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.
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.