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Super Mario 3D Land


I feel that a Super Mario game is an ambitious first game to review, but I have to pay homage to Shigeru Miyamoto and his team for their abilities to create accessible user experiences.  I appreciate their style of communicating information to the player – it’s simple and effective.  Let me pause here to tell you what I mean by accessibleI define an accessible game as one that can be learned by a broad population of players (i.e., novice and expert users) because it does not require a certain level of experience or skill to be able to play; all players are able to access and use the information presented in the game.  In other words, a player can do a M-m-m-monster kill regardless of how many n00bs they’ve pwned in the past. I am not implying that the gameplay should be easy, but it should be easy to learn.

Getting back to Super Mario 3D Land, I feel that the game’s designers care about me as a user. They do nice things like put arrows to denote which direction I should go. They include tutorials throughout the gameplay so I don’t have to learn everything at once. The visual and auditory cues are relevant to the gameplay and they call my attention to important things that I would otherwise miss.

Cute and functional.

I am biased to liking this game because of the classic side-scroller elements, non-realistic rendering with lots of colors, and cute outfits that have special powers (like the one shown at right). Regardless of these positive elements, I did struggle with some of the gameplay. Mario 3D taught me a lot about how I use frames of reference when playing a video game. Unfortunately, I will have to save an explanation of frames of reference for another post, but I do give an example below.

Genre and style Casual platformer

Platform played on Nintendo 3DS with 3D on the entire time

Good UI/UX

    • The binoculars! I know that they are there to look for the toad but I loved looking through them to get a sense of the layout, where I needed to navigate to, and any obstacles that might get in my way. I also appreciated that the time limit stopped when using the binoculars.

I looked through binoculars to help me navigate

  • Details in the art gave me a frame of reference to use for navigation. For example, I was able to use the small bolts on a platform to create a frame of reference so that I could cross the platform without dying. The bolts served as objects that I could align Mario with to successfully navigate. Without the bolts I did not have an easy reference frame since other objects were disappearing or at oblique angles. See below for a visual example.

Using shadows and details of scene to help me cross


    • I tried to rely on shadows to help me learn the position of Mario in relation to other objects, but I could not use them very effectively. Sometimes there were too many shadows at once and I could not get an accurate sense of where Mario was among them. Other times, there would only be Mario’s shadow but that would not be enough information for me. For example, if I was trying to jump to a single platform where if you did not land on it you would fall and die, I would often die.
    • A bird’s eye view hurt my gameplay. I didn’t anticipate these views being so difficult for me, but I had a lot of trouble judging distance at a bird’s eye view. Coupled with my trouble for using shadows, I wasn’t able to get enough visual information to accurately place Mario in scenes with camera angles from above.

Lots of trouble with bird’s eye camera angles

Recommendations for improving UI/UX

  • It would have been helpful to get more practice with navigating in 3D before some of the challenges that were presented in World 3. In particular, levels 3-3 and 3-5 were very difficult for me and I would have liked to have seen more elements from those levels earlier in the game.
  • Include more examples of using a bird’s eye view before making an entire level of it. Train me to use things like the horizon and objects nearby so I get a sense of how much to move the controller so I don’t move too far and fall and die.

UI/UX rating
90 out of 100

How nauseous the game’s graphics made me feel
65 out of 100

Game info Super Mario Land 3D, Platforming, Nintendo EAD Tokyo, Nintendo, 2011, E, Metacritic score of 90, Nintendo 3DS

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