We’re familiar already with some of the maddening multiplayer features of New Super Mario Bros. Wii U: the player with the gamepad has the potential to troll their friends and there’s nothing anybody else can do about it (see this week’s podcast for a most appropriate story here!). Now, Super Mario 3D World puts a bit of control back in the hands of every player – but that might only make things harder for everyone involved.
What we demoed at PAX today included a variety of different levels set to showcase the new features of the game. We started with the most basic of levels, the introductory session meant to introduce us to all the features associated with the new cat powerup: climbing up walls and flagpoles, crawling along the ground and doing some sort of cool dive attack. It introduced us to clear pipes – warp pipes that are, well, clear, allowing you to see your character and take specific actions inside – though we didn’t get to actually try any of the features associated with them. When we started this level a Nintendo representative approached us to talk it all up, but he left it pretty limited – ‘all I need to tell you is that it’s Mario’.
And that’s really all that needs to be said. It was a Mario level at its most basic – that doesn’t make it bad though. Seeing Mario run in HD is always a delight, and the cat suit is enough of a new feature to make roaming another Mario world unique and entertaining.
The most fun we had with the demo, however, came from a level that the representative was a lot more eager to talk about. In fact, he practically urged us to try it. ‘You’ve gotta try this guys, you’ve gotta try it’ and now that we’ve played it, that’s what I’m telling everyone we see.
It’s a simple layout: ride a dinosaur through a short water-themed level and collect coins and stars along the way. But you’ve got to do it as a team. All four players (three in our case) ride on the same dinosaur and are responsible for controlling it at the same time. Not just individual aspects – though you could organise it that way if you think it would work – if Shiggy is pushing left and Doc and I are pushing right, it’s going to move more awkwardly than it should. It requires co-ordination and some pretty perfect timing, particularly when jumping.
But it makes failure feel like more of a learning experience. You might turn to your friends and say ‘okay, this time we’re going to see if we can go through that waterfall’. It’s a group problem that you have to overcome together, and there’s potential for trolling if you’re so inclined, but if you can get everyone running smoothly as a team, it’s a great experience. It took us three or four tries to get through the level properly, after failing at the same exact spot multiple times, and the feeling of building up a rhythm as a team along the way was there in force. The first two tries we failed to pick up all eight red coins and the associated extra life. But we improved, as a team.
It’s that multiplayer that’s going to make Super Mario 3D World an interesting game. On its own, you could definitely play it alone and have a good time with it. But that feeling of chaos at the start of a level with friends, and the way it slowly transforms into something else, and your team is moving in synch with each other. That’s the feeling that makes this game fun.