Super Mario Run

Date Completed: December 17th, 2016

It’s Mario on a Smartphone.  Naturally I purchased it immediately after it came out.  I was simultaneously extremely satisfied and very disappointed.  Interesting fact: “Satisfied but Disappointed” could be the official slogan of Nintendo fans.  I could probably make a decent living selling “Satisfied but Disappointed” T-Shirts outside of Nintendo events.  Nintendo has the annoying habit of making the best games in the world with the most irritating caveats. But I digress.

Endless runners aren’t a new genre.  What makes this one different?  In a word: Mario. Mario’s unleashed charisma has made a lot of people who aren’t usually interested in games interested in this game. Prime Example – My Dad. He wanted to know what the whole Super Mario Run thing was about. I tried to explain somewhat futilely:

Me: “He runs forward all the time. You can tap the screen to make him jump.”

Dad: “Is that it?”

Me: “If he jumps into a wall he can push off the wall and move in the reverse direction temporarily. Then he starts running forward again.”

Dad: “…”

There is no challenge.  You get multiple lives on each level and Mario automatically vaults over enemies and small pits.  Each time you play a game you can rest easily knowing that you will win. The only challenge lies in finding and collecting the hidden coins in each level.  Some are out in the open but others require some very specific timing to grab. There are enough coins in the game that I got bored and gave up before I was able to collect them all.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of content in this game. There are 24 levels, each with 15 hidden coins. You also have a world building mode where you can decorate the Mushroom Kingdom with various buildings and shrubberies. Most endless runners have repeating scenery and frequent prompts for you to spend more $$$. Super Mario Run has none of that.

My kids tried playing the game but were unimpressed. “He moves to fast” or “How do I go back?” were common complaints. I tried to explain to them the philosophy behind one handed play, the limitations of touch screen only controls and the need to support Nintendo’s experimentation on other hardware but mostly they’re only interested in playing games they find fun. Kids these days.

Overall I’d say that I don’t regret spending 10$ on this game. I can give this game no higher praise.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 5/10
Length: ~3 hours
System: iOS
Genre: Endless Runner

Mario Golf : World Tour

Mario_Golf_World_Tour_boxartDate Completed: Nov. 26th, 2015

I have fond memories of the Gameboy Color version of Mario Golf but I hadn’t played a Mario Golf title since.  I thought Mario Golf : World Tour might be something I could play with my wife but when I asked her about it she said she had no interest in playing golf on her 3DS.  So much for that.  I probably wouldn’t have ever bought the title but when Club Nintendo was closing down and the time came to choose my final Platinum reward game I ended up settling for Mario Golf because I already owned most of the other available options.

The first time I ever played electronic golf was on my brand-new Gateway 2000 PC back in the mid ’90s which came with a free copy of Microsoft Golf.  Playing Mario Golf World Tour isn’t a significant departure from golf games of the past.  The primary differences from past titles are the things that go on around the clubhouse.  You play as your Mii and you have the ability to unlock items such as shirt, shoes, clubs and balls that can all affect your game in various ways.  Other golfers show up in your clubhouse via Steetpass and you can participate in online tournaments.  There are three single-player tournaments but if you don’t mind paying for DLC there appear to be other tournaments you can download from the eShop.

It didn’t take me long to beat the main three single-player championship tournaments and I didn’t want to get involved in online stuff.  There is still a LOT of equipment left for me to unlock in the game so I feel like I must have missed something but as far as I can tell the credits have rolled and I’m done with the game.  I would have liked to see another few championship courses but since the game was basically free I won’t complain.  I don’t plan on putting much more time into the game but since I own the downloaded version this game will live forevermore on my 3DS’s home screen.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself starting it up from time to time for a round or two.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  8 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Sports / Golf

Super Smash Bros. 3DS / Wii U

SmashBoxAccording to WordPress this is going to be my 100th post! So, congratulations to me.

Super Smash Bros. came out for the N64 when I was in college but it was later in the N64’s life cycle and I had already begun moving away from the N64 as a platform of choice.  I might have never tried the game at all, except some of the gentlemen down the hall were REALLY big fans of the game. I wasn’t especially good friends with the gentlemen down the hall, but they enjoyed gaming and avoiding schoolwork as much as I did so we had a lot of common ground. I played a LOT of Smash with those gentlemen, enough to forge some lifelong friendships and move off campus together the next year (where of course we played even more SMASH).  When the Gamecube came out I bought one and we Smashed even harder. Smash became one of the games that defined my college experience, so it is psychologically impossible for me to not purchase new versions when they are released.

