NSMB Wii introduces three new power-ups. First comes the Ice Flower, which replaces the fire flower’s fireballs with snowballs that turn enemies into ice-cubes. Then we get the penguin suit, which has the same power, but also gives Mario the sliding capabilities and finer control on icy surfaces you might expect from the Antarctic’s cutest inhabitant. Finally, there’s a new propeller suit. Once Mario has it on, a quick shake of the Wii remote is enough to send him spinning into the air, from whence he’ll gently drift back down to earth. Fans of Super Mario World, meanwhile, will be delighted to hear that our favourite dinosaur steed, Yoshi, also makes a comeback.
There’s more familiar territory to come. By now we’ve come to expect stalwarts like the desert world, the ice world, the tropical island paradise and ghost house, and NSMB Wii doesn’t let us down. Some levels give us pretty straight variations on the main geographical themes, while others take the more abstract floating, spinning blocks approach you may remember from Super Mario World and (in 3D form) Super Mario Sunshine. In short, bar a few extra power-ups and a few novel mechanisms, there isn’t an awful lot here that you can, hand-on-heart, say that you’ve never seen before.
Graphically and sonically, meanwhile, NSMB Wii is best thought of as a polish on the style established by NSMB DS and Super Mario World. It’s bright, exuberant and lovable, alright, with some nice use of the Wii’s 3D horsepower to manipulate and scale objects, enemies and chunks of landscape, but it hasn’t got the wow factor of Super Mario Galaxy’s inventive 3D worlds.
The surprising thing is that Nintendo can go so old-school, so traditional, yet still hit you with new twists and variations. Some of these come down to a super-charging of the rotating, deforming scenery it bought in with Yoshi’s Island. Others come down to elegant uses of the Wii remote, like platforms you can manipulate by tilting, or helicopter blocks you can latch on to before shaking yourself skywards. New features, like the penguin suit or the ice-blocks, become – as the mega-Mario and mini-Mario suits did in NSMB DS – the crux of some entertaining high-speed, high-risk sections, or the solution to capturing an elusive coin cluster or giant coin. This isn’t the most innovative or inspired Mario in terms of level design – Super Mario Bros. 3 came up with more original ideas, while Yoshi’s Island went further with ingenious mechanisms – but I suspect that most players, old and new, will find enough good stuff here to keep them entertained, thrilled and occasionally delighted.
Be warned, however, that NSMB Wii can be tough. In the days of Super Mario Bros. 3 things like limited lives, instant death, zero-error precision platforming and punishingly difficult sections you had to complete before you even reached the boss battle were par for the course. These days they come as a shock to the system, and NSMB Wii is definitely a more fearsome challenge than its DS equivalent. Ironically, a U-rated game has caused more 18-rated language in the Andrews household than anything else this year. I’ve called Mario names that would give Gordon Ramsay pause, using anatomical phrases that I’ve rarely used in a sentence that didn’t include the words ‘Piers Morgan’. It really hasn’t been nice.