At 10.30am yesterday morning, all was quiet on the Eurogamer Expo show floor. Apart from the 48 people in blue t-shirts running round shouting, "Where's Rupert / the bag of ethernet cables / the 17 missing Xbox 360 units," of course. And apart from the New Super Mario Bros. Wii area, where four of Eurogamer's finest had gathered.
Goodness knows who they were, but sadly they had to dash off to do something more important leaving me, Tom, Bertie and GamesIndustry.biz editor Matt Martin to try out Nintendo's latest offering. If you'd been standing nearby you'd have heard the familiar plink of gold coins and boing of bouncing plumbers. You'd also have heard giggling, shouting, cackling, cheering, jeering, ridiculing and a lot of swearing.
It wasn't the first time we'd seen the game in action. The Eurogamer editorial team voted NSMB Wii game of the show at this year's E3, causing a bit of consternation. But the Eurogamer Expo marks the first time UK gamers get to play NSMB Wii, and yesterday morning was the first time the four of us got to play it together.
As you'll know if you read Oli's E3 preview, that's how the game's meant to be played. At first glance it looks just like the Mario games of old, all blue skies and green pipes and yellow question boxes. You run from left to right within a 2D landscape, collecting coins and jumping on enemies along the way.
As you go, you encounter familiar power-ups like super-sizing mushrooms and fire flowers. In fact, the only difference seems to be that there are four characters on-screen (Mario, Luigi, yellow Toad and blue Toad, in the demo on show at the Expo). But to really understand how important this difference is and how much it changes the Mario experience, maybe you need to have a play.
So that's what the four of us did. As veteran Mario fans it wasn't hard for us to get to grips with the controls (apart from Bertie, who had to be told to hold the Wii remote horizontally instead of vertically, but he's the youngest and extremely next-gen). Within seconds we were all running and bouncing around with ease and it felt just like old times. Except now we could run into and bounce off each other, we discovered - using each other's heads as impromptu stepladders to reach those high-up coins.
We spent the duration of the first level experimenting with this mechanic and generally mucking about without too much concern for what each other was doing. But then the level ended and the scores screen appeared. We realised that in NSMB Wii you win points not just for coins collected, power-ups stockpiled and enemies boshed, but for things like how many lives you still have left at the end of the level. We realised, most importantly, that it is a competition.
The gloves came off. Which made it a lot easier to press the buttons, but also meant that everyone was more focused. Suddenly it seemed much more important to nab that giant bonus coin, or to snaffle not just one but all the fire flower power-ups before your rivals could get near them. The pace of the game shifted from a gentle stroll to a race.
In a bid to outdo each other we also started paying more attention to the Wii-specific control features. When you die in NSMB, you're reincarnated as a floating bubble. You can only rejoin the action properly when another player touches your bubble to pop it. If your friends are feeling competitive there's no incentive for them to do this - better to clean up all the coins on-screen while you float around helplessly.
Or not so helplessly, as shaking the Wii remote makes your bubble drift towards them. So you end up in situations where there are three players furiously waggling their remotes while the other one mashes away at the jump button, trying to collect the coins while avoiding those bubbles. It's an excellent example of how NSMB Wii can be dynamic and fluid, super-competitive and extremely silly all at the same time.
Then we discovered Yoshi. This is when the giggling became cackling, the cheering became jeering and the swearing really started to kick in. While riding Yoshi you can not only swallow and spit out enemies, but other players. If you're playing co-operatively, this means you can fire them over big gaps or towards hard-to-reach coins.
But if you're shallow and mean-spirited, like us, you can just bounce around for ages with a rival character trapped in Yoshi's gullet, listening to your friend howl with frustration about how you should "Stop doing that for ****'s sake you ******* ****," and so on. Or you can spit them right into the path of a piranha plant as it pops up out of a pipe.
Just as we were really getting into it, the four of us were called away to an Expo meeting. I can't remember what it was for - something about did anyone know how to fashion ethernet cables out of human hair - but I remember wishing it would be over quickly so I could get back to throwing Tom into the path of flying hammers.
Unfortunately we had to let the 2000 people who'd bought a ticket for day one of the Expo into the building, and before long the Nintendo stand was too busy for us to sneak back in. So we didn't get the chance to answer some of the questions which still remain - such as what it's like to play NSMB Wii with an emphasis on co-operation rather than competition, or whether it's as much fun with two or three players.
There's also the issue of how the game plays over the long term, and whether there's enough innovation and variation to make it more than a multiplayer novelty. For answers to those questions, better wait for our review.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is due out for Wii on 20th November.