In all likelihood, you’ll probably do a bit of both. There are certain platforms and pick-ups that absolutely require players to help each other, and while you can just bounce off one of your rivals if they’re in the right spot, it sometimes pays to help out your buddies – one good turn deserves another, after all. On the other hand, you probably won’t want to play completely fairly either, since it’s hugely pleasing to pick up your friend and throw them to their doom (you actually need to be quite quick to do this, since you can escape from someone’s clutches by wiggling the remote). More than anything else, Mario Bros. Wii excels at creating a sense of play. This is a game where you’re actively supposed to mess about, and it’s all the more enjoyable as a result.
As you’d expect, Nintendo has thrown in a whole bunch of new toys and tools to fuel these antics. In addition to the traditional mushrooms, fire flowers and stars, there’s now a propeller suit that lets you launch yourself upwards by shaking the remote – just the tonic when some back-stabbing git tries to dump you into a lava pit. There’s also a penguin suit; I’ve not seen it yet, but apparently it lets you do massive belly slides over icy surfaces. In addition to these pick-ups, there’s the usual library of environmental hazards and innovations. Interesting examples seen so far include sand jets that can be stood on for brief windows of time, and a tilting platform that corresponds to the angle of one player’s remote – again, this offered a great opportunity to help or to screw over friends.
To be honest, I only have two concerns about this game. My first complaint may sound minor, but it irritated me enough to warrant a mention. As with previous Mario titles, there’s a moment’s pause whenever someone grabs a power-up that changes their size. Before this was never an issue – there was only one player to be affected by the brief hiatus, and they knew it was coming. Now, however, your action will frequently be interrupted because someone else has grabbed a power-up. It’s quite easy to lose focus if you’re halfway through a jump when the action freezes, and often you’ll cock-up a manoeuvre that you’d never have a problem with otherwise. Trust me, you’ll be deeply irritated the first time this happens to you – and since there’s an abundance of power-ups in the game, it happens fairly often. On the plus side, this probably means it's an issue we’ll all adapt to.
My second bugbear is more straightforward, but arguably far more serious: there’s no support for online play. I know that online gaming is hardly a major focus for the Wii, but for a project like this it seems like a major oversight. Nintendo has done a great job at encouraging multiplayer gaming on the DS (VideoGamer.com got told off for playing WiFi Mario Kart on the flight to LA) and yet it continues to ignore the massive potential of its home console. Yes, it's arguable that this game will work better when played with four people in the same room, but that doesn’t mean the option shouldn’t be there. At a time when third-party developers like High Voltage are trying to promote online Wii gaming, Nintendo’s lack of commitment is an ongoing disappointment.
And as much as I hate to say it, the absence of online multiplayer will be yet more ammunition for the people looking to shoot down this game. They’ll say that Nintendo is being lazy, that it's sticking to what it knows when it should be pushing things forward. Well, there may be a sliver of truth in these allegations – but that doesn’t mean that Mario Bros. Wii won’t be excellent. A graphical stunner it may not be, but there’s a rich vein of pure gameplay here – the kind of goodness that helped Nintendo to make its name in the first place. I loved it in the Eighties, I love it still in the Noughties… and if Nintendo is still making 2D Mario games in 2019, you’ll find me back in the queue at its E3 booth.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is due out for the Wii this Christmas.