Like the best coop games, New Super Mario Bros. Wii has the potential to ruin relationships, but its new features improve upon the ideas of its predecessor and takes the game in some exciting new directions.
New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS seemed like an oxymoron: the side-scrolling platformer was a throwback to the classic Mario games, but it felt completely new. The Wii version adds a couple of new features, primarily, the possibility of playing cooperatively for up to four players and while the result is sheer chaos, New Super Mario Bros. Wii stays true to its name while letting you play with friends and family.
At first glance, New Super Mario Bros Wii looks like more of the same: Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and his henchmen, so Mario, Luigi and a couple of Toads visit eight themed worlds to try and rescue her. Little by little, the game reveals some exciting new features that make it better than the original New Super Mario Bros. Those include simultaneous gameplay for up to four players, the Super Guide feature, the possibility of spinning mid-air when you shake the Wii Remote, players can ride Yoshis and you have access to new items like the Propeller Mushroom and the Penguin Suit.
Let’s start with the obvious one: up to four players can play cooperatively. I’m tempted to use the word cooperative in quotes because, should you decide to play with three other friends, the game can be chaotic. To be clear, it is possible, but you need to coordinate strategies in an immaculate way and make as few mistakes as possible if you want to succeed. In my opinion, playing with another person is the sweet spot, but even then, you constantly need to communicate to share valuable items, try not to throw an enemy in your partner’s direction and keep up in certain levels to avoid being dragged to the edge of the screen and die. On the wrong hands, this game can ruin relationships, but as long as you’re willing to work together, New Super Mario Bros Wii has the potential to be a blast.
The best part about coop is that the entire game revolves around a couple of people working together, so the levels, boss fights, puzzles and different mechanics were planned with two or more people playing them. For instance, you can stand on top of another player and jump to get to a previously unreachable place. Of course, you can still play on your own if you want to and New Super Mario Bros. is still entertaining, but when you play with somebody else (new players take on the role of Luigi and two toads) the game’s more rewarding.
The level design is simply superb. As usual, you have themed worlds that revolve around concepts like fire, water, the desert, underwater, pipes and so on. As I kept playing the game, the feeling of wonder and surprise was still there because there was always something new: new secrets, ways to beat bosses or to use moves in some creative manner.
You still collect giant coins in every level, but this time around, you can spend these on videos that not only show you how to complete a given level, but also where every collectible is and how to finish as fast as possible. These tutorials are mind-blowing and they reminded me of the speed-running videos you can watch online. At the same time, these tutorials made me appreciate the game’s level design because they showed me what can be done in them.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a triumph in two-dimensional platforming thanks to unrivaled level design, timeless gameplay and fantastic cooperative play. You could argue that this Mario game is derivative and non-essential, since it shares so much with other games in the series, but anyone with a Nintendo Wii and a few like-minded friends should definitely add this game to their collection.