Earlier today (22 September 2023) I got the chance to try the Super Mario Bros. Wonder demo that’s been made available to all Comic Con Africa 2023 attendees at the Nintendo booth. The demo was timed and only parts of what I assume will be one of, if not, the first worlds were accessible. That being said I was able to run through several levels and get a good taste of what’s to come (at least in the single-player mode as no multiplayer options were available) and I’m quite excited!
The demo skipped any cutscenes and got us right into the action. And right from the beginning, I was struck by the animations. You’ve probably already seen Mario’s slightly-new look and maybe even seen some of the new mannerisms from the trailers, however, it’s staggering how much work has been put into the characters’ little body movements and facial expressions. I loved how Mario in elephant form, struggles to squeeze into pipes and it was really cool to see how collecting a fire flower now includes a cool transformation and pose. Even Goombas have their own sleep animation which made me chuckle!
Perhaps unsurprisingly (given Nintendo’s track record), the characters’ platforming movement felt slick and precise. Running and jumping are smooth and responsive and I loved speeding across the world (and because the demo was timed it was hard to strike a balance between admiring the Flower Kingdom and getting to the end of the level) but it felt great speed along to the flag. In fact, the only movement that felt a little off (and as far as I could tell non-existent) was Mario’s trademark triple jump. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t pull one off – while it may be there in the final game, I suspect its absence has something to do with the new badge system which endows the player with a single extra ability to be equipped before each level. While we didn’t have access to all abilities, the cap parachute, vertical wall jump, and crouch super jump really make each run feel a little different depending on what badge is used; And considering that so many of these skills are jump-related – I suspect the triple jump eas exxed because it felt a little unbalanced or will be unlocked somewhere along the way.
Power-ups & Pretty Plateaus
During my playthroughs (we managed to try the demo twice) I collected three power-ups. The first level or two were all about Elephant Mario and swinging the trunk, splashing water at enemies and ailing flowers felt quite different from anything I can remember from previous 2D games – however, I was a little surprised how he didn’t feel any heavier as a character. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing yet, but it was a little unexpected. I was definitely expecting to stomp around a little more than I did. Later on, I got the fire flower which barring the awesome new animation felt familiar and great (it’s probably my all-time favourite). Finally, I also managed to tackle a level with Drill Mario and while the level itself was quite chaotic and fast-paced – it was really interesting to figure out all the way to use the ability to get underground and into certain cave ceilings.
Last but not least, while the first two or three stages of the demo showed off the traditional linear arrangement of levels, if you were quick enough you also got to explore a more open area (as seen in the recent Direct) where multiple levels are available to be tackled at any order. In this section, not only were there traditional levels but there were also badge-specific stages (which basically trained you how to use a new ability) and even some mini-game bonus levels. There was also a Flower merchant that allowed you to purchase badges or Extra Life mushrooms with coins you collected along the way. I loved that variety and the fact that hitting the wonder flower in each level – changes things up even further from dancing pips to hordes of colourful horned beasts streaming across the screen. And also enjoyed that each level has a difficulty rating so you know how tough it’s going to be. And while we only saw a tiny slice, everything just felt filled with personality and promise.
Jump up Superstar!
As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about Super Mario Bros. Wonder. And yes, I’m a longtime fan so I’m probably a little biased, but as I struggled to wipe off the silly grin I had while trying out Mario’s latest adventure for the first time, I couldn’t help but look around and see tiny kids and adults alike with the same smile on their face – and if that isn’t a WONDERful then I don’t know what is! If you’re visiting Comic Con this year, be sure to check it out and let us know what you think…
For more details be sure to check out our coverage of the Super Mario Bros. Wonder Direct