Everyone's favorite star-hunting, mushroom-eating Italian plumber is back in Super Mario 3D Land , the latest title for the series that goes back to its roots for inspiration. Surprisingly, it works out very well, though with a few small catches.
Storywise, it's kind of the same old song and dance we've seen at least a half-dozen times before. Once again, Mario's age-old nemesis Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach, and it's up to Mario to defeat Bowser's minions and rescue her from whatever ill plans Bowser has in store. Though to be fair, the in-game intermissions do show Princess Peach almost making a successful escape attempt, which certainly would've been a nice twist.
There are eight worlds for Mario to explore, each with about five stages to play through and end in boss fights against one of Bowser's henchmen, the fist-swinging Boom Boom or boomerang-chucking Pom Pom. The levels themselves are very well designed and look fantastic, regardless of whether you have the 3D turned on or off. You'll be running and leaping around detailed Goomba-filled plains, icy mountains, and ghostly mansions in your quest to rescue the princess from Bowser. It's an enjoyable experience exploring each stage and overcoming whatever obstacles it throws at you, whether it's a handful of tricky jumps or a tower of angry Goombas. One particularly memorable level had multi-colored blocks that disappeared and reappeared in time with the music, requiring close attention to avoid plunging towards an unfortunate end. Another fun and fast-paced stage essentially puts you in the middle of a construction site with buzz saws actively cutting away parts of the level, yourself included if you aren't quick enough to get to a safe power-tool free area.
A few classic power-ups return, such as the fire flower that lets Mario throw fireballs, but the Tanooki suit from Super Mario 3 is probably the most helpful power-up in the game. The Tanooki suit lets Mario jump up and float down to the ground, giving you a lot more control over some of the trickier platforming parts. As cool as it was to blaze a fiery path of destruction through my enemies, with such a strong focus on hopping, skipping and jumping to victory I liked having more control over my time in the air.
Thankfully, 3D Land doesn't go overboard with giving Mario a billion stars to collect this time around. No, this time it gives Mario billions of coins to pick up instead. Each stage also has three star-coins to collect, which let you unlock extra levels, but aren't all that necessary to progress through the main worlds. It's more of a fun side challenge to locate them all for playing the unlockable stages later on. For the most part when you beat a stage you'll be able to progress to the next without having to double back, although there are plenty of side opportunities to rack up bonus lives.