New Super Mario Bros 2 review: Reliably strong but lacking a spark
30th Jul 2012 | 11:00
Before we get going on
When we saw him bounce from one genre to another, we didn't call him a sellout. We didn't demand to see his seed ranking before letting him on to a tennis court. And even though some of us doubted his claims of seven years spent at medical school, we let him operate on our consoles all the same.
Not every Mario title of the NES/SNES/N64 eras was a classic, but no two games were alike. Nintendo's favourite Italian has been reinvented more times than Spider-Man - and not to milk money out of a franchise, but because Shigsy and co needed a group of ready-made characters they could use to populate their latest expertly designed world.
Fast forward to the era of the Wii, DS and 3DS. What is Mario, these days? He still plays tennis every so often, he still takes the kart out for a spin now and again, but he's allowed himself to become typecast in the one area that matters most - his platforming. We've had two (admittedly superb) Mario Galaxy titles in the last few years, and - including this one - no less than three New Super Bros games. (At some point, they might want to think about dropping the word 'new'.)
His most progressive game this gen has been
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
We'll go into those a moment, but before we do, here's what to expect if you've never dipped your toe into the waters before. The New Super Mario Bros series revives the side-scrolling action of the original NES games, replacing 2D sprites with 3D ones and throwing a Super Mario World-style overworld into the bargain. As well as finishing each stage, you now have to grab three deviously hidden giant coins - or at least you do if you want to unlock all the extra levels.
In the early titles, secret paths were reserved for level skips and, later, speed runs - star coins add a great deal of replayablity to each and every stage. What's more, as most tend to be stuffed away in hard-to-reach locations, they reward skill in a way that the rather easy platforming often doesn't. The credits might roll after you boil poor old Bowser alive in lava, but the game continues until you grab every last piece of novelty oversized currency.
The core of
Over time, however, the game's differences begin to stand out a bit more. We may be slightly sick of slipping and sliding across the ice world, or feigning surprise when one of Bowser's kids shows up to re-kidnap the princess at the end of every world, but there are a number of new features that help the game feel at least moderately fresh. While the biggest and best are ones that were first introduced in other recent Mario games, they haven't lost their shine quite yet. Our favourite is obviously the Tanooki suit, which returns from
Suddenly, with the flight-capable raccoon outfit, a 2D Mario game features a proper vertical element again. There hasn't really been one since the days of the SNES, and the game uses it to great effect in the stages where it's available, cramming airborne platforms full of glittering coins, or enabling crafty shortcuts if you couldn't give a toss about collecting the Mushroom Kingdom's oddly omnipresent currency. The suit was perhaps more exciting in
SUITED AND BOOTED
That's the other thing - his last 3DS game may have been a technical marvel, but compared to the grace and precision of his two-dimensional heyday, Mario's 3D-based platforming could feel a little sluggish and unfair. When we died in 3D Land it was occasionally due to perspective-based confusion over where we'd end up after a jump, but in the
As for that other 3D - you know, the one that lives in your upper screen - well, it makes far less of an impact than it did inMario's previous outing. Many 3DS platformers use the effect to enhance parallax backdrops (Mutant Mudds and Mighty Switch Force are both good examples), but here Nintendo has put it to use as a sort of extended camera lens, to bring the foreground into greater focus when it's flipped on. Basically, you won't miss anything by playing the game in 2D mode, which is a little surprising for a first-party 3DS game.
Also returning from
As an aid to newer players, it's joined by the brick-hat...helmet... thing, which we don't even know the official name of. As the name suggests, this shiny brick rests on Mario or Luigi's fat heads, spewing coins every second it's still attached. In any other Mario game, these coins would feel completely useless (we finished the game with over 50 lives remaining, and no desire to acquire more by collecting sets of 100 coins), but they feed into a sort of meta-game here. Finally, a use for Mario's vast, Scrooge McDuck-like fortune.
Like one of those tantalising 2p machines at seaside arcades,
New gold rings turn enemies into Midas versions that reward you with extra money; new tokens give you up to 100 coins in one go; there's even a new Gold Flower power-up that gives Mario the ability to transform enemies and blocks into cold hard cash. Asever, 100 of the blighters results in a 1-Up,but they also act as an overarching high score. The game keeps track of every coin you collect, even across multiple save files. Data can then be transferred via StreetPass, in order to boast to passers-by, or even taken into your local bank to exchange for pounds sterling or traveller's cheques. (Actually, we're not sure about that last one.)
COINING IT IN
The game's coin obsession culminates in a brand new mode that has dollar signs in its beady little eyes. With one life, and against a very strict time limit, you have to rack up as much cash as you possibly can across a series of short stages cribbed from the main game. As with the coin total, your results are shared with the great unwashed via StreetPass, so you'll always have a new target to reach.
Well, you'll always have a new target to reach if you live in a heavily 3DS-populated area, at least. Players in rural areas where 3D is classed as witchcraft may have to make other arrangements.
With multiple players in mind, perhaps the biggest new feature of
If this is your first
With its obsessive focus on coin collecting,