The New Super Mario Bros for Wii

I bought my cousin the New Super Mario Bros Wii edition for Christmas and we have been playing it on and off in coop mode since then. If you don’t get which game I’m talking about, it is this one:

It is interesting, because unlike most recent Mario games released by Nintendo, this one has no gimmick. It offers the same classic, 2D platforming fun that was featured in the original with few modern additions. For example, it fully utilizes the Wiimote controller allowing the players to perform actions by shaking and tilting it. It adds just enough innovation to the formula to make it seem new and refreshing. To put it plainly, it is a fun, cute little game.

Also, I hate it. Ok, hate is a strong word – I don’t despise it completely. I can pick up the controller at any time and still have fun playing it with others. For example, I thought the World 1 was a blast. I was able to stumble my way through the levels despite the fact my timing was off, and my aim was poor. I made mistakes, I died in funny ways and it was enjoyable. Then we got to the second world and ended up trying to beat the final castle level around 27 times in a row. And that was still fun, because when you play with someone else you can always joke about “LOL, look how bad we suck at this!”. Still, I was feeling the frustration starting to set in. And this was only world 2. It would only get worse from that point on.

This is precisely why I don’t play games like that on my own. Mario is a textbook example of a DIAS gameplay model. If you mess up, you have to start over. Granted, this incarnation of the series is nowhere near as annoying as the NES original. In TNSMBWii co-op mode both players have to die at the same time in order to be sent back to the beginning of the level. Most levels also feature a halfway flag which acts like a checkpoint. You have unlimited number of continues as well, and you only get send back to the begging of the current world if both players run out of lives at the same time. You can also save your progress at any time – though this is a Rougelike save & quit feature rather than a normal save game. Still, it’s something. All those features (that Mario purists probably sneer at with derision) act as life lines to help out inexperienced players and make the game more fun for everyone. And I still find it fucking hard.

The difficulty on the higher levels is grueling, and punishing to the point that it stops being fun – at least for me. There are other people however, who actually thrive on this sort of challenge. My brother for example excels at this game. When I handed him my controller, he basically beat the whole world on his own. He literally carried my cousin through some of the levels (yeah, in this game you can actually carry the other player and carry them) using her as a mobile fire-flower turret. It was actually a joy to watch them play this game. More fun than actually play it.

Whenever he got sent back to the begging of the level, it just made him more determined to beat it. The more he failed, the more fun he seemed to have. This reminded me the good old days when the two of us were trying to beat the original Mario and Mega Man on the NES. He would play, I would navigate. And by navigate I mean yell out things like “watch out for the guy” or “use that pipe, that’s a shortcut” – as if he didn’t know these things already. I was just not built for this kind of game play.

I noticed that when confronted with a DIAS scenario I tend to get discouraged. The more I repeat the same sequence of the game, the more disinterested I am and the worse I seem to be doing at it. I become frustrated, I stop having fun, and start getting annoyed – at myself, at the game, at everything. After some time, it becomes virtually impossible for me to progress – I just continue making the same mistakes, and I’m actually to stressed out to learn from them. The only way for me to make some progress at that point is to turn off the game, and do something else. Once I rest a bit and unwind, I can go back into the game with a cool head and try to beat it again.

This is precisely why I have never finished any of the GTA games. I would reach a point where I’d have to do a set of difficult missions in order to progress. Yes, all these games are sandboxes, but even in a sandbox you reach a point when all missions available to you are quite challenging. So you pick the easiest one, and hope to do it. I’d attempt that mission 5-6 times each day for a week or so, continue failing in spectacular ways and then just give up and uninstall the game from my computer. I no longer enjoyed it – I was playing the same content over and over again, and all I was getting out of it was frustration.

The DIAS model absolutely kills all enjoyment of a game from me. This of course doesn’t mean I don’t like action games at all, or that I do not enjoy challenge. I just hate playing the same thing over and over again. You see, the staple of DIAS is that it is not about perfecting a single jump, or winning a single boss battle. I don’t mind that. If you save my progress just before the challenging bit, I’d be happy to try it over and over again, until I succeed. But then I expect you to save again, afterward. Once I perfected a given challenge I want a new one. But games like Mario and GTA don’t do that. They tend to stack their challenges one after each other, and if you make a single mistake, you have to go all the way to the begging and repeat all of them.

