Review by papery0shi2
"Mario does it again"
Back in the days of the original Gameboy, the Super Mario Lands were hailed for being relatively different from the usual Mario experience. Sure you were still stomping and such, but you faced wildly different enemies and got some very different power ups. Super Mario 3D Land is not a sequel to those games in anyway. But like the Super Mario Land games, it takes a different approach to the Mario formula while keeping in sync with what has made it successful. Here the change is mostly the fact that it plays like the 2D side scrolling games in a 3D world. And for the most part it actually works.
Mario has never been a game anyone has picked up for story. We all know what it's about. Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser and it's up to Mario to go and save her once more. It's pretty standard stuff. As mentioned earlier it harkens back to the 2D Mario games in a way. There's a straightforward overworld map to go through and you'll begin in level 1-1 before moving on to 1-2 etc. At the end of each world is either a castle or an airship with a boss waiting in wait. It seems traditional all around and like it offers up absolutely nothing until you're actually playing the levels themselves. For a handheld game, 3D Land offers players quite a bit to experience.
The levels here are well designed. Each one ends when you find the flagpole at the end, but getting there isn't always an easy feat. You can roam around in full 3D instead of side scrolling. For the most part you can roam just about anywhere. Throughout each level there are a lot of hidden goodies as well. There are blocks that house powerups and plenty of enemies to stomp, but each level also has little goodies hidden off the beaten path. There are secret 1UP mushrooms and hidden areas to explore in just about every level. Each level is also uniquely different from the previous one. The game often throws new challenges at you to keep you on your toes.
The stages themselves are pretty short, however. This is obviously due to it being a handheld and being on the go. But there is usually reason to go back and play each one. Like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, there are three Star Coins in each level. For players who want to experience everything that Super Mario 3D Land has to offer, you'll want them as they unlock challenging levels later in the game.
Mario 3D Land also uses the suit system found in Super Mario Bros. 3. For the most part there's fire Mario and Tanooki Mario, but there are times when you'll find something to help Mario out in different ways. For example, Mario can now find a powerup that allows him to throw boomerangs. Much like the 2D games, Mario doesn't have a health meter or anything like that. Rather it's done based on his power ups. Taking one hit makes him lose his power, a second makes him small and a third does him in. Super Mario 3D Land isn't a terribly hard game, but if you happen to fail too many times the game is more than willing to help you out by either giving suit that makes you invincible or by skipping it out right. While this may seem like handholding, those who go about it this way will literally miss out on half the game by doing so. As well as several secrets. You DON'T get Star Coins by skipping a level. On the other hand, keeping your lives in supply is rather simple. There are 1UP mushrooms everywhere. Each level also has a checkpoint. Super Mario 3D Land can be challenging, but it certainly is in no hurry to punish the player.
Up until now the 3D on the 3DS has seemed somewhat like a gimmick. It isn't quite that way in Super Mario 3D Land. While you can most certainly play through the game with the 3D off there are times when having it on will actually make a difference in the ease of play. Certain rooms that contain Star Coins are actually puzzles where you must try and figure out the optical illusion. With the 3D on it actually really helps. You CAN solve these puzzle like moments without the 3D effect but it's much more difficult to do so. The 3D is also done rather well in other ways. Up until now a lot of 3DS games have either been obsessed with having things "pop out" at the player or making the game look more dynamic. But here the 3D actually adds depth perception to the game itself. Where you actually get a sense of just how far away a particular platform is or even how close an enemy in the background really is to getting to you. It may not seem like much from the outset, but it certainly makes the 3D much more than just a gimmick here. But the game is still enjoyable should you decide you don't want to play with the 3D on at all.
In terms of visual appeal, Mario 3D Land looks absolutely amazing. It is very similar to look and feel of Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii. There is certainly enough here to give you a sense of what the future of technology on the 3DS can be. There's a lot of detail to each level. It's just easy on the eyes overall. What may not bode well for the player all the time is the lack of control over the camera. For the most part the camera sticks with you pretty well and moves perfectly in tune with where you are and where you need to go. There are times, however, when the lack of being able to move the camera yourself can leave you baffled on where to go next. It won't cause you to die much, but it will make certain platforming moments slightly more difficult simply because you aren't sure right off hand where the next platform actually is.
Super Mario 3D Land doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it takes the best of the 2D games and combines them with the best of the 3D games and somehow makes it work. The levels may be short but they're plentiful and there's a ton of replay value here. For those dying to invest some time in a 3DS game, Super Mario 3D Land is well worth that time.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/11
Game Release: Super Mario 3D Land (US, 11/13/11)
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