Call me a Nintendo fanboy (what with having an 8-bit 1-Up Mushroom tattoo on my arm and all), but there’s nothing I love more than a good old-school Mario platformer. Something about the simplistic mechanics, upbeat music and overly bright colour scheme just puts me in a euphoric state of mind. It takes me back to the days when video games didn’t need corporate sponsored ad placement in every other cut scene to remain financially viable. To a time when the current, ‘in’ celebrity of the moment wasn’t arbitrarily brought on board the hype train to push marketing. The classic nostalgia factor is what I’m really talking about and, for better or worse, it’s this infectious element that gives New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS its appeal.
The expertly tuned, albeit not entirely original, side scrolling platformer sees everybody’s favourite mustachioed plumber re-hit the Mushroom Kingdom and clash with Bowser’s minions across 80-odd levels. Throughout the game you’ll run, jump, swim, climb and ground pound your way to victory, tackling a handful of zany bosses and, if you’re sharp enough, sniff out a secret or two along the way. It’s a formula we’re all intimately familiar with and anyone who’s ever played a platformer in the past will feel more than comfortable with the concept and controls.
This time around though, the emphasis isn’t on gathering stars or stomping the Koopa Troop – it’s on collecting coins. It’s actually a wonder the game isn’t called New Super Mario Bros. 2 – The Midas Edition, because everything seems to revolve around those shiny bits of spherical gold.
New powerups like the Coin Block Hat and Golden Flower are introduced to drive this point home, giving Mario the ability to leave a trail of coins in his wake or turn enemies around him into gold. Every so often you’ll get a congratulatory message telling you how many coins you’ve accumulated as your total is kept track of. Supposedly, something happens when you reach a million shinies, but I was barely on 300,000 after my first, extended, playthrough. So expect that to take a while.
Levels are designed to showcase coin flourishes as volcanos erupt and spew doubloons instead of lava, fish waggle a golden little trail while kicking a Koopa shell will net you a nice jangly bonus. Literally everything harks back to that age old videogame concept of collecting coins. While it isn’t groundbreakingly original, it’s an interesting take that adds an extra layer of challenge-mode depth to the gameplay. Simply finishing a level is no longer enough. Now you’ve got to do it with as many coins as possible and a great time. With a formula like that driving your fingers and thumbs, expect plenty of deaths.
Hopping from one platform to the other trying to collect coins and avoid Lakitu thrown turtle shells, all while teetering on a moving platform over lava doesn’t leave much room for error. The fault in these situations though always lies with the user and not the game, as Mario has a fantastic sense of weight and precision to him.
Fortunately, failing on any level more than a few times will give you something of a free pass by way of the invincible White Tanooki Suit. Commonly referred to as the `You Suck Tanooki Suit,’ this nifty little powerup gives you the option of breezing through any stage without fear of death. So even if you’re not a platforming Super Amadeus, you’ll be able to enjoy the game at a nice, steady pace.
Graphically, New Super Mario Bros. 2 holds up very well on the handheld. The bright level designs and cartoony characters we’ve all come to know and love (or hate, in Boo’s case anyway) are as endearing as ever. The same can’t be said of the 3D effects though. Unlike Super Mario 3D Land, which had its fair share of solid 3D moments, New Super Mario Bros. 2 really gives you no reason to crank up that slider. Instead of giving great depth of field and making the game ‘pop,’ all the 3D effect ends up doing is blurring the backgrounds and smudging colours.
Though the single player is really where the action is, New Super Mario Bros. 2 also includes co-op. Feeling more like an afterthought than anything else, the co-op allows two players to tackle the entire game as a pair. It’s a little bit rough on the small screen, as the camera often has a hard time keeping you both in frame, but can be a bit of fun with the right partner. I unfortunately, did not have the right partner, so all I really got was some frustrating death situations. The whole thing actually reminded me of playing Battletoads on the NES – just too damn infuriating to be enjoyable.
Coin Rush mode gives the game a bit more longevity (and is actually fun), allowing you to challenge people via Streetpass to collect as many coins as possible across a series of random levels.
If you dive straight in to the singleplayer with a view to completing the game as quick as you can, you can expect about six or so hours of fresh content. Tracking down every hidden Star Coin and getting into the nooks and crannies of the game will take substantially longer, (I’m up to 12 hours and counting) but isn’t exactly the most riveting option. Honestly, this game is a bit of an anomaly to me. It’s classic side-scrolling platforming action at its best. The problem is that it has nothing in the way of innovation and comes off feeling a bit lazy.
Aside from bringing coins to the forefront, this is quite literally the same thing we experienced on the Wii and DS back in 2009. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad game, or even an ungraceful sequel – in fact it’s easily the best 2D platformer on the 3DS. It’s just… a little too safe for my liking. Nearly all of the previous Mario titles have offered something new and exciting with every iteration, making them feel fresh each time. This one just doesn’t and it feels like a missed opportunity on Nintendo’s part.
The lacklustre 3D effects also left me scratching my head, especially considering that the 3D element is supposed to be the console’s drawcard after all. But hey. Maybe I’m over analysing.
- Reviewed On