Super Mario 3D Land Review - December 7th 2011

Nintendo games are like buses: they're big, unmissable in a wave of traffic, and are driven along with an abundance of adverts. Also, they tend to come all at once. And so it is with Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D Land, two games that two different Nintendo consoles in a slump have sorely needed - and they both reach their destinations on the same day.

Where Skyward Sword arrives just in time to bid Wii a melodic swan song, Super Mario 3D Land pulls up with a loud, bright "Honk!" to rev up a handheld which didn't get off to a great start. Hack developers no doubt wait in the wings to crib ideas and push the 3DS into the next gear and the next year (which will probably be just as full with poorly spaced releases).

Classic items return, including the PETA enraging Tanooki suit.

For starters, 3D Land justifies the draw of its platform almost instantly. Not only does it look the best 3DS game yet (the switch between 'deep' or 'protruding' effects is just a D-pad press away and a feature more games could utilize), it makes use of the extra dimension in the most meaningful and compelling ways yet.

Neither a sidescroller or full-blown Mario 64-style adventure, 3D Land establishes its own formula thus far unique to the plumber's series and perfectly suited to a handheld. Levels are short and numerous, each lasting no more than two or three minutes - there's a timer in the corner lest you forget - and are excuses to chuck context-less gameplay mechanics your way rather than tie the action together with any sort of story or theme. It's almost like a 'Best Of' collection, with the usual blocks to smash, Koopas to squash, and red and gold coins to gather.

The use of 3D is subtle but effective.

Calling the game a 'Best Of', however, would be ignoring its newer concepts. First: the disappointing. The arrival of fresh power-up's are not altogether unsurprising (the tanooki suit wink was a little heavy handed), but what is surprising, especially given this is a first-party release, is their lack of imagination. Wearing the animal pelt (sorry, PETA!) gives you a useless tail whip attack and added glide to your jumps, picking a boomerang flower gives you - guess what - a boomerang, opening up projectile-based puzzles with fairly obvious solutions, and the propeller suit does what you'd expect. There should've been more, and the ones there should've been better.

Now: the better. In the grand tradition of the best Mario games, 3D Land is informed by its platform's core appeal. Super Mario 64 built Bowser-chucking around the analogue stick, Super Mario Galaxy almost singlehandedly justified the Wii-pointer, and this game continues the trend. Levels aren't just pretty landscapes that pop. Some rise into cotton wool clouds, giving you a knee-buckling view down; bullet bills seem to pursue you out of the screen; binoculars allow you to scan for coins in convincing first person. It's not analogue-stick revolutionary, but it does lend a novel twist to gameplay. Despite levels from all manner of perspectives, be them nostalgic and scrolling, isometric, or more contemporary and open, you're still jumping on heads and collecting coins.


It's not a system-seller of the Galaxy calibre, but if you've got a 3DS there's no excuse not to jump aboard the Mario bus, pay your fare, and go for a ride. Just remember to save some of those golden coins for Skyward Sword.

Ben Griffin



Class Mario with a 3D twist.


Classic Nintendo effects and music thats synonymous with videogames.


The best looking 3DS game yet, but close up it looks jaggy.


Levels are short, but there are 8 worlds and plenty of secrets.


Final Score:

3D isnt as inherently promising a gaming concept as motion controls or as significant as the analogue stick, but Super Mario 3D Land is still a winner.


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