A requir3d space - The third dimension defines Super Mario 3D Land and does what no other release on the console has managed so far: make playing in 3D desirable, if not essential. Sure, the game can be played in 2D, but you'll potentially be handicapping yourself. It's also worth mentioning that the game is rendered with the series' trademark colour and character. Truly amazing to behold.
Fun distilled - If there's one thing I can't stand, it's having to suspend play when the momentum is in my favour. The levels in Super Mario 3D Land are short and paced expertly; perfect for gaming on the go. The 3DS circle pad also allows for precise movement, while touch screen gimmickry is kept to an absolute minimum. Easily the most enjoyable Mario title in years.
Double espresso - A playthrough of Super Mario 3D Land's eight worlds will take about four hours, but that's only the beginning. I'll try not to spoil anything, but you'll be able to find genuine challenge in unlockable special levels, while the desire to collect every Star Coin adds a great deal of replay value.
I can already see one reason to go back.
Don't go changing - If you're a Mario evangelist, this is a non-issue, but it still needs to be said: Super Mario 3D Land brings nothing new to the table. Save for some short, sharp level design and the Boomerang Flower, you'll get the feeling that you've been here before. As I missed out on New Super Mario Bros Wii, this wasn't a huge issue for me; but I can't help but feel that this will affect some players.
John Stockton Syndrome - The new "Assist Blocks" eliminate whatever challenge is left from a reasonably-easy game (special levels excepted). I never did badly enough to "earn" a P-Wing, but the Invincibility Leaf is a free license to walk through any boss fight and most obstacles unchecked. When you can finish a game (again, special levels excepted) with a hundred lives to spare, the last thing you need is a helping hand.
Drinketh not from these poison chalices!
Despite an almost complete lack of anything genuinely new, Super Mario 3D Land is easily one of the most enjoyable games that I've played this year. Its vibrant visuals, fluid controls, portable-suited level design, and an essential new dimension make this an essential experience. While not exactly a reason to rush out and buy a 3DS, that overwhelming sense of buyer's remorse I had is slowly starting to fade.