This post is a response to the co-op review of New Super Mario Bros. Wii on Co-Optimus. I'm a longtime fan of co-optimus, and so I found it interesting that they gave NSMBW a 2.5/5 on their co-op review, and a 4.5/5 overall. I've had the game for a few days now, and have made it through the first six worlds playing co-op with my wife. Here are my thoughts, from a design standpoint (make sure you read the co-optimus review first):
I see the points in the co-optimus review, and as a game designer I would certainly never have made the players collide with one another in a platformer about precision timing. It's like having extreme friendly fire turned on all the time.
However, that said, for lack of the "perfect" mode of co-op in a Mario game, this is certainly quite wonderful and my wife and I really enjoy it. The bubble has been used to great effect, usually as a last-ditch "save yourself" effect when one player gets too far ahead of the other, or one is about to fall off, or whatever.
The interesting thing is that I feel like the "always having friendly fire on" requires and encourages more cooperation for true success. You can go in and fight and bicker through levels, but you'll never succeed on the harder ones that way. The only way to really succeed is to pay close attention to what your teammates are doing.
Now, granted, I've only played this with two players (not 1, 3, or 4), and I imagine that with 3-4 players this would be a nightmare. But with 2 it's great. One of the most enjoyable Mario games I've played in a long time (and I've played them all), and a lot of that is because it is so hardcore-oriented along with having co-op in it.
For those who were hoping for a co-op experience that would allow for players of wildly different skill levels to play together (which would have been ideal by far), I can see why this scored a 2.5/5. For myself and my wife, this has been a 4.5/5 experience or higher, because of the co-op and the game experience in general. If the co-op had been a bit better, this would have been a 5/5, definitely.
One comment about the mushrooms being the secondary items coming out of question blocks. From my experience, that is not actually true. If all of the players are small, then yes, that's what happens. Normally in single player you would just get a single mushroom, so the extra powerup is sort of a bonus. But if there are a mix of big-or-better players and small players, you will get one good powerup per non-small player, and one mushroom per small player. If everyone is non-small, you just get good powerups. Seems sensible to me.
This game is not perfect, and part of me can really understand why co-optimus gave it a 2.5/5, but I hope that doesn't turn people away from the game who might otherwise enjoy it. It's quite good in co-op, under the right circumstances. It's that caveat there that's the cause of all the trouble.
And that, in a nutshell, is the case for getting feedback from players early and often. It could so easily have been all but perfect as a game. As it stands, I still love it, but not everyone will.