It’s been an absolute treat blasting through Mario’s latest adventure. Nintendo has been promising to showcase what the 3DS is truly capable of for a while now, and Super Mario 3D Land definitely achieves that with flying colours. This challenging, charming and diverse experience is brimming with content, brilliant variety and classic Mario gameplay, molded around a 3D presentation that suddenly gives the handheld a new breath of life. We’ve been waiting for the 3DS’ blockbuster title, subjected only to some great ports and solid launch titles, but Super Mario 3D Land is just what the doctor ordered leading into Christmas. This game is the reason we invested in Nintendo’s shiny 3D-compatible handheld.
What Super Mario 3D Land Got Right
Brilliant stage design - You'll be blown away by the diversity of the environments, many of which are clearly molded off Mario Land games of yesteryear. That's part of what gives 3D Land so much of its charm: the open, 3D worlds share uncanny similarities with the game's predecessors, all perfectly refined to use 3D better than any other game on the system. Certain levels act as odes to games like Super Mario Bros. 1 and 3, while others take pages from the books of Super Mario Land, and perhaps even its successor in The 6 Golden Coins. Early levels are accessible and fairly easy, but the game gets progressively more complex once you progress past World 5. Super Mario 3D Land brings together everything we've loved about past handheld Mario games, perfectly suited to the 3D visuals that the handheld can project.
Great controls - The 3DS' circle pad makes 3D Land's controls tight, simple and intuitive, while being open to any type of gamer. While the game is undoubtedly linear -- probably more so than any other 3D Mario game thus far -- the controls contribute to what is a very accessible level of platforming, block busting and Goomba smashing.
Assistance for inexperienced gamers - Just as with every Mario game before it, 3D Land offers a number of player-assistance power-ups. The tanooki suit makes a return and is literally everywhere -- you'll rarely play through a level without having used it at least once -- but it's the power-ups that assist with failure that give 3D Land its overall accessibility. The invincibility leaf and p-wing appear whenever you fail a level five and ten times respectively. The leaf will make Mario invincible for the entire lever, while the p-wing will transform him directly to the end, giving younger, more inexperienced gamers an opportunity to progress without having to complete the harder areas.
Classic Mario gameplay - You can't look past the classic Mario gameplay mechanics, all of which make a return to highlight just how ageless the character is. The platforming elements are accessible and fun, the boss battles are simplistic but memorable, and the puzzles will certainly challenge even the most experienced Mario gamers out there.
What Super Mario 3D Land Got Wrong
Early levels are too easy - A minor setback, sure, but something that may detract some gamers from completing the entire game. Super Mario 3D Land starts off very easy, not so much in the capacity that you'll never die, but rather in the way that you can blast through the first three or so worlds in just over an hour. The game gets progressively more challenging, and the devilishly hard challenge stages that are unlocked once you finish the game are a great addition, but early levels seem to be over just as quickly as they began. But the game's definitely worth pushing through for.
The Final Verdict
This superb platformer is just what the doctor ordered for the 3DS ahead of the Christmas holiday period. This innovative title takes Mario to new heights, offering superb gameplay, challenging new worlds, great variety and brilliant puzzles. This third entry in the 'Land' series is the reason we all rushed out to buy a 3DS. It's simply amazing.
By Gaetano Prestia