When I play “normal” video games I tend to “save-creep”. Depending on a game, tend to save every 5-10 minutes or so. I never, ever want to re-play the same sequence unless I actually want it. If I lose more than 20 minutes of progress at any given time, I’m usually upset. That’s just how I roll. That’s the kind of gaming experience I personally enjoy.

How about you? Does DIAS game play energize or frustrate you? Do you enjoy playing ultra-hard platformers or do you get annoyed by them in the end? Let me know in the comments.

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14 Responses to The New Super Mario Bros for Wii

  1. copperfish Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I have no patience for DIAS gameplay. That said you can quickly gauge how much skill or chance is required to complete a game. I’ll try something for roughly 5-6 times and if it seems doable, I might keep trying for 50-60. There’s a big difference between:

    (a) I’m going to have to string together 50 perfectly timed moves, but everything is predictable.
    (b) I’m going to have to string together 50 perfectly timed moves, but there are a lot of random things that can ruin it at any point.

    If I think it is a (b) scenario I stop playing right there.

    World of Goo’s Third Wheel Level in Chapter 3 was (a) but I’ve still eventually skipped it. Fortunately the designers give you an option to skip levels you’re stuck on.

    The endlessly spawning enemies in the Call of Duty series are an example of (b). So too was the final level in Shadow Complex. I play for fun not for frustration.

    Life is too short to spend on crappy games. There are plenty of unplayed good titles out there for me.

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  2. copperfish Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I also feel your pain with the GTA missions. I gave up on the Lost and the Damned because of one stupid shoot the police cars on rails mission.

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  3. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I could argue that in games like Mario or GTA, individual challenges are not very interesting (a jump, an enemy killed, big deal), but it’s the sum of these small challenges that makes the game.

    In your example it just seems like the difficulty wasn’t very well balanced, and I understand there’s no difficulty setting to choose from that could, for instance, give more lives after using a Continue. Wasn’t there an option that made Luigi show you the way you’re supposed to pass and allow you to skip the level though ?

    Most games that I played that relied on DIAS gameplay (rythm games, GTAs) have been very deterministic, so you can and sometimes have to litteraly “learn” to play the game. In Mario, that involves knowing shorcuts, 1-ups and such, and most of all be patient, observe the level and plan your way ahead. The timer is usually very generous, unless you’re playing one of those scrolling levels…

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  4. road UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    world of goo was so good. anyone with a Wii should download that game from the Wii shop. it’s possibly better than all of the Wii games that you can buy in an actual store.

    also, anyone that’s a fan of DIAS mario games should buy the real Mario 2 from the Wii shop. it was only released in Japan because they thought Americans (with their limited taste for challenge/DIAS) wouldn’t like it… it’s hard but way fun, much like the orig.

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  5. Tino UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Aren’t you guys playing GTA the wrong way? :) I haven’t played 4 yet, but pretty much every other iteration, the fun part has been to figure out how to “cheat” the hard missions by pre-parking cars in the right places, using bullet proof cars, helicopters, etc. in ways the designers of the mission likely did not anticipate.

    For worst DIAS experiences, the swat helicopter boss in ‘Enter the matrix’ on PC takes the cake for me. It was really hard even on regular difficulty, but on the hardest setting it was absolutely ridiculous compared to the rest of the game. Either I missed something, or one basically had to hand-to-hand combat 100-eds of enemies without getting hit. I eventually did it, though. As I remember it, the rest of the game was trivial in comparison…

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  6. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux Terminalist says:

    Well, I’m one of those people who actually enjoy some DIAS style games. Metal Slug, Super Mario, some shot’em ups like Parodius, I just love them.

    I play MGS2 (in emulators), and I only put one coin, which gives me only three lives, for all the levels. Then I see how far I can get with them. Next time all start from the beginning. Yes, over and over again.
    It’s a completely different skill from RPGs and such: it’s not about learning how to beat the game. It’s about reflexes and timing.

