Nintendo has twisted the classic Super Mario Bros. concept in many directions, continually reinventing the idea of running toward a flagpole and jumping on scowling mushrooms. Now available for Wii U, Nintendo brings us Super Mario 3D World, the latest in the line and substantially improved over 2012's New Super Mario Bros. U.
The "3D" of the title does not refer to eye-popping visual effects that require funny glasses. It merely means Mario can explore a kingdom of turtles and fairies in three dimensions, much like many modern video games. The game looks fantastic on the high- definition Wii U.
There is little point in mentioning the story line, because "giant dinosaur kidnaps fairy princesses" has very little to do with anything. What is more interesting is that, for the first time in years, Princess Peach is one of the core playable characters.
Peach joins Mario, his brother Luigi and pal Toad in a foray across gorgeous landscapes and through silly enemies. Each member of the quartet has subtle differences in speed and ability, and the game supports four players at the same time.
You might find multiplayer to be less fun than advertised, as the game's viewpoint can be frustrating when everybody tries to run in a different direction. 3D World has the "bubble" feature found in previous Mario games, where players can hide in an impervious bubble while another player forges through a difficult part, but, for my money, this is still a series that shines best as a single-player experience.
And shine it does, through level after level of impressive challenges and thrilling surprises. 3D World is focused on never letting the player get bored. Not only is each level a unique obstacle course, but the game is packed with wacky power-ups that dive-bomb you with new ways to play. The most prevalent power-up is a cat suit that lets Mario climb walls and lash out with feline claws. Other power-ups include a helicopter hat, a giant ice skate and a wholly unexplainable cherry that creates clones of your character.
The brilliance of 3D World is that it is out to challenge you without punishing you. No level is too long. It saves your progress after every level. If you're having trouble, the game will give you an ultimate power-up that will drastically increase your chances of getting through a section. For gamers who crave deeper risks and the subsequent rewards, 3D World has optional hidden stars and secret stamps in every level that require top skills to collect.
This is a game meant to connect several dots of nostalgia and at the same time create a completed picture that is beautiful and accessible. Super Mario 3D World is vibrant, fun and needs to be in your Wii U collection.