a distracting minigame inside the levels? After the second world, I had more lives than I knew what to do with. Also eschewed were knocked down building blocks that had been previously given to Mario. No spin-jumping, which means no way to bounce off of spiky bad guys. No item storage box for use inside levels. I was surprised that even Yoshi had been dumbed down and no longer had any special effects when holding/spitting colored turtle shells. Then there is the lack of suit innovation, along with the surprise of not even using some of the forms from the first NSMB. There was not even any sort of flying suit. And on that note, the levels were extremely compact and linear. This is probably a result of the multiplayer component further restricting freedom. So there is all these things, plus the other absurd moments like when you realize you can't toss turtle shells; if they say anything, I'd think it is that the design was far too rigid and limiting for this to live up to previous Mario titles.
  • markshell - October 17, 2010 2:36 a.m.

    I don't agree with most of this review. I am too a Mario fan since the NES days and played all major titles from the chubby plumber, but to me NSMBW delivers exactly what it sells. Up to four player platforming fun with classic-style gameplay. That's it. I never felt cheated while playing the game. It's not trying to be "better" than the old Mario games, it's just trying (and succeeding) to modernize the old gameplay and make it fun for playing with friends. Galaxy was the one that tried to improve and refine the franchise and platforming in general. Galaxy 2 went even further, so why pick on this game, if it's completely honest in what it tries to accomplish? To me this review was totally biased with some crushed self-created unjustified expectations.
  • nomnom52 - April 21, 2010 6:51 a.m.

    @CatrParrot: lol Ain't that the truth! although I think that Wii Play only went so high because of the bundled wiimote.
  • CatrParrot - January 17, 2010 12:06 a.m.

    @RyanPaul If a game's quality is determined by it's sales numbers, then Wii Play is a modern masterpiece.
  • RyanPaul - January 16, 2010 5:37 a.m.

    BTW, it's going to outsell Modern Warfare 2 within a month, can 6 Million people and counting be wrong?
  • RyanPaul - January 16, 2010 5:35 a.m.

    I created an account with gamesradar simply to comment on this review. Do not take their word for it. Try the game. It's fun. Lots of fun. Copious amounts of acrobatic, hallucinogenic, vaudevillian, worryingly addictive, unbridled fun. It takes all the things that are best from earlier Marios, adds in a few new twists and distills it into a tight, colorful package. From the controls to the originality to the multiplayer, none of the complaints this person made hold to me. Seriously, it looks like from some of the comments some of you were persuaded... FORGET THIS REVIEW AND TRY IT--THANK ME LATER
  • swordofzemu - January 13, 2010 2:21 a.m.

    This game is super fun to play, and to test one's gaming skilliness. However, ur kinda right... they coulda used a different plot, rather than the usual capture the princess, For example: Bowser has stolen all of the Magical coins in the kingdom's treasury, and used their power to turn all of the toads into stone, and used them as bate for mario and his friends, so he could funally get his revenge. This way,peach, and (the original) toad could be playable, instead of the those two generic yellow and blue toads. =) ^** power comes from inside you, but gaming skill comes from the cheeseburger----Swordofzemu
  • KREATIVEassassin - December 30, 2009 4:23 a.m.

    I just got this game for Christmas, and I gotta say this is the worst sidescrolling Mario platformer I've ever played. I'm not having fun with it at all. After actually playing it, I think a 7 is actually too generous. Anyone who thinks this is one of the best Mario games ever or one of the best games in X years is absolutely insane.
  • MrDuracraft - December 9, 2009 1:34 a.m.

    Dang. I loved the ds one and reading this now i dont want the Wii one. (didnt want it much before either). Im probably gonna get Spirit Tracks
  • DoctorProfessor - December 2, 2009 2:39 p.m.

    @Tomsta666 I'm pretty sure that Mr. Elston is not trying to convert other people into believing what he thinks, he is a critic and is just putting his opinion on the game. And, you can get off your soapbox and stop trying to make others share your opinion with meaningless stories of your past experiences with Mario games and from what I can predict from your story; if you were to write a review of this you would give this a 10/10 with your only justification is that Mario got you into gaming rather than actually judging it as a Game as Mr. Elston is doing here.
  • Felixthecat - November 28, 2009 9:19 p.m.

