Review by gimo80

"Fusion Frenzy"

Remember the golden age of gaming? It was a time when developers had the freedom to experiment, to create landmark titles that not only shaped the games industry, but became the template that many aspiring programmers attempt to emulate even to this day. It was a time of prosperity, a time when creativity and originality both flourished hand in hand, a time when companies were able to create niche products that exemplified the notion of classic, old school gaming. Alas, the industry has changed since its foray into the third dimension; many have benefited from this technical enhancement, while others have shrivelled into a paradox of obscurity.

Indeed, while Sega have made some questionable design choices with a number of franchises (most notably a spiky blue hedgehog), Nintendo have been remarkably consistent by creating fresh, innovative titles that have pushed the boundaries in 3D technology. Enter Mario, Nintendo's flagship mascot and platform extraordinaire; timeless in his own right, the porky plumber is one of the most universally praised and instantly recognisable characters to grace our beloved earth, and rightfully so. Every high profile release offers something refreshingly new, either conceptually or in terms of its game play mechanics. However, two years after the release of the critically acclaimed Mario Galaxy, it seems that Nintendo have decided to go back to the drawing board, creating a title that harks back to Mario games of old.

Naturally, the decision has created a split divide amongst the critics and public alike; while it fails to push the hardware to its full potential, it more than makes up for it in its accessibility and sheer, unadulterated fun. Generally recognised as a solo experience, Nintendo have decided to make dreams become a reality with the inclusion of a four player co-operative mode in all its fun-filled glory. After numerous arguments and juvenile temper tantrums, it can be said that the much anticipated multi-player mode is a rousing success. Broken controllers aside, that is.

If you are at all familiar with the Mario series, chances are you know the drill: Peach holds party, Peach gets kidnapped, Mushroom Kingdom in mass panic, Mario saves day. In hindsight, the story is somewhat laughable, offering the player little incentive but to play a Mario title for its in depth character development and heart wrenching plot twists is missing the point entirely. This is old school Mario plat-forming at its finest - the controls are finely tuned (albeit a little slower than previous instalments), the level design is suitably whacked-out and the learning curve is paced to perfection.

What you will probably notice from the get-go is how the game looks pretty much identical to its predecessor on the DS. True, it shares many similar traits; the over world has been left unchanged, not to mention the addition of collecting coins in order to unlock a vast number of hidden secrets. But that aside, this is more than a direct port. In fact, it trumps its sister title in almost every possible way. For example, the levels are much more epic in scope; the last few worlds are feverishly difficult, featuring various moving platforms that sometimes involve the player to control themselves via the Wii-mote. There are also two new power-ups thrown in for good measure - one propels Mario up into the sky by shaking the remote while the other freezes his enemies, transforming them into blocks of ice which can be used to solve a variety of well implemented puzzles.

But with all its bells and whistles, it's hard not to shake off the fact that this game is essentially a cynical rehash of the DS version. Indeed, the four player mode is an absolute blast when played correctly, however veteran gamers will have this one licked in just a matter of hours; while Nintendo have ramped the difficulty for the latter half, it can still be finished in a relatively short amount of time. But then again, why bother comparing it to the magnum opus that is Mario Galaxy? This game is a different beast, entirely, and deserves credit where it's due.

Nintendo deserve to be praised by releasing a title that pays homage to a timeless formula; admittedly, it's nothing particularly groundbreaking, but that's the point. Where it lacks in ingenuity lies the true source of its intentions: the game play. While the cynics may roll their eyes in the wait of something a little more substantial, everyone else are going to be enjoying what may well be the best Wii game of 2009. It may not have high production values, hell, it doesn't even have online play. It has the most important thing of all: soul.

Sometimes, less is certainly more.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/05/10

Game Release: New Super Mario Bros. Wii (EU, 11/20/09)

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