2011 could be called the year of the platformer, being full of interesting and good platformers. Well, Mario decided he didn’t want to be left out of this action and entered the third dimension with Mario Land 3D for the Nintendo 3DS. How does Mario hold up?
It’s a-me, Mario!
That line really says a lot of it. Mario is Mario. Mario Land 3D plays exactly like any other Mario you’ve played since Mario left the old 2d sidescrolling days. That’s not a bad thing, though. Mario has prettymuch defined the platformer for about 20 years, and that is because he does it well. The game offers the typical jumping, spinning, jumping, throwing fireballs, gliding, running, and more jumping gameplay that we’ve all come to expect from Mario. From a mechanical standpoint, the game works relatively well. The jumping could use a bit more accuracy, but overall it does work. The run controls are a little floaty, but overall it does work. Prettymuch every aspect of the controls is like that except one: the motion controls. I had so many cases where I was trying to aim my trajectory using the analog but would be screwed up by me slightly moving the console. I hated those controls, and I wish they had been turned off by default with an option to turn them on. They really took a lot out of my experience in the parts where they were used – luckily that wasn’t often. But aside from that aspect, the controls were all fairly accurate.
The game gives you a lot of lives. I would almost call it a ridiculous amount. My life count just kept skyrocketing – I was at 80 by the fourth world and that was with fairly often suiciding to get another chance at a collectable in stead of just redoing the level afterward because I had so many lives. It was almost insane – in fact it almost didn’t feel like the Mario I remember anymore – it was just too easy. Mario was never the most challenging platformer in existence, but some of the levels were hard to complete in the few lives you had. What few lives you ended up losing were lost either due to the 3d not being accurate or trying to get all of the collectables. The challenge just wasn’t there – and I’m not saying in the first world. It didn’t matter how far I got, I never felt challenged by this game. I felt a little frustrated from time to time when I’d jump towards something that looked like it was there but was actually an inch to the left due to the 3d… but never challenged. And then, to add insult to injury, if I died enough times at a level they’d give me a permanent star I could use to complete it. Really? Is that really necessary? I mean… I know you don’t want people feeling like they suck, but please… I’d prefer you not baby me just because I suicide several times trying to make sure I get all of the collectables.
On the upside of this, the collectables were often in unique places and sometimes required a lot of work to get them which was nice. It made perfection a bit of a tricky thing to attain. And the powerups were a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed the boomerang powerup. It was fun to line up the perfect shot and use it well. But all of the powerups were cool, and I enjoyed finding them and using them.
But Then Again, Maybe It’s Not?
Now, the problem I had with this game is that I didn’t feel the love in it. When you play Super Mario 3, everything is charming and you can feel that it was a labour of love. When I played Rayman Origins just weeks before this, the same thing – it was a labour of love. Super Mario Land 3D felt more like a science project. You take X formula, pump it into the game development machine, and produce y Yen and z Dollars for your bank account. That isn’t to say it isn’t fun… it was fun. But… something’s missing. I don’t know exactly what it is because I’ve played games where they used the same formula as previous games but still felt like they were works of passion – this just didn’t wasn’t that. This truly felt like ‘just another Mario game’. And it made me a little sad, despite the fact that I did enjoy the game. Joy tinged with sadness.
The game featured two types of ‘boss levels’ – those where you had to beat up koopas of both a male and female variety and those where you had to avoid Bowser by doing daring acts of platforming to escape him. The boss fight levels were particularly uninspired, and got really old and really predictable. And when you got further in the game how did they mix it up? By making you fight two of the stale predictable bosses at the same time! The Bowser chase levels, however, were quite fun as they put the platforming you’d done in the level on turbo. Still not difficult, but a bit moreso than otherwise. However, I have to say, if these are the most creative platforming bosses they can give me… then we have a problem.
But It’s 3D, right?
Yes, yes it is. The 3D is there, it adds depth to the graphics and confusion to your jumps. It’s even used if a few of the puzzle levels in ways that are reminiscent of every 3D flash puzzle game ever made. But the 3D does work. And I didn’t get any headaches using it, although it was a little weird seeing the double-image if I moved the screen a tiny bit. But that’s 3D for you. Also noteable, the graphics are all very clean and well-done. They look as good as any Mario game. The sound is exactly what you’d expect from a Mario game, and that is a very good thing – for Mario’s music is some of the most iconic and recognizable in gaming. It looks and sounds good.
I think the part that makes me saddest about this review is just how little I can think of to say about Mario Land 3D. This might be the shortest review I’ve ever written, and I was even a bit verbose in some of what I wrote. Mario doesn’t really have much of a story, but nobody expects story from Mario so that isn’t a big deal. The game does have a few nice little touches like puzzle levels and streetpass bonus levels. Also, the game is a huge value – with tons of extra content after you’re done the main game as well.
Super Mario 3D Land might just be the sign that Mario might just be getting old. It’s a good game, the mechanics of it are relatively solid, there’s not much bad to say about it… but it just feels like perhaps they’ve got a ‘Mario platformer machine’ that they use to pump these games out, rather than a passionate group of developers working towards a labour of love. Unfortunate, but it is a pretty good game, and a great value.
- Mechanically, the game works fairly well
- The sound effects and music are every bit as good as Mario has always been
- The game looks very good
- The 3D works well
- There is a ton of value in here.
- Some of the levels are quite cool.
- Very interesting powerups.
- Game has a large amount of replay value through collectables as well as bonus content.
- Utilizes Streetpass for bonus content
- Sometimes the 3D gets in the way of platforming.
- Occasionally the jump controls and running controls were a bit awkward
- Most of the bosses were very bland.
- Game didn’t feel like a labour of love, more like ‘Just another Mario Game’
- Difficulty curve was way too low.
Review Written by: Sean