    Then there are Multiplayer FPS, which for me are the best
    , because they’re a mix of both reflexes and strategy, and elevate games to the “sports” category (I find most sports rather boring compared to some CoD matches).

    But if you really want to talk about DIAS, then you have to get to know the work of art that is Syobon Action (first link gives you a online Java applet, the second a Windows version of the same game).
    Really, it’s DIAS pushed up to 11.

    @Tino:
    Yeah, I loved that in both VC and SA, so I was disappointed to find that GTA:VCS (PSP) missions almost prevented it.

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  7. copperfish Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @IceBrain

    Metal Slug :) Play that in emulators too. But you reminded me that as much as I hate DIAS gameplay, old school arcade games still keep me coming back. The galaxian styled Warblade (warblade.as) is probably one of my most played games along with things like Mutant Storm and Assault Heroes. But I’m not sure that sort of game can be classed as DIAS

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  8. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Depends on the DIAS. A lot of games seem to be a bit DIAS to me anyway.

    I grew up on a lot of platformers, which are essential DIAS to begin with: Super Mario, Metal Slug, Sonic & various other nintendo/genesis platformers. It might be frustrating to play them for the 100th time, but if I did manage to beat it at the 101st time, the sense of accomplishment is quite overwhelming for me.

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  9. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Reminds me of an article I saw a while back, and then again recently, about two types of gamer (yes, another article that takes a large group and divides them into a small number of arbitrarily defined groups ;))

    Anyway, their idea was that some people are motivated by the chance to demonstrate their skill, others by the chance to show mastery. Running into a near-insurmountable challenge turns off the skill-motivated types quickly, because when they’re not able to do it, it’s no longer fun. The mastery types will spend forever and a day on beating that challenge and mastering the game.

    In reality each person is going to be a mix of the two types, and likely have some kind of frustration threshold, up to which point they’re willing to beat their head against a challenge in search of mastery, but past which it’s no longer fun. You get the kind of masochist who plays Pacman until they can get a perfect score for 256 levels straight, and the other extreme (who probably isn’t much of a gamer really, if they quit as soon as there’s a challenge they can’t do).

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  10. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    [Missing bit off the end of previous comment]

    (There’s Pacman masochists and giveupniks)…then there’s all the rest of us somewhere in between. I’m at an odd point between the two where a challenge of repetition doesn’t immediately turn me off; I’ve been known to sit and grind away at something for ages if I’m moderately entertained along the way, but hard cold failure of the kind where I can’t even see how it was supposed to be possible only takes a few times to put me off.

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  11. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ copperfish:

    Actually, World of Goo had the type of DIAS gameplay I don’t mind. It was not about memorizing sequences of jumps but about building stable structures. It was less about mastering a skill, and more about problem solving.

    You see, I’m a programmer – problem solving is something that I enjoy. I like to try different solutions, see which work and etc. I hate tedium though – if I notice I’m doing the same thing over and over and over again I tend to design a workaround. I put it in a loop or a function. Tedious repetition is abhorrent.

    In World of Goo when you messed up, it’s usually because you were approaching the problem the wrong way. The solution was usually to do something different. And in most levels you actually had wiggle room to correct your errors. In Mario you can be doing the right thing, but if your timing is off, or your finger slips once – you are done.

    @ Zel:

    Yeah, I think there is a Luigi thing in this game, but I’m not sure how to activate it. Maybe it is not available in the co-op mode.

    Also, we actually found the shortcuts, 1-ups and all that jazz. We actually did the level like 20 times in a row. The problem was that its so easy to die in that level.

    1. there is lots of spikes and moving platforms
    2. all enemies are skeleton things so they re-spawn after being jumped
    3. It’s a vertical level so if you fall “off the screen” in co-op you lose a life.
    4. Every 30 seconds or so, the boss fires a fucking purple fire-ball at the exact spot where you are standing. It will usually come from one of the corners of the screen. Sometimes there is no place to run – for example if you are on a sliding platform with spikes above and below you. You can’t jump, you can’t run.
    5. You fight the boss on a tiny little island you can fall of of. Also jumping on him at a wrong angle will hurt you.

