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New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the follow-up to New Super Mario Bros. released 3 years ago for DS, and is the first game in the series to feature on Wii. The formula is the same as you would expect, with signature side-scrolling action that will test even expert gamers, but several key changes to the game make it accessible for all – and you can even all play together with the new 4 player co-op mode allowing additional players to drop in or out with ease.

New Super Mario Bros. is one of my favourite games for the DS, with excellent challenging gameplay, and a decent number of varied levels. If you have played New Super Mario Bros. then you will feel right at home playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The basic controls and world structure are similar, and it is easy to jump right in and play without reading any manuals. The cheery music welcomes you back into the Mario world as your onscreen enemies bounce in time to the tunes.

Graphically, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a little underpowered. New Super Mario Bros. looked incredible on the DS, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii looked a little like the exactly same thing, only on a larger TV screen, with a softer look to it. While it certainly wasn’t disappointing, it didn’t carry the “wow” factor I experienced when playing New Super Mario Bros. on DS for the first time.

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It didn’t take long for me to look past the graphics though, as the game has a unique way of drawing you in and making you want to play it more and more. The brilliance of this game (and the series) is evidenced by the fact that the basic gameplay remains the same, and yet it never fails to feel fresh as you play through it. Eight unique world environments vary the gameplay and required strategy, and looking for secret passages and hidden objects remains as fun as it was the first time I played a Mario platformer. There are new powerups such as the Propeller suit which gives Mario the ability to fly, and a loveable Penguin suit to ease navigation through certain areas. Ridable Yoshis make a brief appearance but sadly only on a few levels.

The two major changes of note in New Super Mario Bros. Wii both make this game family and casual-gamer friendly. The first has already been mentioned – up to 4 players can play levels simultaneously in either a competitive or co-operative fashion, dropping in and out of the game at will between levels. Mario is always the lead character, but can be joined by Luigi, Blue Toad, and/or Yellow Toad. This is a welcome addition to any families where everyone becomes bored waiting for the most proficient gamer in the household to die before anyone else can have a turn. Players can pick up and throw each other around the screen, or work together to perform combined moves such as a ground pound. The multiplayer modes introduce an interesting new gameplay mechanic because players bump into one another rather than run through unimpeded, making it more difficult to navigate crowded areas in the game. Expect to be annoyed by Mario newbies incessantly blocking your path as you try to clear the level. The point of co-op isn’t to get through the levels any more efficiently though, so just make sure you are in the mood for laughs and have the patience to show newcomers how it is done.

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Speaking of showing others how it is done, the “Super Guide” is the other major addition to the series, and is a controversial one. If during the course of trying to clear a level, a player loses eight lives, then a green block appears on screen which allows you to call upon a computer-controller Luigi to clear the level for you. The Super Guide shows Luigi clearing the rest of the level, including any boss battles, but does not reveal the locations of secret items and passages. Luigi isn’t there to show you how to clear the level “perfectly”, but he is perfect for showing frustrated gamers one way of clearing the level. Once Luigi reaches the goal, the player is then asked if they wish to play the level themselves having watched one way of doing it, or whether they want to skip the level entirely.

Critics of the Super Guide will chastise Nintendo over this “dumbing down” of gaming to the casual gaming market, but the simple fact is that you don’t have to use the Super Guide. It is no different to looking up a game guide online or watching a video showing you how someone has cleared a particular level you are stuck on – only this is built into the game for convenience. If this helps encourage more people to persist with the wonderful Mario platforming world, then why not?

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The new Super Guide could potentially be called upon by even seasoned gamers as New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a step above in difficulty from the recent DS game. That’s not a criticism though; in fact difficult is a quality that is usually welcomed by fans of such games, myself included. The addition of the Super Guide therefore allows the game to be unashamedly difficult, without being too off-putting to casual gamers. Win-win?

It is a long time between drinks for Wii owners, and it usually takes Nintendo themselves to produce the quality titles that make you glad you didn’t sell your Wii even though you’ve been contemplating it for months. Some are calling this a game that you should buy a Wii to play, and they aren’t far wrong with that. It is certainly a must-buy for any Wii owner, and will bring a great deal of enjoyment for the whole family this upcoming Christmas.

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