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‘Super Mario Bros. Wonder’: A Delightful Return to 2D

From the second you press the start button, “Wonder” lays on the charm.
Super+Mario+Bros.+Wonder+%28Courtesy+of+Nintendo+of+America%29
“Super Mario Bros. Wonder” (Courtesy of Nintendo of America)

 

It’s been a big year for everyone’s favorite Italian plumber. Our friend Mario has been embodied by Chris Pratt on the silver screen of Hollywood to unprecedented success. He’s also taken a warp pipe into our puny realms with the opening of Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios California. Finally, and most excitingly for all the gamers out there, Mario is witnessing a return to form with “Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

Back in the Second Dimension

This latest creation from the masterminds over at Nintendo represents Mario’s first entirely 2D Adventure in over 10 years. There has been plenty of space occupied by Mario in the last few years with “Super Mario Odyssey” and “Super Mario 3D World.” However, there is something truly nostalgic and exciting about seeing Mario and his pals back in the second dimension.

From the second you press the start button, “Wonder” lays on the charm. The art direction is nothing short of delightful. It embodies the charm we’ve come to expect from Nintendo and combines it with modernity. The world provides a feeling that is both fresh and familiar.

Delightful Subversion

As you begin to traverse through the new landscapes of The Flower Kingdom, “Wonder” begins to subvert expectations. Almost immediately, Mario receives a new power-up that transforms him into an elephant. The player can crash through blocks and enemies with a swift swing of the trunk.

In this first level, we find Mario’s most classic enemy, the Goomba, tranquilly sleeping. A small yellow flower floats above him and audibly quips, “That Goomba looks so serene.” If the player chooses to squash the Goomba, as Mario has done so many times before, there’s a beat, then another quip: “Well then.”

“Super Mario Bros. Wonder” (courtesy of Nintendo of America)

“Wonder” lets us know from the beginning that this game is going to be a silly one. Almost constantly classic Mario mechanics are flipped on their heads. At every moment in the game, it feels like developers are only concerned with giving us the most fun experience. Talking flowers can be found on each level, each with a wonderfully original quip. It’s hard not to be constantly smiling.

Wonder Flowers

A huge reason for this constant onslaught of joy is the addition of Wonder Flowers. These wacky power-ups can change not only Mario himself but also the world around him. The effects are always fun, and never expected. Everything from musical numbers by Piranha Plants or Spikes, to giant Bulrush trampling the goal pole and extending the level. Not even gravity or perspective are safe when the player collects the Wonder Flower.

These Wonder Flowers give constant reason to explore the environments. If you’ve yet to find the Wonder Flower on a level, you haven’t truly experienced all that the space has to offer.

Finally Some Good Online Play!

Another addition to “Wonder” is online play. Nintendo is notorious for crafting choppy and frankly unpleasant online experiences. More often than not they are simply frustrating and mind-boggling. However, with “Wonder,” Nintendo finally cracks the code.

Taking a page from Thatgamecompany’s masterpiece “Journey,” “Wonder” implements an online system where working together surpasses competing. As the online function is turned on, transparent players appear all around the world. All of them are other folks from around the world running around and exploring the same as you.

There is no way to hinder these individuals, only ways to help. You can share items, and most importantly, save each other from death. If one player dies, they will turn into a ghost version of their character floating around. There are a few seconds where anyone playing can simply touch the ghost, returning the player to the level. If you are playing and no one is around, players can leave “standees.” These are cardboard cutout versions players can leave behind that if bumped into, can save a player from reaching an unfortunate demise.

“Super Mario Bros. Wonder” (Courtesy of Nintendo of America)

More experiences can also show struggling friends’ hidden areas and solutions to platforming puzzles. On several occasions, I’ve had strangers wait for me, show me how they did it, and then celebrate as I succeed. Points are awarded in the form of small hearts if you save someone or finish a level at the same time.

The online play is completely optional. If one prefers to play alone, they absolutely can. However, there is a certain surprising satisfaction in watching and helping other players zip through this fantastic world. This online function creates a heartwarming and wholesome (thus far) community. It celebrates all the things about Mario games fans have come to love. All while giving them new ways to interact.

A Love Letter to Mario

It’s clear that Nintendo has accessibility in mind as they crafted “Wonder.” Each level comes with a difficulty rating represented by a star number. If approaching a particularity difficult level, players can choose to switch their character to Yoshi or Nabbit. These characters won’t take any damage from enemies. This allows struggling players to focus entirely on the platforming puzzles without having to navigate the sometimes-tricky enemies.

There are some challenging moments spread throughout the game. However, hardcore gamers may be disappointed in the overall ease of maneuvering.

“Super Mario Bros. Wonder” is a love letter to the games that put Nintendo on the map. From moment to moment, the game feels incredible. It is ridiculous, constantly chaotic and unforgettably engaging.

 

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About the Contributor
Luke Jackson is an arts writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is currently pursuing a B.S. in games with a minor in creative writing. Since childhood, Luke has had a strong affinity for film and the arts. You’ll probably find him catching the latest movie or hanging out with his dog (and best friend) Theia. After graduation from his undergraduate studies, Luke hopes to pursue a career in video games or screenwriting.

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