Review by Schwepps01

"A disappointing lack of charm or effort"

The Super Mario series has always held a high standard for itself. Often being the standard for each generation of gaming, it has defined platform games for decades. For this reason, I am shocked at just how boring and insubstantial this iteration is. They didn't even bother trying to give this game any appeal: just spit it out and you'll sell millions, right? How do you even follow up something as great as Super Mario Galaxy, with something so half-assed. Yes, it's all there, goombas and all, but that's about all you'll find in this game.

The graphics and the sound are pretty good from a technical standpoint. There are a lot of remixes as usual, as Nintendo can't really seem to make any new music of their own. A lot of the remixes are actually just ripped from Mario Galaxy and made worse. If there was new music, I didn't really hear it, because it was either not memorable, or not good. The graphics are great, and they remind me of Super Mario Galaxy, which is definitely a good thing. But the style is not there, and the game overall has a plain aesthetic. Where are the geometric patterns of Super Mario World, or the crayon-inspired graphics of Yoshi's Island? How about Mario Sunshine's beach theme? It's as vanilla as it gets when it comes to a Mario game. It's basically Mario 3 if it were in 3D. I didn't think the 3D was that substantial, but there are Paper Mario-esque pictures in the game that have a 3D effect, and they look really good.

The game starts out with Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser. Nothing self-referential or interesting about it, which makes you think Nintendo actually finds this to be acceptable. I'm not asking for a novel, but at least buff up the presentation. For starters, the level map is garbage. It's a straight line of levels with generic backgrounds and a little animation of the level you're about to play. There are Toad Houses and mini-games, but it's all so run-of-the-mill and obligatory.

There is no excitement or fun to be found here. Just a collection of levels hashed together with a bunch of dots. There is no Mario charm that we've come to expect. In fact, the levels themselves have no consistency: one minute there's a haunted level, then a sky level. Speaking of which, there are no levels that are cool or creative: just normal jumping fare, in a grass area, or maybe a cave, or a lava area. Not a lot of underwater areas, or a big-small world, or anything that could have taken a new idea to produce.

The levels themselves are pretty standard, with platforming puzzles and other obstacles, and it's your job to get over them. The game is in 3D, but it plays like a 2D Mario; the extra dimension really never comes into play though, so I don't understand why this couldn't be a 2D game. Some levels are faster and more fun than others. The level design is extremely basic, and most of the time it works. In some levels, when you jump, the platforms move. In each level there are 3 star coins that are always in plain sight or hidden off-screen. These are supposed to be additional challenges, but they're pretty much mandatory: the real challenge is to see someone NOT get all of them in one playthrough… There are also power-ups, but it's nothing you haven't seen before. You never even need them because the enemies are never, ever a problem, sans the Raccoon Tail, which lets you flutter past almost all the obstacles anyways
The levels are too easy, and too short. The average time it'll take you to complete any given level is about 3 minutes. There is usually no challenge: throughout the 8 worlds, there is. Don't get me wrong, the game is still pretty FUN, but there's none of that extra few miles that the other games have put in. Instead of feeling satisfied to beat a level, you'll just go to the next level mindlessly. The level designs are never fleshed out; it feels like every level ends just as you're starting to get to the good part. The game periodically recycles the elements of the earlier levels and makes them slightly harder, but the problem still persists. A better strategy would be to just use the element once in a level, and flesh it out the most you can, and then reuse the element later to make trickier puzzles with the newer elements. There's not a lot to break the monotony: just work through all the levels. The ghost levels are my favorite because they're actually somewhat interesting.

There are 8 additional bonus worlds after you complete the first 8. These are just as short, and almost as easy, and a good lot of them are just remixes of older levels with shorter time limits, or some other gimmick like no checkpoints. You can play as Luigi too, but they play the same.

But all of this pales in comparison to the game's biggest flaw: the controls. Yes, they somehow were able to mess up a game where all you do is run and jump. Mario's momentum is completely messed up. Even if it looks like Mario is running full speed, you need to give him a few extra seconds before you can jump farther. You have no idea how crippling this is. Most of the jumps you will miss are because of this one flaw. It is extremely frustrating to have to not only judge distances, but to work around the wonky momentum.

Overall, I recommend this for the true Mario addicts. Those who can look past the lack of effort, and those who just want to jump around for a couple of hours. At least New Super Mario Bros., derivative as it was, had some interesting levels and some charm. I am hoping that NSMB2 delivers on what this game didn't: a true Mario game, not just a platformer with the plumber dumped into it.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 07/09/12

Game Release: Super Mario 3D Land (US, 11/13/11)

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