Mario’s back, Peach has been kidnapped, yadda yadda… you know the drill. If you want a one line review of the game, then there you have it. If you want more, then New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a largely soulless retread of a game you’ve already played several times, with the few innovations it does attempt appearing both ironic and superficial at the same time.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is another 2D Mario game and a sequel to the DS and Wii games that all share the ‘New’ moniker. It’s telling that this hasn’t been updated, partially because ‘New New Super Mario Bros.’ would be grammatically awkward but also because all three games are near identical. The set up is the same as always — Bowser and his Koopalings have stole away with Peach, and Mario must pass through several themed worlds, conquering all the platforming challenges in his way to save her.
The gameplay is as tight as ever. Controlling Mario has now become second nature, even with the 3DS’s circle pad adding it’s own unique flavour to his movement. Old power-ups; the Tanooki suit, fire flowers and mini/mega mushrooms all return. Though the fire flower has been downgraded in power, you can now only throw two fireballs on screen as to the previous three, and the mini and mega mushrooms only appear once or twice throughout the game. Regardless, it would be moronic to suggest that the gameplay is anything but its usual superb quality.
New Super Mario Bros. 2‘s major addition to the series finely honed gameplay is the appearance of a lot more coins. The Mushroom Kingdom has been in an economic upturn and gold coins are in such an abundance that it’s almost impossible to complete a level without collecting hundreds of them. This new found wealth could be due to the new power-ups — a golden flower that gives Mario the Midas touch enabling him to turn blocks and enemies into gold, gold bricks that can be worn as hats and throws out coins based on your speed, and gold rings which turn enemies into gold-generating machines.
These new additions shift the focus of the game from pure platforming to more of a collect-a-thon. Something which the back of the box readily acknowledges as it tasks you to “Aim for 1 million coins”. Yet the story doesn’t mention it at all. The lack of integration between mechanic and narrative is jarring. It immediately makes the coin collecting seem superfluous to the game, a mere gimmick just to appease those who claim that new Mario games lack innovation. Even worse it actually it eliminates any semblance of difficulty in the game, as 1ups are still rewarded after every 100 coins. Lives quickly stack up to the point where they become meaningless. Once, seeing a 1up mushroom run away from you and speed towards a cliff was a terrifying experience, now when you have over 200 lives it’s difficult to care. It doesn’t help that even the hardest levels offer more coins than potential deaths.
Each level is, as always, beautifully designed. Every one providing a reasonable level of difficulty while allowing you to flow through them without having to stop and start. Star coins are nestled in each stage adding a new challenge for those who care to find them. All this culminates in level design that is both accessible to new players and challenging to series veterans. Proving yet again that Mario games are still without peer when it comes to level design. In fact, the only non-Mario game that comes anywhere near is Rayman Origins.
There is a constant feeling that something is off though. A faded memory of the very level you are playing always lurking in the background. The levels, while exquisitely crafted feel predictable, in a way that can only be described as Mario-esque. This disquieting feeling surpasses familiarity and reaches an intensity where it’s impossible not to question whether you have actually played this exact level before.
The biggest crime that New Super Mario Bros. 2 commits though is attempting to capitalise on nostalgia. All Mario games rely on this to a certain extent but this game is a particularly egregious example because its imitation of Super Mario Bros. 3, arguably the greatest 2D Mario game, is so blatant. Everything from the yellow box art to the focus on the Tanooki suit is aped to a tee. The brazen attempt to recreate the feel of the older game sadly fails though, New Super Mario Bros. 2 just lacks that ineffable quality.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is one of those games that highlights the problems with condensing a review into a single score or sentence. On the one hand, it’s as near to platforming perfection as we have, competing only against the previous games in the series. On the other, it’s a fairly bland iteration on a series that, while once the pinnacle of innovation, is starting to stagnate. In the almost unthinkable circumstances you’ve never played a Mario game, then finish the next sentence and go buy New Super Mario Bros. 2. If like most of us you’ve already played a few Mario games, then there isn’t enough new to make it a worthwhile purchase.
Verdict: Off Target
Platforms Available – 3DS
Platform Reviewed – 3DS
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