Nintendo games: Super Mario, Zelda, Lego Friends, and Tearaway
Nintendo routinely waits until late November to release the bulk of its biggest video games of the season, and this year was no exception. This week, we take a look at the new Mario and Zelda games. Plus, the first Lego game made with girls in mind, and a game that explores the world of paper craft.
Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo; Wii U; rated everyone)
It’s about time that gamers were able to play a Super Mario game as Princess Peach. In Super Mario 3D World, she’s joined by Luigi, Mario, and Toad, and each character has slightly different abilities: Luigi jumps a bit higher, Peach floats when she falls, Toad is faster. Once again, the levels are inventive and engaging, requiring you to collect stars and stamps, some of which are cleverly hidden behind objects that appear flat but can be traversed because the environment is actually three-dimensional. Up to four players can get in on the action, but you’ll fight over who gets to use the GamePad and the touchscreen gameplay that comes with it. Among the new power-ups are cat suits, which come complete with “meows” at the end of the level. Don’t confuse simple with unsophisticated; 3D World is pure pleasure.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo; 3DS; rated everyone)
This adventure is reminiscent of the first games in the Legend of Zelda franchise—not simply because of its top-down presentation, but because it’s the simplest, most straightforward Zelda adventure we’ve seen in years. The game’s style comes courtesy of its inspiration, the 1992 SNES game A Link to the Past. The two games actually share a world, Hyrule, as well as a dark version of it. In Worlds, Lorule is a gloomy mirror of Link’s home, and he travels to it by becoming two-dimensional—a painting. This ability isn’t simply the way Link moves “between worlds”; it becomes a primary mechanism for bypassing obstacles and solving environmental puzzles. A Link Between Worlds differs from previous Zelda games in that you can tackle the dungeons in almost any order, and you rent weapons rather than earning them (you can purchase and upgrade them if you’ve got enough currency). These changes make for a more open, freeform Zelda than we’ve had before, and it’s a refreshing and enjoyable experience.
Lego Friends (Warner Bros.; 3DS; rated everyone)
Developed in Burnaby at Hellbent Games, this Lego game is, just like the toy line of the same name, a departure from the standard Lego experience. The game’s designer, Zoe Flower, told the Georgia Straight that it’s designed, from the ground up, to appeal to girls. In an interview at E3 in Los Angeles back in June, Flower explained that a key difference between it and other Lego video games is that in Friends, there is no breaking of objects, only building. This came out of research conducted by the studio that determined that girls tend not to engage in object destruction. Lego Friends is set in Heartlake City and has players creating a female avatar that befriends nonplayer characters who are older girls. Players engage in activities from taking science classes at high school to playing sports to working in retail shops. At each stage, there are things to be learned from the older girls. Achievements are still part of the game, only in Friends they are badges. The game quickly became the favourite of the Straight’s six-year-old female tester. Given that she is who Hellbent made the game for, consider Lego Friends a resounding success.
Tearaway (Sony; PS Vita; rated everyone)
In this adorable adventure, you travel through a paper world inspired by folktales and half-forgotten stories. Inhabiting the characters of Iota and Atoi, who have envelope heads that contain messages they need to deliver, you’ll explore a virtual world but will discover PDF blueprints that you can use to do real-world art projects. The game, including the mechanics, is all about paper crafts. You can blow into the microphone to create wind and alter the paper landscape. You use the touch feature of the Vita’s screen to “peel away” layers of the environment. By tapping on the back touch panel of the Vita you can activate bounce areas on the ground, hurling the characters into the air. That’s also how you can create holes in the virtual paper, which breaks the fourth wall in bold fashion, launching you into the game itself. Media Molecule, the studio that created LittleBigPlanet, has brought us a game so tactile you’ll almost be convinced that you’re touching and manipulating real paper. -