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.