Super Mario Bros. Wonder takes its predecessors’ tried and tested formula and spikes it with something a little extra in the form of Wonder Flowers. This mechanic takes established platforming foundations to new places, exacerbated by Nintendo’s blueprint charm. It’s Yoshi’s Island’s “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy” taken to a whole new level, but this time the developers distanced themselves a little more when it comes to drug use allegories. Instead, the Wonder team has opted for a questioning type of branding, one that makes you ponder and think. It oozes with themes of exploring imagination, and is constantly posing what is or isn’t possible in the new Flower Kingdom. The game bottles up this feeling and titles it Wonder, with a focus on breaking the rules of a Mario platformer.
Wonder Flowers are items found during the course of a level. Upon touch, these activate a trippy sequence where a horde of bull-type enemies may come rushing towards you or you may find yourself riding a giant shining dragon into the sky. The trip doesn’t usually last for too long, and as soon as you find a Wonder Seed, the scenery returns to normal. It’s only in video games that you can get close to flying through the sky, bursting through pink clouds whilst glowing in rainbow colors thanks to a flower.
Just as Wonder has themes of questioning reality, so was I at the age of eighteen when I went to university. Young people gathering together and leaving the nest for the first time has its ups and its downs — it also has its uppers and its downers. Let’s just say university was a fun time for me, and the exploration with the gay scene and nightlife (which sometimes bled into day life) is something I’ll always treasure. Playing Super Mario Bros. Wonder reminded me of that time in my life.
This resonance was even more poignant during one of the best Wonder Flower sequences. It takes place early on, as the novelty of the mechanic is still fresh. The Wonder Flower surprises you with a text prompt instead, indicating that you’re now witnessing “Piranha Plants on Parade” as some suspiciously harmless group of Piranha Plants set the stage. That’s when I realized this was a musical level. I was then free to sit back and enjoy the parade as I went through the rest of the level, with the plants singing a tune as they appear on screen, both accompanying your steps and also breaking the fourth wall by signing into the camera. This really set me up for the journey ahead.
Gone is a slender Mario character model and in place is a cuter tubbier guy who looks like he’s come straight out of a dream. Just remember to use Wonder Seeds responsibly.