Monday, December 14, 2009

Game Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

The new Super Mario Brothers game for the Wii apparently just won Best Wii Game at the annual video game awards. This ought to be an indication of how crappy the selection of games is for the Wii.

I've played quite a few levels now with my girlfriend. We're always on the lookout for good coop games, because they just don't make that many, and the ones that are made generally aren't that good. We were excited when we heard the new Super Mario game would be cooperative, with up to 4 players. Man, were we set up for some disappointment.

First of all, if you're playing with Mario and Luigi, they can't occupy the same space, i.e., they bounce off each other and can push one another off ledges. This is not good. More often than not, you interfere with one another rather than helping each other. Often there are limited places to jump to survive, and one player almost inevitably prevents the other from making the jump or gets pushed off into oblivion themselves. Players can jump on top of each other to reach places they otherwise wouldn't be able to, but this doesn't really help because once one player gets up there, the other one is stuck below. So one player might get a bunch of goodies, like power ups and coins, while the other just got his face stepped on.

The game works much better if you're actually playing multiple players, but you're actually competing against one another. It does NOT function well as a cooperative game. It is much easier to fug up your co-player than it is to assist them in just about any aspect of the game.

A couple of very simple, but very large changes I would have made to the game design to make it, you know, actually cooperative, would be:

1) Overlapping players: Instead of bouncing off each other, you overlap one another. This might make it difficult to see your character if they're behind another one, but that would be a much more desirable tradeoff than trying to jump on a 1-inch ledge that's already occupied by your partner, only to either shove them off to death or bounce off their head to death yourself.

2) Tethers: This would make the game truly coop and a hell of a lot of fun. Have the characters tethered to one another with a flexible bungee cord. If they're both on the same screen, there is no effect. If one player either lags behind horizontally or vertically, the other player is able to pull them up to their current location. This should be extendable to 3 and 4 player as well. On vertically-scrolling levels, there is endless frustration when one player falls too far and dies, rather than simply falling to the last stable platform as they would in single-player. A simple tether system would alleviate this aggravation and make the game feel a lot more like people working as a team.

There are some neat little additions to the game. The ability to shoot snowballs and freeze opponents is a cool power-up. But the game feels mostly like an early 90's retro side-scroller. This is fine...but what's unforgiveable is billing this game as coop and then implementing it in such a horrible, thoughtless way. As the game is currently designed, it would be much more fun to take turns with a partner in single-player mode rather than playing with multiple players, which is, frankly, dumb-fuck stupid.

Nintendo gets a B+ for single-player mode and a big-ass F for coop.

Although one good thing might come out of it, and that's the implementation of a tether system in one of my own games, either a side scroller or perhaps a coop mountain climbing game.


Anonymous said...

The best multi-player Wii games are combat games, where you play against your companion. And what's better than womping on a loved one?

Derek James said...

Well, in my experience, there aren't too many females that enjoy fighting games. And while some couples may enjoy virtually beating up on one another, my guess is that most would actually prefer to team up against some common enemy or goal in a video game. Sadly, very few companies develop games like this, but I'm confident that there's a market.

Anonymous said...

I think women have been taught that they shouldn't like physical competition, or imaginative combat as an extension of that. They are not rewarded for prowess in most social systems, as men have been. But I think it is very likely that women could come to enjoy it, especially as an outlet for aggression, which all animals possess to some degree. At least, I do.

That said, of course collaboration is desired too -- people enjoy working in teams for mutual ends. This is true for men as well as women.

Addicting Games said...

I agree with you that the game feels mostly like an early 90's retro side-scroller. and I true that it would be a lot better if there is a single player turn game...

Anyway nice review! If you have time, take a visit to my Free Games Website