Reviews: New Super Mario Bros Wii

Multiplayer not only affects, but makes, the game

New Super Mario Bros Wii adds what many players have wanted for years: simultaneous multiplayer. New Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo DS teased the idea by having a competitive two-player mode revolving around collecting stars, but here, cooperative multiplayer through the entire quest was added. And as a great bonus, it's for up to four players at once.

Having played this game with various numbers of players with my family - brothers, cousins and in-laws - and also beaten the whole quest solo as well, I've seen firsthand how much multiplayer changes the experience. It practically becomes a very different game.

Playing by yourself feels the same as playing any other Mario game. But add a second player, and before you know it, you're getting in each other's way at times, bouncing off each other's heads, and even dying more often as a result of making mistakes you otherwise wouldn't make. Small platforms that are safe for a single player are hazardous for additional players, and the level design slightly accomodates this, by including multiple or large platforms where a small one might normally be.

Add in a third or even fourth player, and the game becomes chaos. You're bumping into each other, sometimes getting knocked into enemies by accident, and some of you even risk getting left behind by the scrolling screen. As my brother noticed, "two players is manageable and lets you use strategy, but any more and it becomes chaos."

But it's fun chaos. Nintendo knew multiplayer was a potential disaster. Shigeru Miyamoto himself even told the Donkey Kong Country Returns team that adding two-player to their game might not be worth it due to the hassles of designing for a second player. But the game was designed not just to accomodate multiplayer, but also to compensate for it.

All power-ups are multiplied by the number of players, plus there's also the added "bubble system". If you die in multiplayer, you revive in a bubble, and other players can bust you out, making death much more forgiving. Expect to see that happening a lot. Also added was the ability to intentionally enter a bubble so as to avoid death or skip past a tricky obstacle that a teammate managed to complete.

Looking at the level design, multiplayer may feel a bit tacked on, but make no mistake: it drastically changes, and daresay makes, the game.