This time around Nintendo released Smash Bros. for two consoles, the Wii U and the 3DS. They are NOT the same game as I originally believed although they do have a lot in common. The roster of characters are identical and many of the levels are the same, but there are unique features to each that make the experience for each game distinctive. The games are NOT cross compatible – you can’t play against a Wii U owner with the 3DS version of the game, although in a somewhat unusual move you CAN use the 3DS as an extra controller for a Wii U.

The game hasn’t changed much since the Gamecube iteration. To get started you only need to learn two buttons – attack and special attack. Pressing in a direction with one of the attack buttons will slightly alter which move is performed. All fighters use the same controls so even if you are using someone new you should be able to get a few hits in. This is in contrast to other fighting games (such as Injustice which I recently reviewed) where all fighters have different controls that must be learned separately. I’ve good results introducing new people to Smash by showing them how to jump, and use the two attack buttons. Both of my boys (Who are 5 and 3 years old) were able to play the game and my 5 year old even managed to beat me once or twice (more on that later).  After learning how to use your attacks, advanced players may learn the other two buttons – block and throw.  These are helpful to know but not entirely necessary for enjoying the game.

Fighting games generally aren’t noted for being fantastic single player experiences and Smash Bros. is no exception.  Fortunately Smash makes up for a somewhat lackluster single player experience by including BUTT LOADS (Figuratively) of different modes that can be enjoyed.  These include (but are not limited to) Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, Street Smash (3DS), Smash Run (3D), Smash Tour (Wii U), Event Smash (Wii U), Special Orders (Wii U) and online battle modes.  Completing each of the modes with each of the 50 playable characters will take a significant time investment.

Fight

You can post screenshots through the Miiverse.

 

So, Smash is great, but what was my experience like?  Well, on the 3DS I played through most of the single player challenges myself and the only achievements I have left are the ones like ‘beat all-star mode with every character’.  I tried a few online matches for fun but never really got into it.  One of my colleagues at work got a copy for Christmas (I bought mine at launch) and we’ve had a few cooperative battles on break, which is a lot more fun than work.  Taking Smash on the road is a lot of fun, but the opportunity to play it doesn’t come up as often as I would like.

The Wii U version of the game is all about the Amiibos for us.  I may have gone a bit overboard with Amiibo fever – I signed up for the Lootcrate Amiibo promotion which netted us most of the launch characters.  My boys both wanted Link’s Amiibo for Christmas ( I couldn’t convinced them to ask for different characters – Link is too awesome ) which combined with the Lootcrate promotions brings our household total to about 13.  I thought the game would be too hard for my boys to play themselves so the Amiibo integration seemed like a good way to get them involved.  It turns out that they are both able to play the game with at least some measure of success and they HATE it when their Amiibo beats them.

My 3-year-old son isn’t entirely sure what he’s doing so he generally stands still while spamming the attack button.  Sometimes he decides he’s controlling a different character than he started with (which doesn’t affect his results any), and sometimes he gets bored and wanders out of the room. My 5-year-old son is a bit more hardcore about it.  He and I have an agreement to not attack each other so I’m often left attacking the Amiibos on my own.  Periodically this strategy results in my older son winning as I take all the damage and he shows up to knock the bad guys off the stage.

You must have JavaScript enabled on your device to view Miiverse posts that have been embedded in a website. View post in Miiverse.

My progress with the Wii U version achievements is a lot slower since the boys insist that we play the 2 minute Smash battles.  I’m OK with that though, it’s a lot more fun than playing alone.  I think Smash will be a popular diversion for the boys and I for a long time.

Pros

  • Lots of playable characters.
  • Single player story mode was enjoyable.

Cons

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: 3DS / Wii U
Genre: Fighting

Mario Kart 8

mario_kart_8_boxartDate Completed: November 13, 2014

Mario Kart 64 was always my game.   I may not have been able to kick your butt at Quake or StarCraft but if you tried taking me on on Mario Kart you would lose – bad.  Back in college people in my dormitory heard of my prowess and sought to defeat me, and they all failed.  I recall once a fellow dorm resident walked into a room where I was playing and remarked, “Wow! He is amazing!”.  And it was true.  I was.

In move that I can only describe as a shining testament to my superior skill, one of the RAs specifically excluded my floor from a dormitory-wide Mario Kart tournament that he had organized.  The only purpose of excluding my floor was so that he would have a shot at winning his own tournament, and thusly scoring the free Pizza promised to the winner.  Anyone who has suffered through college knows how big a deal free food is.

