With Zelda already gracing Nintendo’s 3D handheld, Mario is taking a pipe plunge into a new dimension with Super Mario 3D Land. In the traditional sense, Mario entered the 3D space with Mario 64, but never has the portly plumber popped out of the screen so far and straddled two dimensions so deftly.
The levels in Super Mario 3D Land are brand new, ground based, bite-sized chunks of Super Mario Galaxy levels, in that they are mostly 3D while still paying homage to Mario’s 2D side-scrolling roots at certain points. For instance, in one night-set 2D level Mario can, like in LittleBigPlanet, move to the foreground and background of the stone castle he finds himself in to better manoeuvre around obstacles, such as when he is required to crawl through a vent to avoid 4 vertically stacked Goombas.
Where the 3D effects really come to the fore though is when judging whether or not Mario can jump onto a distant platform, or indeed the head of a familiar foe. Of course, Mario’s little round shadow helps you know where he’ll fall, but having a platform's edges highlighted with clarity is so useful that you’ll wonder how you ever managed to get by with flatter dimensions.
Also, in a little knowing nod to how far Mario has come in his illustrious career, there are cute cardboard cut-outs of Goombas strewn across a sunny grassland area, with the real deal also waddling around as comparison.
All the fond and familiar aspects of Mario games past are all present and correct in Super Mario 3D Land, including golden coins, Piranha Plants, headbutt-able blocks, Bullet Bills (which fly forward from the background and fly directly towards the player) and the all important, all adorable, costumes.
The special suits my Mario got his mitts on included the Racoon Suit, which allows Mario to fly for a short time, float slowly back down to earth and swipe at enemies with a spinning tail attack, and his snappy red and white Fire Mario clothes that allow him to shoot fireballs. The Tanooki Suit, which grants similar abilities to the Racoon Suit, can be scavenged by finding a Super Leaf out in the wild.
Despite levels being more linear than your normal 3D Mario game, there’s still plenty of hidden extras to unearth beneath those inviting green warp pipes. Also very tantalizing, to slide down at least, are the tall flagpoles that signal the end of each level. Not only are the large variety welcome, but smaller flagpoles that act as save points mid-way through a level are also especially handy for gamers on the go.
If you’re still sitting on the fence about whether the 3DS is a worthwhile investment, Super Mario 3D Land will convince you that it is. Not content to just port Mario 64, Nintendo have taken their latest portable console into full consideration, and have designed 3D Land from the ground up to craft levels that are just the right size, suitably challenging and best played in 3D. Super Mario 3D Land will be popping onto store shelves in the middle of November.