Another issue that will have you pulling your hair out is how the screen scrolls. It is very easy for one player to run on ahead of his partners, and the screen will eventually scroll to follow them. That’s fine if you are the one who is ahead, but if you are lagging behind and get stuck behind a pipe, block, or even an enemy, when the screen scrolls, you are shoved into them, often to your doom. This is fun for neither the “squasher” nor for the “squashee”. Again, the problem is worse when playing with folks of different Mario skills. Experienced players will want to move quickly, and more casual players won't be able to keep up. This leads to some awkward moments between teammates.
Another major issue is how power ups are handled in multiplayer. When the power ups pop out of a block, one “good” power up appears, and the rest are mushrooms, the number depending on the number of players. For example, let’s say you are in a three player game. Mario bumps a power up block, and a Fire Flower and two mushrooms fly out of it. It becomes a mad dash to get to the Fire Flower. The best case scenario is that one player gets to shoot fire while the other two grow to Super size. That’s not really fair, and that’s the best outcome! Often, mushrooms fall off the screen, or get picked up by a player who was already powered up. (Penny Arcade doesn't like this too much either.) Why not make any power ups work for all players, just like the 1Ups earned by collecting coins do?
When players die, and have lives remaining, they come back in a floating, protective bubble, totally immune to damage. At any time during play, you can press A to go into the bubble, which seems like a balancing feature at first. But there are problems with this, too. Other players can pop the bubble by touching it or throwing a projectile at it. If a stray fireball hits your bubble while you are on top of an enemy, well, that's just too bad. You don't have any real control over the bubble's flight path, though if you shake the Wii-mote you can nudge towards a teammate. The bubble is meant to help those who are struggling with the game, obviously; but being in the bubble takes you from playing the game to merely spectating. That's not exactly a good thing.
The simple fact of the matter is that 2D Mario games are meant to be played in single player. Adding in four players does not make the game co-op; in fact, it's quite the opposite. All the hallmarks of good co-op are missing from New Super Mario Bros. Wii. There is not much you can do to help one another, and indeed, there are very little in the way of positive interactions at all. A weak player holds back others, instead of being brought along by them. There are few resources that can be shared with one another. So much more could have been done, but the co-op in this game is lacking, and not nearly as well thought out as the level design, for example.
When New Super Mario Bros. Wii was announced, I was thrilled. I was really looking forward to Nintendo's take on co-op in a 2D Mario game. After just a few hours of play, though, I was quite disappointed. Instead of enjoying myself, and sharing the Mario experience with my kids, we were all frustrated and quite honestly a bit angry with each other. That's not the kind of feeling I was looking for. I want to like the co-op in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but it is average at best. It is a wonderful single player game, and worth playing for that alone. Even the multiplayer can be fun, if you are looking for an "every man for himself" type of thing. But if you are looking for a strong cooperative experience, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is not it.
The Co-Op Experience: Play as Mario, Luigi, or one of the Toads through the game.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.