I’ve been pretty much stopped dead in my tracks as far as work goes because of joint pain. It’s mostly in my arms, but my hips are affected as well and everything is quite stiff. I’m really hoping to get some (any) work done this week. Seeing work posted on the site helps me feel better and really lifts my spirits.

I’ve been evaluating the CogniFit Personal Coach software and I find that it’s really quite thorough and impressive. Because of the nature of the program, I’ll need to keep using it for at least another two weeks before I can give it a fair evaluation and come up with material to ask the people behind it. It’s proving to be a very fun and interesting project, though some of the precision mouse-controlled tasks are difficult to perform with my joint pain flared up.

Like millions around the world, I’ve been glued to my Wii, playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii as much as possible given my recent arm pain. I am almost halfway through the game already and I am thoroughly enjoying it for the most part. It’s the 2D Mario game I’ve been waiting for for almost 20 years and it really feels like “Super Mario 4“.

The level design is fantastic and the game is far more challenging than New Super Mario Bros., especially if you are trying to get every Star Coin in the game. The Penguin and Propeller power-ups are both great additions to the series and make for some interesting new ways to clear courses.

Some of the hint movies that you unlock are absolutely amazing and show off a new layer of depth related to “comboing” your way through courses or the all-new multiplayer mode. Much like when I learned about speed Tetris, my mind was a bit blown when I saw some of these hint movies and I realized there was an entirely different (and hardcore) way to play Mario beyond simple speed runs.

Mastering the multiplayer mode will require practise and extreme co-ordination between all of the players involved and quite frankly, Nathalie and I will never be able to pull of many of these tricks. I consider myself a skilled player and she is average and when we play together the result is often frantic and chaotic, though in the most fun way possible.

The only complaints I have are related to the controls. As I detailed last week, I hate playing with the Wii Remote sideways for any length of time. It and its d-pad are simply too small and often result in me having “claw hand” after even a short session. Though there are actions mapped to tilting and shaking the Wii Remote, they could have easily been mapped to an analog stick or shoulder button on the Classic Controller or a GameCube controller without detracting from the gameplay at all. There is a Wii Remote and Nunchuck option, but it does not allow for d-pad control.

If you are like me and primarily playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii as a solo experience, you won’t find much new here outside of the new power-ups and tacked-on motion control actions. There are familiar desert, water and ice worlds. There are also ghost houses, mini-games and baddies on the map that attempt to impede your progress.  None of this is bad however and the game really does feel like a long-awaited sequel to Super Mario Bros. 3 with a bit of Yoshi tossed in.

The game is in many ways making me feel 20 years younger when I play it and I will likely collect every Star Coin and unlock every secret. It will likely be remembered as one of my favourites of the decade despite my issues with the control scheme. This game is making me smile through an otherwise difficult time, which is a huge thing for any game to be able to do.