SEATTLE — There has not been a traditional, 2D Mario platforming game on a home console since the days of the Super Nintendo. All of the remakes and new adventures were put onto the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS rather than on the Nintendo 64, GameCube or, until now, the Wii; hell, even Wario got in on the 2D goodness around this time last year, and he had a 2.5D title the generation before that. The wait for this style of game is almost over though, as Nintendo’s New Super Mario Bros. series makes its way to the Wii with some new additions that could make it a must own.

If you like 2D Mario games, you will like New Super Mario Bros. Wii. That’s a pretty open and shut discussion, as it has the kinds of things you look for: tight controls, great level design, secrets to find, nifty power-ups, and of course, a score-based system that the 3D games lack. What this game also has that no other Mario title has is multiplayer. I don’t know the kind you’re used to, when Mario attempts a level and then Luigi gives it a go, I mean four-players at once, in the same level, acting either competitively or cooperatively — or a little of both — in order to clear a level.

If you want to help your friends, you can work together to solve platforming puzzles, or use each other as a springboard to reach out of the way items and coins, divide items evenly and try not to rush through the levels too fast so that they don’t fall behind. While it’s fun to play nice, the real joy in New Super Mario Bros. comes from its competitive nature. Steal items from your friends to keep them from gaining power-ups and extra lives, and to give yourself more points. Run as quickly as you can to ensure they fall behind, or to make sure you always get to item blocks, coins and enemies first. Do your best to bounce off of their heads, using them as a springboard to collect what you want without sharing. While riding Yoshi, eat your buddy and shoot him into a canyon or into enemies, or just hold on to them to keep them from collecting anything. There’s a lot you can do in each level to ensure that you come out on top–you will be ranked by points at the end of each level–so if you’re the competitive type, this is‚  going to be your kind of game.

Nintendo might not like this comparison, but it’s a lot like LittleBigPlanet in its concept, except with much, much tighter controls and a more well-developed and cohesive universe. I think there’s also a higher emphasis on competition than there was in LBP, which personally I find appealing. I played through a few different levels: the first in the game, which is just meant as an introduction to the controls and some new abilities, like your spin attack/boost which you perform by shaking the Wii Remote (an ability you will utilize with the Propeller Suit, also found in this stage) as well as the two levels that introduced you to Yoshi and the Penguin Suit. Yoshi controls like you expect him to, except now you can eat your friends, as mentioned before. There is more than one Yoshi per stage as well, but you will want to fight over him since having Yoshi allows you to dispose of enemies easily and also allows you to eat the fruit growing in the stage. The Penguin Suit is a neat addition–not only is it pretty adorable, but Mario and company can slide across ice with it, allowing them to break through blocks that they normally could only dispose of by hitting them with a shell. You also can shoot ice balls, much like if you had collected a Fire Flower. Speaking of Fire Flowers and Ice Balls, you can shoot in multiple directions at once while wearing these suits by spinning with the Wii Remote; this is useful if you’re surrounded, or just want to try to steal as many points as possible from your pals.

Even though the basic concept was easy to grasp and there wasn’t anything new unveiled for it at PAX, this was one of the coolest games on the floor, and is one we will continue to cover up through its release later this year. Check back here in the future for more info and assets, but for now, we’ve got some screens for you to check out.

About The Author

Marc Normandin was gaming editor of Blast from 2008 to mid-2010. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @Marc_Normandin

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