    So even if your timing is impeccable, you can still get fucked over by a random fireball that comes out of nowhere.

    @ Tino:

    LOL. I had no clue this is how you play GTA. I would always sort of – wing it. :P

    Also I think I played Enter the Matrix on easy so the helicopter thing wasn’t so bad. Then I tried re-play it on Hard and that was the exact spot when I gave up and uninstalled the game.

    @ IceBrain:

    If you like DIAS, have you tried I Want to Be The Guy yet. It’s brutal and cruel, and hilarious. I actually watched a “Let’s Play” of it once – mostly for the commentary of the guy who basically lost his grip on sanity by the end of the game.

    @ Matt`:

    I don’t think I belong to any of these groups. I play to be entertained. I enjoy a good story and an appropriate level of challenge. If the game is to hard or too punishing I will usually save-creep (saving every minute or so) or apply some minor cheats to level they playing field.

    Now, I don’t actually enjoy steamrolling through the game in god-mode. That’s actually boring. But I also don’t like to die often. I like the game to challenge me just enough – you know, so that I barely make it, win by a very narrow margin but don’t actually die.

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  12. Tino UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    It seems DIAS gameplay is on a scale from very precisely rehearsing a fixed set of moves and timing into perfection (Super Mario Brothers) vs. learning a new skill and retry until you master it well enough (World of Goo). The former reminds me very much of ‘katas‘ in martial arts. As most of the people commenting here, I am also in the group that usually prefers skill training over katas.

    @Luke:
    LOL. I find it incredibly entertaining that you as well could relate to the Enter the Matrix DIAS horror :D.

    @IceBrain,
    I just finished the story part of GTA Chinatown Wars on Nintendo DS and had a similar experience. The game is truly a technical masterpiece on such a restricted platform, but also there the missions seems to be locked down in a way that leaves much less freedom for creative solutions.

    One day I hope to play a “DIAS”-type game that is designed entirely without any thoughts on intended solutions. They just set up the rules, i.e. the “physics” of the game, and then design levels freely. Then the play testers has to sort the levels in “solvable” and “I couldn’t solve this” :)

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  13. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    Tino wrote:

    One day I hope to play a “DIAS”-type game that is designed entirely without any thoughts on intended solutions. They just set up the rules, i.e. the “physics” of the game, and then design levels freely. Then the play testers has to sort the levels in “solvable” and “I couldn’t solve this”

    Actually, I thought that Mirror’s Edge would be exactly that. A semi open ended roof environment you can traverse using various parkour techniques. At least that’s how it looked like in the early trailers. Sadly it turned out to be nothing more than a linear FPS platformer hybrid with shitty story (from what I’ve heard – I haven’t played it).

    Tino wrote:

    LOL. I find it incredibly entertaining that you as well could relate to the Enter the Matrix DIAS horror

    Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed most of the game – and I tend to stay from these “game of the movie” type titles. It was a present from my cousin whom I dragged kicking and screaming to see all 3 movies. I guess this was supposed to be a payback, but the game was actually ok and it tied into the movie pretty well. Other than the stupid helicopter that is. I also found some of the driving sequences kinda annoying, but not nearly as bad.

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  14. jambarama UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I got that game for Christmas and just started playing it. I thought it was actually fun, and I didn’t have any problems with any board from world 1, 2, or partway through 3 (that’s how far I’ve gotten so far). The only downside to the game is that you have to play with people of roughly equivalent skill, otherwise others won’t have fun. I’ve been playing video games, especially mario games, since I was a toddler, so it isn’t fun for my wife to play this game with me.

    However, your post reminded me of something a friend told me once. He complained that virtually every game is based on the idea of making it hard to get the character to do what you want and know how to do. You can’t get mario to jump the right way & with the right timing without several retries even though you understand exactly what is required. You can’t get a certain level up in a game without hours of grinding, even though it isn’t difficult to understand or to do. And on and on.

    He liked puzzle games, and games like final fantasy tactics, where your cleverness really starts to matter. He hated games revolving around grinding, poor controls, simple timing, or other nonsense. I’m sure he liked World of Goo.

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