Nintendo

Hands on with Super Mario Bros. Wonder at PAX Aus

It’s no secret that I’m a big Mario fan. I mention it every other week on the Pure Nintendo Podcast. When news broke of a new 2D Mario platformer, I was beyond excited. Getting the chance to play Super Mario Bros Wonder ahead of release at PAX Aus was simply the icing on the cake.

Luckily for me, I was able to get time with Super Mario Bros Wonder before the crowds descended upon the floor. During this media hour, I chatted with Nintendo representatives about the game, though they were tight-lipped about anything not present in the demo. No spoilers here, then.

Characters

As I jumped into the 15-minute demo, I was greeted by a colorful cast of characters ready for selecting. The full cast looks terrific, with two toads and a toadette (still not sure what happened to classic red Toad), four Yoshis, Nabbit, Peach, Daisy, Luigi and Mario. It’s nice to see Nabbit return in his invincible form, with the Yoshis joining the invulnerable fun. Although these cute little guys can’t take on power-ups, the Yoshis can flutter jump, eat enemies, and carry other Mario characters.  

Naturally, I chose Daisy, the newest recruit and a personal fave of mine. She’s already my go-to in Mario Kart and Mario Party, so the choice was obvious. She looks fantastic here; in fact, everyone does. It’s like the cast has had a makeover, with more animation then ever before. Everything in Mario Wonder feels more alive.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder - Elephant suits

Multiplayer

Next it was time to jump into this new Mario title for the first time! I played with one of the Nintendo Australia representatives, giving me the full multiplayer experience. One of the biggest differences I immediately noticed was the lack of collision with other players during co-op. This is in stark contrast to previous titles, for better or for worse. On one hand, you could previously use other players to reach higher places by bouncing off each other. Of course, there were also those moments of “accidental” bumps that caused well-timed jumps to go askew. Although this change seemed strange at first, it quickly became clear this was a good decision overall.

Another new feature is the ghostly form of fallen comrades. When playing co-op and someone loses a life, they become a floating ghost-like version of the character. A countdown means you have limited time to touch them and bring them right back into the game, no lives lost. It’s like an evolution of the bubble process of previous Mario entries. This adds to the feeling that we’re working together much more this time around. And it’s a very nice feeling.

Levels

The levels themselves – and I was able to play all five within the demo over three sessions – were  nothing short of brilliant. Each was colorful and bright; I was smiling the entire time. The demo gives you a glimpse of some of the earlier levels that we’ve seend in trailers. There’s plenty of water-spouting pipes, talking flowers, Goombas, and much more. 

Super Mario Bros. Wonder - Stampeded

There are coins aplenty, of course, and a new collectible: purple gems. Probably not the official name, but the value of these sparkly items lies in the ability to exchange them for goods at shops dotted around the world map. There’s a lot going on within each level, with coins and gems seemingly appearing everywhere. Watering the flowers gives coins, enemies sometimes give coins, even Wonder flowers generate coins. This game is a collectathon, for sure. 

One level was set in an underground mine, akin to previous Mario outings. This was slightly more challenging than the grassy affairs above ground. Here you’ll find the classic Spiny enemy competing with the new Konk foe to see who can undo Mario first. Losing your power-up is almost guaranteed on your inital playthrough, though the handy item-storage feature allows you to reserve a spare for just such an emergency. There were secrets aplenty, from obscured passages to hidden vines, so (as always) be sure to check every nook and cranny.

Power-ups

Speaking of power-ups, there are a few new abilities to add to Mario’s repertoire. During the demo, I was able to test both the elephant and drill suits. Both were super fun. As Elephant Daisy, I was strutting my stuff like nobody’s business, flicking sleeping Goombas (awww) and spraying flowers to trigger more coins. The Elephant Suit also allows you to smash through barriers, a handy tool that provides access to otherwise cordoned–off areas. 

Meanwhile, the Drill Suit was easy to use. With this power, you can drill up or down to break objects or go underground. It’s super satisfying to hide within rocks embedded in the ceiling, just as it is to find hidden areas by moving through tiny gaps on the floor. I can’t wait to get my hands on the full title to start exploring with this power further.

Badges

Badges were also available to try, though only a couple were on display as part of the demo. Prince Florian – the ruler of the Flower Kingdom – provdes these powers from under Mario’s hat, apparently. I first took on the Parachute Badge, allowing me to float whenever I wanted. This is achieved by holding the R shoulder button, which worked well despite being a different experience to the way Peach normally floats by holding down the jump button. 

Another badge allows you to collect extra coins for defeating foes – very handy. I also managed to unlock a new badge via a short challenge. This was the wall-climbing badge, a fun and effective move that complements the existing wall kick. It feels as though badges will add a new layer to Mario’s adventures, and I can’t wait to try out more.

Wonder flowers

As the name implies, Super Mario Bros Wonder is all about the new Wonder Flowers and Wonder Seeds. Every level – every one – contains this wondrous pair of items.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder - Wonder Flower

Touching the Wonder Flower triggers a game-changing effect that throws you into chaos. It’s like being in a strange dream, with different musical and visual cues to ensure you know things have gone askew. It’s exciting not knowing what will happen next! You might have to drill through pink rocks before being squashed by a giant creature. Or maybe pipes will start moving like worms. It could even start raining invincibility stars while you’re chasing a Skedaddle holding the Wonder seed. The possibilities are endless; and this is just the demo. 

Finding and touching the Wonder seed sends everything back to normal. You’ll also collect a seed by finishing a level, and others are hidden elsewhere. Collecting these allows you to unlock new levels, making them important items on your list of collectibles.

Final thoughts

Overall, I loved my time with Super Mario Bros Wonder. I returned multiple times to make sure I squeezed as much out of the demo as possible. There’s even a short level involving a room of bouncy musical boxes under pirahna plants used soley to collect coins. It feels like some sort of alternate Toad House, acting like some kind of “break” between levels; oh, there’s so much to enjoy here.

Super Mario Bros Wonder is going to be a big title for Nintendo and a nice change of pace for Mario. Judging by the long queues waiting to try it out at PAX Aus this weekend, and the smiles on everyone’s faces afterwards, it’s a title worth waiting for.


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