Super Multidimensional Mario
For decades now, Mario has been Nintendo's flagship character, and for good reason. Venerable, noble and capable of stomping on mushroom warriors and evil Koopa turtles, he seemingly could handle anything and made for numerous side-scrolling video games.
In Super Paper Mario, Nintendo has taken its most prominent character and added interesting elements. As in other Mario games, players must help Mario and friends (Princess Peach, Bowser and Luigi) defeat a new villain (Count Bleck) in eight chapters (each split into four sections) while switching between two- and three-dimensional game worlds.
Almost an experimental title, the game combines such elements as platform jumping, role playing and puzzle games to make for a sophisticated experience that keeps players coming back for more. As in a role-playing game, the characters are able to gain new items as well as assistants called "Pixls," which offer new powers for Mario and his friends.
Stuck in a random place with no way out? Super Paper Mario pushes players to look through their inventory and abilities and work from there. For Mario, a basic "flip" ability allows him to temporarily enter his surroundings in a three-dimensional mode to move through a given stage. Players must switch characters to use their unique powers, such as Princess Peach's ability to float long distances, Bowser's fire breath and Luigi's ability to jump super-high.
Where the game's puzzles might drive a player insane, the Pixls are there to help. They give players the power to drop bombs, create a platform to cross beds of spikes and perform other actions.
Super Paper Mario is as good as a Nintendo Wii game gets, complete with great graphics, terrific sound and a fun, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, but, given its challenges, it's not geared toward younger players. It keeps players interested but also requires breaks and stepping away for a bit to mull over puzzles. It may be a fun Mario title, but a slightly older audience (age 10 and older) will get more out of it than a younger crowd will.
Still, this is a must-have game for Mario and puzzle fans alike.
-- Chris Barylick
Super Paper Mario Everyone; Wii ($50) Nintendo/Intelligent Systems