The raccoon tail is the latest in thing. A fashion statement of the late 80’s/early 90’s, the tail has come back for 2011 and now it isn’t just plumbers who are after it! Turtles, princesses, dinosaurs and living blocks are all getting in on the raccoon tail craze, and Mario isn’t having any of it. Return the tails and save the day, Mario wore these things before it was cool.
Super Mario 3D Land is the return of the portable Mario platforming series and things have changed. The original two Mario Land titles were all about running from left to right, jumping on enemies and over gaps. This hasn’t changed, but now Mario is no longer confined to only two directions. Much like the big console Mario games, the plumber can now move in any direction as he charges through the levels in glorious 3D. You can either have the depth 3D effect which makes inner chambers look roomy, or have Mario popping out of the screen as he jumps. It looks great and the new lease of freedom makes for some brilliant levels. Top down dungeons, side scrolling beaches and free roaming fields are just some of the vistas the 3D has ready to show off why 3D matters.
The game plays like Mario Galaxy crossed with Mario Land. Levels tend to be floating in the sky with collapsing, moving platforms or tucked into dungeons with spiked logs and dangerous liquid. Each level lasts only a couple of minutes and most players will fly through the first eight worlds with little trouble. The raccoon suit is one reason for this, as the tail allows Mario to slowly fall as it wags. But once the first eight worlds have been bested, a special set open up bringing the challenge with it. Every move matters and here you face tight time limits and evil doppelgängers which follow your every step. These special stages are packed full of tension and reward in completion, and the small, tightly designed levels mean you won’t grow tired at failing.
With great looks, design and 3D effects, Super Mario 3D Land is the first truly amazing original title on the system. There are some flaws, such as the lack of coherence in world themes, with each level standing out completely separate from the last, and some reliance on old settings as we get reused Galaxy assets and Super Mario Bros. 3 comebacks, but these are quick to forgive as the familiar isn’t all the game knows. Something fresh and exciting pops out at every turn. With a raccoon tail attached.