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Super Mario Bros Wii does enough to make its multiplayer the star it should be. Even for someone like me, who prefers singular and scary games, the sheer sunshine joy of 2D Mario with friends and spouse is too much to resist. It's even worth the relational stress.
New Super Mario Bros Wii is really no different from its 2D forefathers, right down to that certain Nintendo je ne se qua. I love the series, with superb level design and distinctive art style; it provides exactly the right blend of challenge and frivolity that allows it to appeal to everyone. My enjoyment should be boundless given that it does nothing but build upon its incredible foundations, but this latest instalment is ruined for me by the addition of a single element, co-op.
There is a certain irony here. My fascination with horror games has often seen me complain about the inclusion of partners breaking tension, although a different type of game I was still unsure of the wisdom of a multiplayer Mario.
Hearing my girlfriend utter the words 'let's play Mario' has me nearly in palpitations as panic clutches me. It's crazy I know, but I can feel the tension mounting as we play through levels as a team. It should relax me, and bring us closer. But the problem is she doesn't like to lose - or more precisely, she doesn't like to do worse than me.
Usually I can deal with my girlfriend's competitive nature and still enjoy the game we're playing. In Mario Kart Wii, where her concern lies only in beating me, I can 'lose' while taking out other racers from behind her like a guardian angel. In New Super Mario Bros Wii I frequently discover myself bereft of options to feign ineptitude other than dying. This would prove a viable solution if she could finish levels alone, but she usually can't. This combination of competitiveness and ineptness results in a stressful conundrum for me as I balance contrived failure with progression.
My fascination with horror games has often seen me complain about the inclusion of partners breaking tension, although a different type of game I was still unsure of the wisdom of a multiplayer Mario.
I run through levels with my girlfriend while trying not to upstage her and keeping half an eye out for upcoming dangers. My stress peaks at boss levels, as lava surrounds us and spiked blocks drop from the ceilings. Every unexpected death is punctuated with a scream from her, leaving me on tenterhooks as to where her anger will be directed.
On one occasion the challenge was so great that I made a joke of picking her up (in the game of course) and running through the difficult segment of the stage with her held aloft. We made it through laughing, but the very next time I tried it annoyance soon erupted and I put here back down sheepishly.
It allows me to share some small part of my hobby with a woman who typically refuses to even engage me in conversation on the subject.
The game is not so harsh that the death of one character means it's all over. When either my girlfriend or I would die we'd magically reappear, floating back on to the screen in a tiny bubble. While in the transparent sphere the player remains invulnerable, and the game quite happily carries on providing another character is active. Acting as the Mario universe equivalent of a re-spawn, this mechanic ensures that any death does not keep the other players out of the action for too long. It is even possible to activate this bubble without dying as we run through levels, as quick tap of a button will see us bob safely up in the air. It is a simple trick, but one that saved both my girlfriend and I from certain death on any number of occasions once we grew accustomed to it.
For all my complaining and all the tension I feel playing New Super Mario Bros Wii with her, I have to admit it is an experience I've come to relish. Thanks to the 2D nature and relative simplicity of the controls, it is a title that anyone with any gaming familiarity can instantly understand and take pleasure in.
It allows me to share some small part of my hobby with a woman who typically refuses to even engage me in conversation on the subject. While shepherding her through stages can detract somewhat from the stress relief gaming usually provides me, sharing the experience more than makes up for it.
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