Sunday, January 8, 2012

3DS review: Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land presents an interesting blend of game mechanics, drawing much of its formula from the New Super Mario Bros. design. But the third-person free-roam portions are akin to Super Mario 64, and the transition between the two makes for a dynamic platforming experience. The story sets up as the classic Mario scenario - Peach has once again been kidnapped by Bowser and it's up to everyone's favorite plumber to save her and stop the Koopa King.

The difficulty factor progresses at a fairly consistent rate, though halfway through the main game players will be presented with a handful of levels that are heavy on the puzzle mechanics. That is not to say that these levels are overly challenging, but they do present an interesting change of pace that players will have to accommodate for. There are hidden areas sprinkled throughout the main levels, and players will have to access these if they wish to collect each of the large star coins, which can be used to unlock extra levels. Upon completing the main game, players can access a lineup of bonus levels that present a higher degree of challenge.

Three suits will be at players' disposal during their adventure. The Tanooki Suit grants Mario the ability to float for a brief period of time, while the tail can be used for a close-range spin attack. The Fire Flower makes a return, and acts exactly as it has in the past. Its more useful (and subsequently harder-to-come-by) counterpart is the Boomerang Flower, which allows Mario to throw a boomerang to attack enemies and collect coins.

The airship sequences that precede each boss encounter require players to stay on the move, as the level shifts along. Each airship level is relatively short, but a couple of foolish moves could cost Mario a life or two. The actual boss fights only present a little variation, and feel very repetitive during the latter hours of the game. Thankfully, the final boss fight with Bowser makes up for this, utilizing the 3D effects in some very creative ways and maintaining an intense atmosphere throughout.

The soundtrack is host to a great selection of remixed tunes from past Mario games. There aren't many levels that last too long, but each is designed with plenty of creativity and polish. The game looks great, and feels like the standard by which all future 3DS platformers should be judged.

My rating: 9.25 (out of 10)

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