Posted Mon 2nd Apr 2012 6:57pm by Ashley Martin
Super Mario 3D Land Review
I'd be lying if I said that the 3D effect in Super Mario 3D Land drastically shakes up the Mario formula. While it may be the first in the series to feature the depth-defying tech, what hooked me most was the game's robust level design and addicting, bite-sized structure. I was constantly replaying stages to grab all-important star coins and got a great sense of satisfaction in beating every last boss and baddie.
One of the things I love about 3D Land is its low barrier to entry - you just pick a stage, hit A and you're there. At this point in the series, Nintendo doesn't need to hold your hand. You always know what you're going to get with Mario, so you don't have to suffer through long tutorials or a steep learning curve. And while it's a little disappointing that this is yet another quest to save the hapless Princess Peach, a lame story doesn't spoil what is otherwise a smashing platforming adventure.
Essentially Super Mario is, and always will be (I hope) about jumping on things. Anyone with a history with the red-capped plumber will know that there is a simplistic beauty to the series that similar games just can't match. The sheer joy in landing at the top of a flagpole at a level's end or bouncing across a chain of Goombas is unparalleled and kept me coming back time and time again.
Critics of the franchise tend to go on and on about Nintendo preying on nostalgia and riding on the success of past titles. However, I don't think this is the case here. 3D Land might capture the essence of earlier Mario games, but it comes across as more of a refinement, bridging the gap between the handheld titles and the more recent console adventures. This is reflected in the game's interface, which lends itself heavily to the New Super Mario Bros. games and the level design which is not dissimilar to Super Mario Galaxy.
That said, this game is definitely suited to a handheld platform, with short, stream-lined stages making it effortless to pick up and play. With battery life a constant concern, I revelled in the fact that I could burn through a course in little under two minutes. That's not to say I'd only play this game in short bursts - I'd happily play for a couple of hours - but if I needed to stop suddenly I wouldn't really have to worry about losing my progress.
As for the 3D effect, I can safely say that 3D Land puts most 3DS software to shame. While I wouldn't say it revolutionises the core gameplay - it is just running and jumping after all - various 3D puzzles are littered throughout the game in order to put a fresh spin on things. Some of the most basic challenges involve a brick being lodged in the foreground, something that would only make sense with the 3D slider up. Visually, I was most enamoured with the particle effects in the snow and lava regions and areas in which a top-down perspective would make it look as though Mario was bouncing out of the screen. You can even add expanded depth to the 3D effect by tapping down on the system's D-pad.
The 3D isn't the only new aspect that 3D Land brings to the table though. New power-ups such as the Boomerang and Tanooki Suit (new to the 3D games) do a great job of spicing up the tried and tested gameplay. In some stages you actually need to utilise these powers in order to obtain star coins critical to progressing to new worlds. These were sometimes a little too vague and could involve anything from tossing a boomerang into a waterfall, to busting open a crawl space with Mario's tail. Gyro is another new feature that the player can use, but only when looking through binoculars. I found that this interfered with the 3D display, so I tended to avoid using it completely.
Even without all the bells and whistles, Super Mario 3D Land is a solid entry into the 3DS's ever-growing back catalogue. I'm not entirely convinced that the 3D effect will ever be used for anything more than visual tricks and gimmickry, but 3D Land is definitely a shining example of how to go about using it tastefully, without impeaching on the core game experience. Whether you're a fan of the dungaree-wearing tyke or not, Mario's latest romp is easily one of the system's brightest stars.
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