New Super Mario Bros. Wii Hands-on Preview

A full one quarter of the demo stations in Nintendo's color-free booth is dedicated to the recently announced New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

nope New Super Mario Bros. Wii is exactly what you'd expect from a multiplayer Mario game--Mario, Luigi, and a couple Toads simultaneously running from left to right, hopping over pits, collecting coins, and stomping on koopas. It's not exactly a co-op game, and it's not necessarily competitive, either. It's whatever you make of it. If you're so inclined you can bounce on your friends' heads, steal their power-ups, or even pick them up and toss them down a pit. If you're not a jerk, you can just play the game as you would any other platformer.

At the end of each level each player is ranked based on performance. Depending on how many lives you have remaining, how many coins you collected, and how many points you earned, you get a score at the end of the level so you can compare yourself to your friends. Other than bragging rights, I didn't see any distinct reward for obtaining a high rank.

Controls are exactly as you remember from the days of Super Mario Bros. Holding the Wii Remote sideways you use the D-pad to move, the 1 button to dash, and the 2 button to jump. You can shake the remote and press the 1 button to pick up nearby allies, who you can then toss about as you please. You can also shake the remote to do a helicopter jump, which you'll recognize from Super Mario World.

I played three of the 10 or so levels available in the E3 demo. The first level I played was an underground level with huge rotating gears that could smash you to bits or lift you up to reach higher areas. The level was filled with coins, question boxes, bottomless pits, green pipes, and hidden areas and items.

BOOM video 2052 At the end of this level was a large door that lead our motley crew of jumping enthusiasts to a boss battle. This battle was similar to the first boss battle in Super Mario Bros. 3, where a large, shelled creature jumped around, retreated into his shell and slid back and forth along the ground, and so on. After jumping on his back three times he gave up the ghost and the level was finished.

The other two levels I played didn't end with boss battles, but with traditional flag-poles. One level featured a series of large, brightly colored blocks that slowly rotated, requiring constant movement and jumping. On this level in particular, the wall-jump ability came in very handy, saving my skin many times.

The last level I played was an ice level with annoying sliding penguins that would quickly slide from both sides of the screen to cause trouble. You can jump on the penguins, or you can become a penguin yourself by grabbing a penguin suit power-up. As a penguin you can throw ice balls at enemies to freeze them, and you can also slide on your belly and break through bricks to reach power-ups and secret areas that are otherwise inaccessible.

In addition to the penguin suit, mushroom, and fire flower power-ups, Yoshi also shows up in the game. Yoshi can fly briefly, eat berries, chomp enemies, and slurp up allies and spit them out.

Each player starts each level with five lives. When a player dies, he slowly floats back onto the screen in a bubble. When an active player touches the bubble, the player in the bubble can rejoin the party. You can die by touching an enemy when you don't have a mushroom or other power-up, falling into a pit, or simply falling too far behind the other people you're playing. If all players die at the same time, it's game over.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii doesn't seem like a difficult game, but it does demand precision and careful timing, two things that can be frustratingly elusive as the people you play with constantly get in your way, stomp on your head, or disrupt your jumps. Another minor frustration comes when another player dies, which causes the game to pause for a brief moment. These pauses can be annoying when they happen at inopportune moments.

It's nice to see familiar Nintendo characters appearing in familiar settings, and that's exactly what you'll find in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The charming and colorful graphics, diverse level designs, and upbeat music are all present in this game. The only difference is you can play this game with friends. But, even if you aren't interested in multiplayer, New Super Mario Bros. Wii can always be played single-player.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is due out this holiday season for the Wii.