Princess Peach has been kidnapped yet again…Yup, Mario is back on his mission to save the pink damsel and thwart that darn Bowser’s plans, this time in beautiful handheld 3D, in a game that shows you why Mario is still the handsome king of platforming.

I have said it before, but Nintendo really know how to induce bliss. Everything, and I mean everything in SM3DL simply sings with charm and delight. The menus, the characters, the items and levels. Even the flowers here are happy.

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Although from the developers of Super Mario Galaxy, SM3DL has been built for a handheld experience and as such borrows from it along with its 2D brethren, resulting in what is really years of Mario excellence distilled into an exceedingly fun bite-sized package. Controls are fiercely tight, allowing you to deftly explore the treacherous and ingeniously designed levels so creative they will constantly surprise you with how clever they are. Added to this are various new items, including the Tanooki suit, affording you increased hang-time, a boomerang suit which allows you to throw them and the propeller box from Super Mario Bros. Wii amongst others. Each is implemented smartly and if used correctly, will allow you to 100% the game and find its secrets, including a certain green-clad brother.

It’s no surprise that Super Mario 3D Land sports a similar look to Galaxy, what is striking though is how much better it looks. From the colours to the animation to the incredibly well realised implementation of 3D, this game will impress you from start to finish. The 3D makes judging distances much more natural and has allowed the developers to come up with some incredibly crafty levels. An extended depth 3D mode is also available by tapping down on the d-Pad which through magic, makes the 3D more pronounced than before.

The game is divided into eight worlds consisting of five courses and a boss level each. Every course hides three Star Medals to collect and each boss stage requires a certain number to unlock, forcing you to return to courses with your honed skills. Because the levels are so stellar, they are a blast to explore numerous times. The boss battles however, lack much of the creativity found elsewhere, which is a shame. Completion unlocks tweaked versions of the worlds, items and suits, essentially giving you another adventure to play through. Online connectivity delivers in-game presents and times through StreetPass, which while welcome, could have been implemented better perhaps with SpotPass challenges giving players something more to chew on. [edited – 15/01/2012]

While brief, with one or two aspects less than superb stood next to the rest of the game, all in all this is, as far as I’m concerned, where the Mario games belong. It boasts everything you could want, in mouthwateringly small, blissful Italian kisses so charming and cleverly realised you are sure to be dazzled.

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