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I Know What You Did Last Winter: Reviews in Haiku Part II - New Super Mario Bros. Wii
by Greg Mengel
Everybody knows Mario. Everybody loves Mario. The man could easily run for Pope. So it was no surprise when his new game, the appropriately titled New Super Mario Bros. Wii, came out last November, the world went wild, and Mario found himself in the stockings and under the trees of over ten million people. Just to put that into perspective - that's ten more times the human population of the US state of Montana, and 1.5 times its number of cattle. And it's nowhere near done selling. It seems appropriate to say that Mario has once again sealed his brand onto yet another Nintendo cash cow. Yeeeee-haw.

So how good was this game, that invaded the homes of millions this holiday season? Check out my review and see for yourself after the jump.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Fun when played alone
Multi also good, just know...
Many toads will die

New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the happy new installment from legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto, will consume, and then destroy, your closest relationships. This is how it will work:

You'll go to the store with your friends, skipping happily past the electronics section, oversized lollipops in hand, when one of you will stop, turn, and happily point to the Nintendo aisle. "Hey, it's that New Mario game! I hear it's just like the original, only with more friendly fun! ...we like fun! And the best part about it is, we can all play at once - it's got multiplayer! We should get it. Cause we're friends! Yay! Multiplayer!"

Minutes later, as you pass your money on to the cashier, sealing the sad fate of what you will soon remember as the empty shells of what once resembled long and joyous friendships, you may find those sad, fateful words echoing in your head as if to forever haunt your purchase.

"'s got multiplayer." nomine patri, et filii, et spiritus sancti, Amen.

Alright, that was needlessly melodramatic. Cryptic prophecies of friendicide aside, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a factory for childlike fun. By taking the side-scrolling platformer concept of the original 1980s and early 90s Mario titles that we all came to know and love, and marrying it successfully with later concepts such as the triple jump (à la Super Mario 64), the air spin (à la Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros., and others), and the rideable Yoshi (à la Super Mario World), it creates a great revisitation of a classic that is simultaneously fresh and true to its roots.

You can play Super Mario Bros. Wii alone, or in groups of up to four people, in competitive or cooperatively modes. Going it alone feels like the old days - you'll flex muscles long left dormant in new and exciting ways. Playing it with two people will feel aggravating at times, but the game will never seem unfun or unbeatable. Three people will be disastrous - you'll yell, you'll scream across the couch, you'll have an asthma attack, you'll glare daggers at the person next to you, you'll accuse your brother of having been adopted, and you'll storm out of the living room in a huff. Play it with four people and you'll spend the rest of the night crying, alone, in a dark room, curled up in the foetal position, brown bagged liquid comfort in hand, pausing your weeping only to stare wordlessly at the ceiling and silently mouth the word "Why?" to what you once thought was a loving and merciful God.

But, somehow, you'll still have fun.

Playing with more than one person is definitely more difficult than playing alone. It takes a level of skill and teamwork that doesn't come naturally to a lot of people. Weird though it is, thinking on the same page as your partner in Super Mario Bros. Wii can sometimes prove disastrous. It's a strange phenomenon. If similarly minded people both make certain jumps, or head for a certain coin, or sprint for a certain tight escape, they stand the risk of bumping into each other, and knocking each other into enemies, off cliffs, et cetera. It gets even more hectic when you've got four players going for that exit or star coin at once. Unless you use some quality teamwork, you'll paint a picture of anarchy.

If you've played the multiplayer in Super Mario Bros. Wii already, you probably understand what I mean. The multiplayer is bound to prove a welcome challenge for seasoned Mario experts who usually fly through Miyamoto's games without so much as a thumb cramp. If you can beat this entire game alone, then you deserve a pat on the back. If you can beat it with a group, you deserve a parade.

The set up of the game is like that of Super Mario Bros. 3 - there are nine major world maps, each of which resembles a board game, on which Mario moves from level to level. Every time he beats one level, a path to another is unlocked. Each world map has a different general theme that will effect the levels inside of it. In an air level, for example, Mario may have to jump on the backs of flying carrier turtles over the open sky. At the end of each regular world, you'll fight a member of Bowser's family/gang, the Koopas, who have - shock horror - kidnapped the princess.

Like in most Mario games, Mario and his companions can find and use upgrade items, which, when consumed, will give them amazing super powers. While the red mushroom makes Mario bigger, for example, the blue one makes him small. Just ask Alice. Besides familiar power-ups like mushrooms or the fire-flower, players can now use a few more. The penguin suit is my personal favoirite, and allows Mario to walk on ice and slide for long periods of time on his belly, while shooting snowballs that will turn enemies to ice. He's an adorable little doom bringer.

In each level there are three giant star coins, generally hidden or precariously placed, though sometimes they'll just be out there for you to blatantly see and obtain. Once they're captured, you can spend these star coins on videos at the Princess's Castle, in World #1. Each video contains some useful information, be it a hint for an elusive secret, insider trading on infinite one-up attainment, or jaw-dropping demonstrations by players with "Super Skills", who you will grow to hate, then respect, and then emulate. Obtaining all of the star coins in a world will unlock its representative stage in the secret World 9, which becomes available only after you beat the game for the first time.

The New Super Mario Bros. Wii is what it is - a fun revitalisation of a classic. Playing it will take you back to a golden age of gaming, before the dark times of trendy first person shooters, industry-eclipsing MMORPGs, and orgiastic button mashings of violence. I don't know anybody who hasn't played a Mario title - I'm sure they exist somewhere, like Russia, or something - but I have no doubt that they will get the same feeling from this New Super Mario Bros. that most of us got from the originals - that good, old-fashioned, NES-style fun. That's the kind of good that this game, and the entire Mario series, offers - it can be appreciated by gamers and non-gamers alike. It's what Nintendo's new marketing is all about. In that way, it succeeds in its design mission in a way that few other games can. For that, it deserves a wealth of attention. Just be careful - friendicide is real, and it strikes when you least expect it.



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- Greg Mengel

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