Nintendo released two of its biggest fall releases on the same day as a small indie system called the Xbox One. Bucking the trend, we at DAGERS chose to review the games on this new system first, rather than the two Nintendo titles. But now that the next gen hype has died down, it is time to turn our attention to the first of Nintendo’s new releases. Thankfully, Super Mario 3D World lives up to the accessibility precedent that Nintendo has begun setting in recent years.
Players with visual disabilities will be happy to know that nothing in Super Mario 3D World seems to rely on color or on an abundance of fine detail. The graphics are beautifully rendered, and because of Nintendo’s signature art style, everything important is easy to see. One notable exception is the boss for the second world. The familiar spinning turtle creature seeks to decapitate Mario with wildly flying arms. Players must wait until he becomes too dizzy and then must jump on his head when he stops. Do this three times, and you can progress to the third world. The problem is that the boss becomes invisible on the second and third jump, meaning that players will have to look out for the slightest fine detail to determine where he is if they want to defeat him the traditional way. What happened in my place though (because I am bad at platformers, although I do enjoy them) is that I had died so many times in that level that by the time I reached the boss, the game had granted me the gold tanooki suit that makes Mario invulnerable. Combine that with the cannon-block pick up, which turned Mario into an automatically firing cannon with legs (who could not be damaged because of the gold tanooki suit) and I did not even have to jump or aim. I backed into a corner, and as soon as the boss came towards me he got hit by the cannon balls. This is a fundamental example of the type of accessibility in the new Super Mario Bros. games. Players will never have to go back to the beginning of a world if they keep dying. And if they die enough, the game itself will do whatever it takes to help the player progress, as long as the player can simply avoid falling off the edge of the map. With this kind of forgiving nature, it doesn’t matter what the game does visually, all players need to do is be patient and they should be able to progress through the game.
Similarly, players with fine motor disabilities will greatly benefit from the forgiving nature of Super Mario 3D World. In addition to the power ups, there is also a new slot machine mechanic in which players can earn up to seven lives at once—not that lives matter, since all that happens if you get a “Game Over” is that you lose your score for that level. Gone are the days of having to start over at the beginning of the world if you make one false move on the last level. The only problem that may arise for fine motor disabled gamers is the fact that Nintendo is very clearly in love with their hardware. One level in particular has players blowing into the Wii U Gamepad to activate fans that move platforms. That level also requires the use of the touchpad to pull out platforms that disappear after a fairly long time window. Levels with these features may have posed game breaking barriers if not for the fact that Super Mario 3D World encourages co-op multiplayer. The game is built to have players helping each other. Still it would have been nice to eliminate these types of gimmicky levels in favor of a more completely accessible game. Combine that with the fact that many levels like this can be avoided altogether, and the game becomes even more accessible—but still not accessible enough to be considered completely barrier free.
As per tradition, Super Mario 3D World poses no barriers whatsoever to gamers with hearing disabilities. There is no reliance on sound, and all dialogue is communicated in text.
As a whole, Super Mario 3D World is a nearly perfectly accessible game. The one thing it can be faulted with is that Nintendo is very clearly in love with its own hardware and is determined to use it to its full potential. Unfortunately, this means that in a few cases, gamers with fine motor disabilities are excluded from the experience.
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The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: Super Mario 3D World
– Nothing relies on color alone.
– Nintendo’s signature art style makes everything important easy to see.
|– There are a few brief moments in the game where enemies become invisible and players are meant to look for a slight shimmering effect to find them, but this can be dealt with in other ways.|
– Game is extremely forgiving and allows players to pick their own path.
– It is easy to earn lives quickly.
– Some timing and spatial awareness is needed.
– Nothing is communicated in sound alone.
– Dialogue is communicated via text.