E3: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

2D, four-player co-op, this Christmas.

Nintendo has announced New Super Mario Bros. for Wii, due out worldwide this Christmas.

Unlike Mario's last Wii outing, it's a 2D platform game which can be played alone, but is largely designed to take advantage of co-op support for up to four players, and includes a mixture of traditional level design and gameplay elements, and Wii-specific controls and gameplay.

In an on-stage demo at Nintendo's ongoing E3 conference, we were shown how item blocks now generally produce one mushroom each for all four players. It's also possible to throw other players, either to reach new areas or to take out enemies. (Or to throw Kristan off buildings, hopefully.)

New items include a "propeller suit", which allows you to shoot up into the sky and then drift back down twirling (a bit like Mario's cape in Super Mario World), by shaking the Wiimote. This is a good way of saving yourself just as you're falling into a pit - shaking to suddenly thrust back up - and can be used to access hidden areas.

To accommodate four players on-screen, the camera also pans out, although if somebody gets caught behind the group long enough then they are wiped out. Should a player die, they respawn a few seconds later in a bubble, which can be popped by others to release them.

The initial level shown is very close to the traditional first Mario Bros. level design, with lots of green hills, blocks to bash, pipes to go down and goombas to stomp. There were also a couple of rotating strips of land, a bit like waterwheels. At one stage, a pipe transported the group to an underground bit where they storm across destructible blocks trying to grab coins.

That friendly spirit of competition extended across the level, and culminated with the traditional flagpole-grabbing ending. Once the first player grabs the flag, the rest get "about three seconds" to grab it themselves to get bonus points. Once it's all over, there's a ranking screen to tot up points.

With the game on the show floor today, look out for our own hands-on impressions soon.

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