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Game Review

Mamma mia, surely everybody has-a heard of-a Mario.

I mean, after all the dozens of titles baring his chubby-cheeked and mustachioed likeness—games ranging from  Donkey Kong to  Mario Bros. to  Super Mario to  Mario Kart to Paper Mario—it's hard to imagine anybody who hasn't picked up a controller at some point over the last 30-plus years to bonk a Koopa Troopa or two. And, frankly, in the face of that overwhelming abundance of similarly themed games, it would be easy to disregard the release of yet another Mario platformer if you weren't a diehard fan. But the Wii U exclusive Super Mario 3D World has a few tricks up its colorful sleeve that could be worth a another look-see.

Bop a Bowser, Save a Sprixie
It's not that the story has changed all that much. That demon/turtle baddie Bowser is still chortling evilly and causing headaches. No, he doesn't grab up a pretty-in-pink princess this time. Instead, he's off on some other power-hungry scheme, you know, like bottling up little fairy-like creatures called Sprixies.

Mario, his brother Luigi, Princess Peach and a toadstool-looking guy named, uh, Toad, are all out enjoying an evening stroll in the Mushroom Kingdom when a little Sprixie pops out of a crystal pipe seeking their help: The Sprixie Kingdom is in dire need of a hero or two, and only Mario and his crew can save the day!

After the pals plop themselves down in that pipe and land in the land of Sprixies, gamers are instantly given a fun choice: You can play as any of the heroic protagonists (even Princess Peach!) or get some friends to join in with any Wii controller they might find and play cooperatively as all four.

Each of the little characters has his or her own special abilities, which can make some of the jump, explore and puzzle-out areas of the game just a tad more accessible. Mario, for instance, is equally skilled with medium-grade run and jump abilities. But playing as Toad offers a bit more speed in the run and chase segments. Luigi can leap up to heights Mario can't quite reach, and Peach's fluffy pink petticoats keep her aloft if the ground beneath her dainty slippers just so happens to fall away unexpectedly.

It's All Pretty Much Peachy
When you've chosen your favorite character, the goal is to play your way through eight different "worlds" that make up the Sprixie Kingdom. Each has a variety of vibrantly colored levels—individual platforming miniworlds that characters jump into, ranging from circus pinwheel challenges to spiky snowman slip-slides to underwater treasure troves to chases on a huge moving train. As you go, you must figure out how to fend off dozens of different Bowser minions, slip past all those twirling, spinning obstacles and beat a path to the flagpole endpoint before a ticking timer runs out.

There are a number of specialty minigames scattered throughout the different worlds too. And as you gather coins, special collectable stamps and, of course, a variety of power-ups, you're given extra boosts in tough spots. A little fire flower, for instance, gives your hero the ability to chuck fireballs at foes. And other favorites such as the Raccoon-tailed Tanooki suit and the mega-mushroom—which lets Mario grow to the size of a small building—are still in the mix. New bonuses include a cat suit power-up in which Mario can climb up walls. And there's a double cherry boost, that helps the little plumber and his buds clone themselves, unleashing all kinds of jump and bonk havoc.

The game world itself is, well, gorgeous. It's totally fun to look at while you're bounding and flipping through the eccentric and dynamic levels. Now, of course, a few of those levels sport a lightly spooky atmosphere with the likes of sharp-toothed Piranha Plants and haunted houses that are home to cartoonish Boo baddies. And there are a number of places that showcase nasty falls at the wrong misstep.

But it's all handled with a nimble eye roll of comic silliness and give-it-another-try cheer. It's an instantly accessible and infectiously appealing, reach-out-and-touch-it place where gamers of all ages can bop mystery treasure boxes and bonk goofy bug-eyed Goombas while finding a way to protect the innocent. And who hasn't wanted to best Bowser while playing as the peachy princess in pink?

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Wii U




November 22, 2013

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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