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Super Mario Bros. Wonder Is Nintendo-Branded Complacency At Its Peak
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Genre: 2D platformer from Nintendo
Nintendo has been around the block for eons, and should be one of those companies held in the highest regard and standards. So if I spot a 2D (or 3D) Mario 2D platformer that clearly is trying to get by with its new release without trying too hard, I’ll know.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is exactly that: even with the new coat of paint, new power-ups, and Wonder Flower stage modifier mechanic, there’s nothing in my 10-hour playing spree that really feels groundbreaking, to the point where I could swear that half the levels are from Mario games that previously did them better.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s plot and levels take place in a new flower-laden kingdom, with Bowser suddenly turning into a castle and harassing the denizens with his grand plan for a final stage. It’s up to Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy (in her first debut 2D Mario platformer game), the Toads, the Yoshis, and that one rabbit creep from New Super Luigi U to save the day. Just like past games, you need to collect enough collectibles to unlock further stages -Wonder Seeds in this case- and progress further. Each world’s capstone stages will feature a boss -Bowser Jr. in a plethora of attack styles and traps- for you to defeat, eventually leading to the final confrontation with Castle Bowser.
Helping players out is the new Badges function. You know like how in some Mario games, each character has different playstyles? Well, the selectable characters here play exactly the same as one another, so these Badges help give you an extra ability. These include Super Jumps from crouches, vertical wall climbing, dolphin kick for faster swimming, and even a float move to slow your descent downwards. Most of them are useful in not just making your playthrough a lot less taxing, but also to help you find secrets and even unlock the ever-illusive Wonder Seeds you need for further progress.
New power-ups in this Mario game include the heavily advertised and meme-able Elephant form which is very useful with offensive capabilities, a Drill Hat to make sure nothing can hit you from above (while also letting you tunnel through certain obstacles), and the Bubble powerup that not only shoots powerful bubbles horizontally, but also lets you create platforms you can jump onto. Personally, the Bubble shots have saved my ass a couple of times in the later sections of the game.
For all the colourful sensations and new music that makes Super Mario Bros. Wonder a joy to play, I can’t help but feel “whelmed”. Not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed, just “whelmed”. Short of a few stages at the tail end of the game, there’s really nothing remarkable about the levels here, like as if they’re all the greatest hits from past titles and Mario Maker’s user levels but with that “Wonder” touch. Even the Wonder Flower stage modifiers, while impressive and trippy at first, do feel same-y as you go through the motions. Don’t get me wrong; these levels are fine to play and are serviceable. But from a company that has spent years making great platformers, this entry feels by-the-numbers. It’s definitely not derivative ala Super Mario 3D Land levels of blandness, but it sure as hell isn’t anything to keep me away from other better titles in the Mario franchise.
Given the game’s co-op and family-friendly nature, you can play co-op with other folks, turn on online mode to have outsiders help you out in a jam, or you can just select Yoshi or rabbit creep to power through the level since they can’t die from enemy hits. While that’s all wowie zowie for parents, kids, and preschoolers just getting into games, I’m not sure if other players will stick around longer than World 5 or 6. Past Mario games like Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, or even Super Mario 3D World (all accessible legally on Switch, by the by) were never shy in challenging players; these new Super Mario features just make the majority of the game a cakewalk through and through.
While definitely a solid 2D platforming game with some nice surprises and stage-warping/modifying bonuses and decent quality-of-life changes like no timer to pressure you, Super Mario Bros. Wonder, is but a stepping stone for the franchise to go to better heights on the Switch and its eventual next-gen console which is most likely going to be dubbed Switch 2. Think of this entry as the base game that gets it going before its home run hit comes out in the next few years. The Super Mario Galaxy before Super Mario Galaxy 2, if you will. It IS a huge step up from weaker Mario Bros. platforming fares like Super Mario 3D Land and the handheld titles, so that counts for something.
Don’t expect a huge leap in innovation and surprises, but a boatload of fun for both your friends and family. This Mario entry is basically comfort food that barely sates, but doesn’t enthrall, inspire, or enervate.
P.S: if this is your first platforming Mario experience, add 3 points to the score. It’s a must-buy for your newfound mind.
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