I told my wife that when Mario Kart 8 finally released I didn’t care how bad my Tendonitis was, I was going to play until my fingers bled and my forearms swelled to the size of Popeye’s.  I didn’t quite play it that much, but I did push myself a little harder than I should have.

Unlike back in the day, Mario Kart has expanded to offer an absurd number of playable drivers and vehicles.  I find it a bit overwhelming – testing out all of the combinations to find the best choice for my playing style is simply not plausible.  Instead of my old policy (always be the Princess) I pick a racer and kart combination that I feel like I haven’t used before.

The new ‘gimmick’ of this Game is the Zero Gravity features on the tracks.  While driving on the walls and ceiling makes for some very impressive screen shots and replay videos it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference while actively playing. Even so,  if you are doing anything but grinning like a mad fool while racing up a freaking waterfall on the Shy Guy falls you may have no soul.

The new tracks are all fantastic, although they seem to be a little less ‘Mario’ and a little more ‘Cool Concept’.  The Electrodrome for example doesn’t appear to come from any previous Mario game I’ve ever played, but it’s still one of my 32 favorite levels.  I was also very pleased to see the return of some of my favorite N64 courses such as Yoshi’s Valley, Royal Raceway and Rainbow Road in the classic races.

I found the 50cc races to be far too easy and I achieved three star rankings on all of them first try.  100cc was similarly easy and I picked up all three stars with relative ease.  I was a bit disappointed by the difficulty until I tried 150cc.  It’s fast, brutal and infuriating, exactly like Mario Kart was meant to be.

My sons both loved watching Mario Kart, and my older boy (who is 5 now) was even able to play somewhat competitively on 50cc, although on 150cc he was left in the dust.  I usually gave a non-operational Wii Wheel to my 3 year old who enjoyed pretending he was playing as much as the rest of us enjoyed the actual game.

If I hadn’t already owned a Wii U I would have bought one to play Mario Kart 8.  If you are reading this and you don’t yet own a Wii U and / or Mario Kart 8, you are out of excuses.  The time is now.  Buy this game and you won’t regret it.

Pros

  • Ridiculous number of playable racers / kart combinations.
  • Zero Gravity Courses

Cons

  • It’s so awesome, you’ll be forced to buy a Wii U (If you don’t already have one)
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~8 hours
System: Wii U
Genre: Racing

Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World Box ArtDate Completed: August 15, 2014

This review has been a long time coming.  I received the game for Christmas last year and I opened it and played it almost immediately but due to our previously mentioned homelessness situation, my tendonitis issue and the newborn I didn’t get around to completing the game until last month.

My first impression of the game was that it felt like I was running in Molasses.  I think they must have cut back the movement speed of your characters so that in four player mode you couldn’t run too far away from your buddies.  The game appears to use the same engine as Super Mario 3D Land, but without depth cues I found several of the environment much harder to jump through.  I estimate a full 25% of my deaths were due to being unable to properly estimate how far to jump, or where I was in relation to the platform I was jumping to.

The other 75% of my deaths were due to my 5 year old son, who insisted on playing with me, but didn’t care much for moving his character.  He’s getting old enough to be able to control a game in a 3D environment, but after few levels he loses focus and wanted me to carry him through all the levels.  He eventually discovered he could put himself in a bubble and float along side me as I played which worked well enough, but sort of defeated the purpose of playing the game at all.  After running my extra life total down from the 90s to about 3 I told him I needed to build up extra lives so he’d have to sit out awhile.  He wasn’t happy about that, but that didn’t keep him from wanting to watch me play.

The big ‘innovation’ of this Mario title is you now have a cat suit power up, and you can play with 4 players simultaneously.  I liked the cat suit a lot and I hope it makes its way into future Mario games.  Flying through the air to deliver the scratch of death to foes, and running a long walls could be a lot of fun in a Super Mario Galaxy like game.

My boys both really enjoyed the game and it is now on the rotation of games they periodically beg me to play (along with Pikmin 3, Skylanders and Ni No Kuni, in that order).  The level design was top notch, and the presentation was fantastic.  Nintendo really has a knack for creating unique environments families can enjoy playing through together.  The formula hasn’t changed in awhile – if you’ve ever played a Mario game before you’ll know what to expect.  Roughly 8 worlds of levels and after you beat the game you unlock a series of more challenging optional levels you can play.