    @dravendefay - Your obviously a retard. NSMBW is NOT the best game on Wii, and it is NOT the best Mario 2D platformer. I'm a Mario fanboy, and you my friend are some middle age weirdo who has just got into gaming with his 6 year old daughter. This review is reasonable and i than Brett for making it so far. I hate it when people say bad stuff about Mario, but this does not. It is portraying a fair opinion that fits perfectly into the form of a review. Your opinion is incredibly bias, not to mention idiotic. There is no "best" Mario platformer, they are all great, but this is the weakest one. I don't own the game, and i won't buy it (soon), but i've played it, and i agree with this review almost 100%. SMW, SMB3, SM64 and SML are way better than this poor excuse of a Mario platformer, its the first one on a console in 18 fucking years, it should of been better. Go to hell. And the thing that makes me even more angry is the fact Miyamoto-san is even considering implicating the crappy Super Guide into SMG2, which he say's will be more challenging than the last. All i can say to that is... WTF?????!!!!
  • wampastompa - November 25, 2009 5:49 p.m.

    My favorite review comments: Waaa! This opinion that I just read doesn't agree with my opinion! Therefore it must be bullshit/ bias, because MY opinion is right! Honestly, how fucking insecure are you that you need a review to justify your gaming purchases? If you enjoyed it, good for you, don't question the integrity of the writer because they didn't agree with you.
  • CatrParrot - November 24, 2009 2:23 a.m.

    *Grammar Edit "Did you sign up for an account just so you could complain in [the comments of] this review?"
  • CatrParrot - November 24, 2009 1:25 a.m.

    @dravendefay Did you sign up for an account just so you could complain in this review? Are you by chance one of Nintendo's PR drones?
  • dravendefay - November 21, 2009 12:56 a.m.

    This review is retarded, it's poorly written and this guy obviously played the game for like five minutes with the intention of hating it and then bashing it in this review to get hits. This game is on the same level as Mario 3 which is an incredible accomplishment, it delivers all kinds of fan service and interesting and challenging twists in gameplay. Since when have Fish Bones and Bloopers been viable enemies? Never, but the designers of this game didn't just take the old Mario formula and repackage it, they changed it and added to it in all the right ways. I also find his comment that the levels are open and empty ridiculous, I've mostly played the game on single player and I honestly don't think about it being a multiplayer game, it's a little more open, but not really noticeably and not in any way that makes it less fun. The game is fun with any number of players, especially 2. It does take some getting used to to play 3 or 4 players, but how could you expect anything else? The bosses are all fairly challenging and unique, the levels all have their own theme and many are downright hard, there's tons of stuff you've never been able to do in a Mario game before. If nothing else this game is leaps and bounds above New Super Mario Bros. DS, which I found to be a tremendous letdown. The only negative thing I have to say about NSMB Wii is that it's just as long as you expect it to be, comparing it to SMB3, SMW, or SMW2 (a game that the reviewer is apparently oblivious to), which is a bit short for games nowadays and with the comparatively small amount of memory (I imagine) goes into 2.5-D levels. Still, they make the most of every level and each has it's own definitive theme that isn't repeated . There are no levels that are totally vanilla, perhaps save some of the ones from the first world, but if you don't expect that, there's something wrong with you. There are two reasons that you wouldn't like this game, the first is that you just hate Mario in any iteration in which case you shall forever burn in the darkest pits of Bowser's dungeon. Option two is that you're a pissed off video game reviewer that wants to cause some controversy to get more people to read your poorly written reviews. If neither of these is true, you should go buy NSMB Wii immediately, you will thank me, and then come back and write about how utterly wrong this guy's review was. New Super Mario Bro. Wii is the best game so far on the console and arguably the best Mario 2-D platformer to date.
  • Paleo_Orca - November 18, 2009 8:51 p.m.

    For shame, Brett. This is the first GamesRadar review that I don't agree with. You broke my streak. >:
  • Tomsta666 - November 17, 2009 9:40 p.m.

    I dont care what you say GamesRadar!! You're not going to put me off buying this game. Mario was the reason i got into gaming, that was 20ish years ago. The fact that Nintendo are still putting these games out there, even if it is for nostalgia factor is alright by me. This takes me back to a simpler time, these kids today are spoilt with their hyper realistic first person shooters and their XBLs and PSN. Lets have a bit of nice, charming old-skool fun eh?
  • fujikuro - November 17, 2009 6:31 p.m.

    its funny that they gave nsmb for the ds a 9, and this game a 7. this game is much better, more fresh, looks better, and definitely lives up to the standard much better than the ds version.
  • mythrus - November 17, 2009 3:28 p.m.

    I can usually rely on GamesRadar for good, and accurate reviews on video games, but this review is shit. I bought this game Saturday night, and it's by far not only one of the best Wii titles available, but one of the best games released in years. Seriously, 7? I think an 8 or 9 would have been more appropriate!

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