Video game review: Super Mario returns with added dimensions

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Catholic News Service

One day back in 1981, so the story goes, real estate developer Mario Segale barged into the Seattle-area warehouse he was renting to a cash-strapped company called Nintendo of America and angrily demand his overdue rent.

He could scarcely have imagined, as he did so, that he was spontaneously providing the inspiration for the company’s future mascot, the long-lived — and highly profitable — main character in one of the most iconic video game series in history.

Segale’s namesake, the diminutive Italian plumber by now familiar to gamers around the world, has appeared in hundreds of widely varied outings over the subsequent three decades. But his bread and butter, so to speak, has remained the platform genre, where he continually seeks to rescue his beloved Princess Peach from the clutches of his lizard nemesis, Bowser.

Cover to game "Super Mario 3D Land." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -Ð general patronage.

In his quest, the plucky protagonist must battle through the Mushroom Kingdom, navigating ledges and pipes and combating a varied host of enemies including turtles, spiky hedgehogs and the infamously pudgy figures known as Goombas to reach his royal companion.

“Super Mario 3D Land” (Nintendo), designed for the 3DS format, manages to keep pace with the high expectations the series has long raised. It’s a polished installment that — while taking no leaps into radical territory — supplies exactly what can reasonably be asked of it, and supplies it well.

The most noticeable upgrade is the skillful integration of the 3DS’ 3-D capabilities into the gameplay. While certain other titles treat this new dimensionality as a mere gimmick, the developers of “3D Land” have incorporated it subtly so that it enhances, rather than chokes, the traditional platforming format.

Thus, although most of this entry can be played with the 3-D switched off, the experience will feel much more immersive, and the graphics appear more impressive, with the mode left on.

Taking to heart the proverb “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the game’s developers have crafted this newest iteration to improve on what their franchise always has done well — with intuitive controls, stunning environments, and thoroughly addictive action.

There’s very little of a moral or spiritual nature to be found — or assessed — here, yet there is nothing really objectionable either. Apart from some light cartoonish combat, “Super Mario 3D Land” is an entirely family-friendly, wholesome adventure that parents can feel comfortable purchasing for the kids.

“3D Land’ is also suitable for most from a technical perspective. Much later bonus levels are undeniably challenging, and only the veteran gamer will emerge victorious. But the majority of the gameplay is characterized by a gentle learning curve with which youngsters (and perhaps less experienced adult gamers as well) will likely be comfortable.

The game contains mild cartoon violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board rating is E — Everyone.

Shaw reviews games for Catholic News Service.