At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Richard Pilot Nintendo 3DS Nintendo Nintendo EAD Tokyo 1
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
None. Click here to buy Super Mario 3D Land.

Super Mario 3D Land review

You may remember from my review of Pilotwings Resort that I was very pleased by the 3D technology. The game itself offered players a great experience and was one of the first games on the handheld that showed off the power of the new 3D tech. The Legend of the Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was next up with an excellent port of the Nintendo 64 classic which again made great use of 3D. It was, though, only a port; what we really needed was some new experiences for the 3DS. Something that should have been a launch title all along.

These blocks don't like to hang around for long

These blocks don't like to hang around for long

Enter Super Mario 3D Land, a brilliantly thought out Mario platformer. One of the first things that struck me as I opened the case was, curiously, the controls. In a world where most game manuals list out reams of controls that depend on the context of your character, it was refreshing to see such a simple interface. In fact, almost all the actions in the game have been mapped to more than one button. L and R do the same thing, both A and B will make Mario jump. It does wonders to illustrate the 'pick up and play'/'a game for everyone' design philosophy that seems to be at the heart of modern Nintendo titles. This isn't only reflected in the controls but the implementation of 3D too. At any point during play (with the exception of the menus), you can alter the way 3D works in the engine, triggering between pop-in and pop-out 3D. It's a clever idea and allows you to tailor the 3D experience to your preferences; I often found myself switching between the two, for different styles of levels. You may find it works best solely in one mode or the other, and it's great to see the option there to allow the player to choose. The 3D itself looks wonderful and it definitely doesn't feel tacked on. The levels seem to be designed for it, not only from a puzzle perspective but also in its presentation, from the enemies, right down to the font used in the menus and level transitions.

The game makes fantastic use of 3D

The game makes fantastic use of 3D

With such great care taken to the implementation of the 3D, you expect the same attention paid to the level design. Super Mario 3D Land has a surprising amount on offer, but unlike previous games, the worlds themselves don't appear to be particularly themed. Whilst slightly disappointing not to see some common thematic tones in the same world (like the fantastic Super Mario World), it instead gives the Nintendo team a chance to try out many different gameplay ideas. One level has platforms appearing/disappearing every time you jump requiring you to carefully plan your moves, another has platforms moved about by players depending on where you stand on them, requiring some delicate timing to ensure you reach those rare stars. There seems to be an overuse of floating environments in its levels where one misstep can equal a sudden death and a ticket straight back to the beginning.

Obviously, Mario has a rich heritage and Nintendo doesn't want adjust the formulae that much. It's therefore no surprise to see the usual tropes make an appearance, from the ever familiar Goombas to the accustomed assortment of power-ups, like mushrooms and the fire flower. Old favourites also make a return including the super leaf from Super Mario Bros 3, which gives Mario a raccoon tail and a spin attack. But there are also new items too, like the propeller box which boosts him into the air. Your ...ahem... failure is also rewarded, as you'll get a golden leaf if you fail too many times on a level, not only giving you a raccoon tail but invincibility for the duration of the entire level. One of my favourite pieces of nostalgia was some of the Bowser fights, which hark back to the earlier Mario days where you have to get past him whilst on a drawbridge in order to plunge him into the lava below.

It's time to get climbing the flagpole again

It's time to get climbing the flagpole again

My only gripe, and a small one at that, is how short the game is. Nintendo games have often had this problem, and Mario seemingly more problematic in this regard. The game is made up of a number of worlds with around 4-6 levels each, but with levels designed to last only a few minutes (six, tops, if you're being slow), you'll find your Mario experience a short one, even though the game does have a few tricks up its sleeve once you've completed the first eight worlds. We could be hopeful and say that more content is on its way, but "DLC" seems to be an alien world to Nintendo. Our only hope is that that they are cooking up something right now. Don't let that dishearten you; what awaits inside Super Mario 3D Land is a well thought out and fantastically executed platformer, that not only feels like a Mario classic, but also a compelling reason to purchase a 3DS.

Ratings

Overall Super Mario 3D Land is another wonderfully crafted Nintendo title which offers a engaging set of worlds and levels for you to enjoy. It is a title that all 3DS owners should own or at least give a try. 9/10

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