Nintendo Switch8.90
Overall 8.90
It's been a long time since Super Mario Bros has tried something new and different. The NSMB line has dominated the 2D Mario landscape for better or worse for 15 years or so. Wonder is the first departure from that line of games, meaning its the first non NSMB game since Super Mario World, think about that. What was missing from the NSMB games was a sense of well... wonder. Something unique and exciting which the old Mario 2D games had and 3D games excel at, Wonder brings back that spirit of creativity and originality.

Wonder's levels are the star here with nearly every level having some fun unique gimmick to it. This is no short game either, I am certain there are north of 70 levels to this game and most all of them try to have an identity. Its that variety and imagination that makes this game so special.

The big new addition is the wonder flower which allows every level to undergo a drug like trip allowing the developers free reign to create any scenario they desire, rules don't apply when you touch a Wonder Flower. It starts off simple with some pipes moving around, one stage the piranha plants sing on parade. As the game continues the effects get more weird and a joy to play through. In one level you could become a goomba and have to navigate a trap filled level. Some the lights go out and in shadow you have to elongate and shrink Mario to avoid enemies. Some levels become musical gauntlets with the beat controlling the platforming. New forms are used like a giant spike ball, or a blob that can stick to ceilings. These moments really shine and bring me back to that sense of the unknown that I had with SMB3 where I had no clue what was coming next.

During the normal play Mario and company get some new power ups, the most famous being the elephant powerup. This neat power lets you burst through brick walls and use your weight to crush objects normal Mario can't. Water can be stored in your trunk and sprayed on flowers to get some bonuses. A bubble power and drill are the other new power ups and they all have specific and well designed uses in many levels.  Old faithful fire flower is there of course, always good for some enemy clearing. When you combine these with the forms you get in the wonder trips it comes out to the most diverse set of powerups since SMB3.

The platforming is perfect to control as always, Mario invented this genre and to this day I feel every platformer is judged against it, every jump, run, bounce off a wall feels perfectly responsive. I wish Mario had more core moves, its kind of a basic move set because they saved those moves for the new badge system.

Badges can be found in different levels and one can be equipped, this can give Mario a new ability or be a helpful bonus. The abilities is where its interesting as it gives Mario a new move like the flutter jump that normally Luigi would have (of note every character in this game controls exactly the same, except Yoshi which is a bonus easy mode), or a triple jump. There is a crazy one where you can shoot a vine and attach to a wall like Spider-Man. I found these to be fun to have but struggled to really find a good use for them in most levels. They are best in the challenge levels designed for those abilities specifically.

The support badges can be bought in various stores and are nice for anyone that needs a little help like gain a powerup at the start of every level, or have a save from a pit death badge. I did not use these very much because I of course do not need them, but its always nice to have options for everyone.

The world map is top down and slightly free roaming, certain parts are on a road like classic Mario maps but certain areas let you roam around freely and find the levels, sometimes hidden away in corners. It's pretty cool to have to look for the secret levels, I missed a few when i finished the game and got the full level list. All the usual worlds you expect are present, grass, desert, ice, water, lava, poison and so on. I found it strange that some worlds were much bigger than others, world 1 and 2 are sprawling with big maps and like 15 stages. Then you do world 3 and its half as long, very linear and has no Bowser Jr. boss, this happens in world 5 as well. The game is plenty huge but it gives off the impression that something was cut for time even if that is not the case. If you are going to have a formula for every world, like each world ends in a castle and a boss, then do it for every world.

The difficulty and actual platforming challenge is where this game loses points for me. Wonder won't really challenge your platforming skills till the very end and saves all the hardest levels for the optional star world which is excellent. Now it suppliments the easier levels with the more creative approach of the wonder seeds, it feels like this is slower more exploration or even puzzle based Mario game. That is great if the ratio of hardcore platforming challenge and explore was more 2:1 for platforming but i feel its the other way around. I played SMB3 right before this and while that game is much shorter,  and yeah the first four worlds are easy, it gets crazy hard and my palms where in a constant state of sweat. I rarely got that sensation in this game, but when I did it was a brilliant challenge.

Another critique and this is more about modern game design, the secrets and ability to go off and create your own path is not as good as before. In Wonder and many games now the levels are clearly specifcally designed for certain power ups and the game makes sure to give you those powerups, really goes out of its way to make sure you get them. In SMB3 and World that might happen at first but by the end of those games you had to find the powerups and even manage them. The final worlds maybe had one or two powerups in the level but they are so hard you might not ever get to find one as the struggle just to stay super was so hard. I miss the strategy of managing powerups because levels were so difficult. I miss using powerups in ways where you can practically break the game with flight, this game does not allow for that level of player creativity.

Every level has three purple coins to collect, that's been a thing since SMB3. Some are tough to find but most are pretty easy, still I love having that extra goal to reach. I kind of wish there was one more layer of replaying the levels, mainly a time attack. The Rayman games did this, so did DKCR, that would turn every level into a platforming based challenge against the clock, not sure why they don't do that. So I would say the levels are more creative than the best the 2D platforming genre has offered BUT I rather have that collection of challenges where the game pushes you to master a level in every way that those other franchises do.

I love the look of Wonder, thank god that NSMB looks is gone. This is so much more colorful and lively. The stages feel alive with dancing and talking flowers. Parts of the background react to what you do, its beautiful. The music fits the game well but its not the best Mario soundtrack.

This game is entirely playable with up to four players and I played some with my nephews and that was a lot of fun. Sadly online play is restricted to friends only,  which has a race mode. Thats a shame cause racing versus random players would have been fun. There is a whole souls like system if you play online where you see other players ghosts in the levels,  you can leave signs for them and they you in case you die allowing you to revive if your ghost form reaches them in time. Its a way to make it easier for people, I had this off the whole time. I'm sure multiplayer is a blast but I hardly used it.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the best 2D Mario since World (not counting world 2 as Yoshi’s island is a different series). It is so inventive that every level was exciting to try and it keeps this streak of non stop creativity for over 10 hours, it’s extremely impressive. My personal preference of challenging platforming holds it back from being an instant classic, but I can see why others might put it among the greats. I am just happy to have a 2D Mario with that spirit of wonder that filled the early games.

Posted by Dvader Thu, 16 Nov 2023 03:03:17
Log in or Register for free to comment
Recently Spotted:
Login @ The VG Press
Remember me?