I enjoyed Mario 3D Land, but it didn’t feel like a ‘real’ Mario game.  This is the first 3D Super Mario game to hit a non-portable console since Super Mario Galaxy 2 (One of the greatest Nintendo games ever, in my opinion), but it feels very much like a scaled up version of Super Mario 3D Land. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t put it on the same level as the Mario Galaxy games either.  Even so, this game is a lot of fun and and is definitely worth a look if you happen to be a Wii U owner.

Pros

  • Four Player Mario Action
  • Cat Suit!

Cons

  • Slow Gameplay

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length: ~10 hours
System: Nintendo Wii U
Genre: Platform

New Super Luigi U

New Super Luigi U Box Art

Date Completed: July 29, 2013

Since completing ZombiU I haven’t done a whole lot with the Wii U except play the occasional Virtual Console game.  There have been a handful of games I’ve been interested in, but not enough to actually pay for them.  I really wanted to buy Mass Effect 3 for the Wii U but since Mass Effect Trilogy was available for the PS3 for even cheaper it was a tough sell.  The is promise of more games is on the horizon but a lot of those have a ‘2014’ in their expected launch dates.  New Super Luigi U is an obvious attempt to throw Wii U owners a bone.  It only runs about 20$, which according to my internal video game pricing calculator is basically free.

The game itself reuses all of the resources of New Super Mario Bros U so it isn’t exactly a new game.  The over world map, enemies, items and story are all identical.  Every single level has been completely replaced however so while it may look familiar on the surface it is a different game.  Each of the levels much shorter, but they are all much more difficult than NSMBU and you start them with only 100 seconds and there are no halfway points (Even on boss levels).  Star Coins are often in locations that can only be described as ‘corridors of death’ and require perfect timing to acquire.

The game play has also altered a bit.  Luigi has a longer jump and a ‘floaty’ quality similar to the Luigi in Super Mario Bros. 2.  It makes jumping easier but since he falls a bit slower I had a bit of trouble adjusting my timing to land on top of my foes.  Since Mario does not appear in this game Nabbit replaces him in multiplayer modes.  Nabbit can’t be damaged by enemies (and can’t pick up power-ups) so I was able to talk my wife into playing as him a few times.

New Super Luigi U brought new life back to my Wii U console and while it was fun, I have been wondering How much Mario is too Much?  With two New Super Mario games last year, New Super Luigi U this year and Super Mario 3D World supposedly coming out for Christmas how much more Mario can they expect us to take?

Pros

  • All new levels for New Super Mario Bros U.

Cons

  • Short levels.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  6 hours
System: Nintendo Wii  U
Genre: Platformer

New Super Mario Bros. 2

Date Completed: 1/18/2013

Box Art

My wife’s grandparents got me a copy of the New Super Mario Bros. 2 for my 3DS to accompany the copy of New Super Mario Bros. U that my wife’s parents got me.  I’ve been playing the games simultaneously and it’s impossible to avoid comparing them directly.  They are essentially the same game.  Level progression is identical, game play is identical and enemies are identical.  I would have finished both of the games on the same day last week except I intentionally avoided the Bowser’s castle so they’d be spaced out a bit more.  If my boys caught me playing this game they’d tell me to put it up on the TV, which of course meant I’d have to switch consoles (but they didn’t know that).  Long story short, this is extremely similar to the Wii U game.

The biggest difference between this game and the Wii U game is that this game has a secondary objective.  Your primary objective is to defeat Bowser and save the princess but your secondary objective is to collect golden coins.   Coins are much easier to come by in this game than in previous Mario titles.  Coins fly out of pipes or appear out of thin air as you pass by.  Some enemies throw coins at you and there are giant coins that are worth 10 or 100 coins.  The best way to get money was with the magic GOLDEN FIREBALL.  You can pick up a golden flower (pictured on the right hand side of the box art) and you will be gifted with the ability to shoot golden fireballs.   Golden fireballs explode in a golden supernova that turns anything in the vicinity to cold hard cash.  Needless to say this is an ability I’d like in real life.

Golden Fireballs! (Image from Gametrailers.com)

The game also includes a coin rush mode where you run through a series of levels collecting coins with a limited timer.  It looks like additional coin rush courses are available as DLC but I didn’t investigate that option too much.  DLC offends me.

The game is in 2D and the 3D effect is barely noticeable.  For the most party I played without 3D.  The levels were fun but I didn’t find any of them to be particularly memorable.  It’s still worth picking up for any Mario fans out there.

Pros

  • GOLDEN FIREBALLS
  • Coin Rush Mode

Cons

  •  3D visuals are barely noticeable.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  6 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Platformer