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You might imagine, given the “2” that Nintendo’s  added to the end of New Super Mario Bros. that this new game would be a mere plodding sequel, rehashing the famous formula we’ve seen largely unchanged for decades – but you’d be wrong. New Super Mario Bros 2, in fact, turns that formula up on its head, giving you a fresh, revitalised  and genuinely unique take on the platforming standard.

Ok, no. No it doesn’t. I can’t lie to you. Since the first day that Mario donned his plumber’s overall to jump on evil mushrooms and inconveniently placed turtles, super Mario Bros – at least as far as its 2D games go – has remained pretty much the same, and this time’s no different. Once again, Princess Peach has been captured (she really needs to revise palace security protocols, dontcha think?) by bowser and his band of Koopalings, and once again its up to our moustachioed hero to save her, by travelling through various themed worlds, defeating one of Bowser’s minions at the end-of-world castle before moving on to the next – until a final meeting with the hapless King Koopa, Bowser himself. Do stop me if you’ve heard this all before.

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Yes, New Super Mario Bros 2 is almost just like its predecessor; immediately familiar, comfortable and safe – like that old pair of boxers of yours your wife keeps trying to get you to throw out, but you just can’t bring yourself to get rid of. All the old trappings apply; powerups like the stalwart fireflower, Wonderland mushrooms that make you grow and shrink and Super Mario 3’s returned flying Tanooki; Fiendishly clever level design that’ll take more than few attempt to collect all of the 3 hidden star coins per level – all bound together by ridiculously tight, pin-point platforming controls. If you’re not exceptionally good at platforming, numerous deaths within a level will grant you access to an impervious golden Tanooki. enemies won;t be able to to hurt you – but spikes, lava and bottomless pits will still eat up a life.NSMB2-3

There is, this time, one notable difference; Coins. Yes, they’ve always been there – and every gamer worth his salt who’s played through a Mario game would be trying to rack up the highest possible coin total anyway, but this time it’s the front-and-centre focus of the game. Coins are everywhere – and Mario’s end goal (aside from saving the damsel in distress, of course) is to tally up a million of them, until he’s able to swim in them like Scrooge McDuck. to that end, there are a number of unique powerups that help you gain even more coins. New is the Golden Fire Flowers  which turn blocks into heaps coins, or causes enemies to yield cash when they’re defeated. The golden ring turns all enemies in to gold, with gilded turtle shells leaving a path of coins in their golden wake. There’s even a golden block replacing Mario or Luigi’s head with a fountain of collectible coins. As a side effect of that, with so many coins everywhere 1up mushroom have lost their lustre – there’s no point chasing a green mushroom when you know that you’ll soon be bombarded with coins, and that for every hundred you collect you get an extra life.

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That’s not to say that there are so many damned coins about that reaching that loft million coin total will be in any way easy; by the time I’d completed the game for the first time, I’d only racked up around 15 000 of them. that’s where Gold rush comes in; a new mode that gives the Mario formula an arcade-styled bit of replayability. You’re given three, randomly selected, timed levels to fly through, collecting as many coins as you can. It adds an extra layer of replayability to the game – not that it really needs it. Breezing through the game and not worrying about collecting the star Coins or finding each level’s secrets could take you as little as six hours – but where’s the fun in that? Modern Mario games’ biggest reward is in trying to unlock everything; and there are 3 extra worlds it’ll take you hours to get to. That million coin total? that’ll take forever.

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The astute among you would have noticed that I mentioned Mario’s skinnier, taller and probably ginger-under-his-green-cap brother Luigi – and that’s because for the first time in a portable Mario title, you can play through the entire game co-operatively (provided you have two carts) – but while I can’t honestly say there’s much in the level design that calls for two players, co-operative Mario is always fun.

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And that right there’s is the rub; Mario is always fun. It’s easy to be a cynical, jaded grumpy old bastard (which I am, most of the time) and point fingers at Nintendo for never really shaking the Mario formula up – but really though, why should they when they’ve got it down to perfection – and when it’s just pure joy to play? There might not really be very much new in New Super Mario Bros 2, but what there is is unbridled, undiluted fun.

New Super Mario Bros 2 is exclusive to the 3DS.

Scoring

Gameplay: 9/10.

It’s essentially the same Mario platforming gameplay you know and love – and that’s not a bad thing.

Design and Presentation: 8/10.

Despite the 3DS greater graphical prowess, NSMB2 doesn’t look very much different to its DS-bound predecessor – but that’s okay too. It’s filled with colourful, vibrant Mushroom Kingdom charm. The 3D isn’t used to much effect though – really just a bit of depth for particle effects. there is, however, an odd design choice that boggles; when you turn on the 3D effect, the background blurs. not a deal breaker, but it makes the game look uglier in 3D than it should.

Value: 8/10.

You’ll breeze through in 6 hours, and then realise you’re nowhere close to actually finishing the game – which will take you hour upon hour more to do. Then there’s the arcade-styled coin rush mode to help you on your nigh impossible target of ONE MILLION COINS! *insert Dr Evil Face Here*

Overall: 8.5/10.

It’s more Mario, and yes, it’s easy to complain that it’s more Mario.  In the end though, it’s more Mario.

And Mario is awesome.

Last Updated: August 29, 2012

New Super Mario Bros. 2
Summary
8.5

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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