Quick Critique: Super Mario 3D World
The game has "Mario" and "World" in the title but seems to have no relation "Super Mario World". No capes, no Yoshis, no Dinosaur Island, no Koopa Kids... However! You can FINALLY play as Princess Toadstool again and her Fire Flower outfit is adorable. The naming faults aside, it certainly feels like there's more creativity in the level design compared to the "New" group of Mario games. My main complaint about the actual worlds is how boring the bosses are. The first boss is Bowser in a rocking purple car that looks like he stole it from Wario and it's awesome. Then you fight Boom Boom (not really a character I needed to see come back, but okay), then a female Boom Boom, a snake, a big boulder... And then you have to fight all the bosses a second time. I am totally happy fighting the Koopa Kids as every boss. Give each of them a unique mechanic and personality and they make fantastic Mario bosses until you face off against Bowser in the final level. It worked in Mario 3. It worked in Mario World. It's a winning formula and for as generic and repetitive Mario games have become, why would that winning formula be what you discard?
Most of the game's challenge just comes from the fact that it doesn't really control well. Navigating the 3D space isn't fun and the Mario butt stomp is terrible in a 3D environment. When you move to more 2D planes, it's great and fun, but the more open areas (which make up most of the game) are a drag. The game is also entirely about the Cat power-ups and that's terrible. The Cat suit has a melee attack, so it's vastly better than trying to jump on enemies, you can use it to climb walls, and most of the secrets and bonuses require you to have the Cat suit on, so there's almost never a reason to not use it to the point that it's worth it to warp back to the first stage and get another one if you get hit in a later stage. To make matters worse, it looks idiotic. It has a cartoon cat's body but somebody tore off the face and grafted a human's in its place. I want to be playing as an adorable princess, not this hideous cat monster. And Bowser... What did they do to you... I'd much rather they gave all the characters a melee attack by default and just stuck with the normal Mario suits.
Some levels are really restrictive on the time limits. The 3D worlds are fairly open and have lots of areas to explore but the game punishes you for doing that with the timer. God forbid if you try to collect every coin or explore every nook and cranny or try to climb every wall because you're going to run out of time and die, losing everything you collected. You can't have it both ways. Either give players a timer to force them through levels or hide a slew of collectibles in every world that players have to get. Don't half ass both. And there are so so many doodads to collect. Aside from the millions of coins, you collect stamps in almost every level for the Miiverse, there are three green stars that unlock boss levels but the requirements for bosses are so low that it should never be an issue until you hit the post-campaign content, and why do you now collect golden flags for hitting the top of the flagpole at the end of a level? Well, the reason why is to artificially inflate the length of the game. If you want to unlock everything in the game, you need to collect every single flag, every single star, and every single stamp, which involves beating every level five times since you have to use every character (who don't really have meaningful differences outside of the Princess being able to float). So not only are there hundreds of meaningless things to collect, they don't really serve a purpose until you have ALL of them. If you're going to have hundreds of these things, give players little rewards along the way. There are over 300 of the green stars, so give people something for every 100 they get. Or for every dozen gold flags you find, you unlock a level that has some totally unique mechanic or even just a character skin. Something in the middle instead of the all or nothing approach. Or better yet, don't do any of the collectible junk. Go the Super Mario World route since that's what the game is named after and put the focus on alternate paths or level exits to open the new areas. That was fun and meaningful, two things that collectibles are not.
The reason for all the padding is that the game is short and not very difficult. Over a long weekend, I was able to beat every level and bonus area in the main campaign and one of the secret worlds and all the levels up until the green star gate in the next secret world where I needed 240 green stars but I only had 234 and I was growing tired of the game, so I called it quits. Aside from tracking down the remaining collectibles, it's not at all difficult until the very end. There's only one hard boss (because the camera is skewed at a weird angle so it's hard to place yourself and enemies in the arena) and there's only one hard stage in the campaign (again, because the game skews the camera and messes with your movement and controls). All but one death I had came from falling in pits and I'll contest most of those for camera or control issues and the one combat death was against the difficult boss, which was again, a camera issue. The secret areas increase the difficulty but more in "this is designed to be frustrating" or "you have to fight against the camera and controls" ways than an "I need to get better" way, so it doesn't become more fun.
The base music is totally forgettable and they do that "New" Mario thing where the levels almost all use the same base music and re-tune it to suit the world's theme. So when you're listening to a smooth jazz remix of a lousy song, it's rather unpleasant. There are a few areas that do remixed versions of the old Mario themes and they sound great. There are yet more characters to add to the list of Mario's crappy friends. With the new dinosaur... thing and the fairies, I think Mario has Sonic beat in unappealing side characters at this point. And they gave the Mario 1 sprite gloves. I know it was an intentional choice, but it's still wrong. I can understand changing the clothes but the gloves are wrong. If you're going to needlessly pander to the power of my nostalgia, do it properly.
I can't really put Super Mario 3D World down as a terrible game, since it does have its moments and some neat ideas sprinkled here and there, but the glut of collectibles and the camera and control issues, it's just another in a string of "safe" thoroughly adequate Mario games. I'd much rather play this than one of the "New" series of games, but after beating the story, I had more of a desire to go back and play the original Mario World than finish off the content in this one. It's been years since a Mario game excited me, but until they do something really interesting, creative, and different, Mario games have fallen into the pit of generic platformers rather than paving the way and showing what a system is capable of or why Nintendo was once able to inspire the nostalgia they now leech off of.