It’d be hard to argue the case for anyone being more accomplished at the 2D platformer than Nintendo. For generations the Japanese company has been honing its craft, delivering slice after slice of side-scrolling perfection. However, as New Super Mario Bros. 2 hits the 3DS, are we finally beginning to see some chinks in the armour of the company? Is there enough here to genuinely warrant being called a new game, or does it follow the worrying recent trend of simply being another 2D Mario game with new levels?
Somewhat bizarrely, the answer is a mixture of both. New Super Mario Bros. 2 brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Not a single thing. Unless you count the focus on collecting coins, which we don’t, since they’ve always been there for collection in the past. If you’ve played its predecessor on the original DS, or the Wii version, then you’ll not only know what to expect, but you’ll likely have an intimate knowledge of everything about this game already.
But, and this will go against many of our arguments about other games, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Nintendo doesn’t play with the formula. Everyone who has played a 2D Mario platformer knows exactly what’s going on at all times. There are no surprises, there are no shocks, there are no twists, or even turns, but still we come back to the games time and time again thanks to the fact that they’re just so impeccably crafted that they’re impossible not to love.
Glorified level pack it may be, but New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a great example of the simplicity of the form, offering players the ability to power their way through each level at full tilt, or take a more thoughtful and methodical approach, collecting each coin, star coin and power up along the way; and it’s the difference between the two approaches that ultimately make’s NSMB 2 so deep on the gameplay front.
For younger or less experienced players, the game is easy to get to grips with, even offering a helping hand whenever necessary to avoid player frustration. For more seasoned players, this would normally make the game a complete cake walk, and it is if your aim is simply to get from the start to the finish as quickly as possible, but as last year’s Super Mario 3D Land showed, there’s a lot more to be seen in the Mario universe once you’ve seen the credits roll for the first time.
NSMB 2 really comes into its own when it’s played with the aim of completion. The basic structure of the levels may be all too common, but it’s the hidden extras that makes the game stand out. Even for experienced players, finding certain star coins is no mean feat – bringing with them a definite sense of relief and satisfaction. On top of that, you’re going to need to discover the various hidden exits in each world in order to play all the levels the game has to offer, and beyond that, there are warp canons to be found, which transport you to even more levels.
As we mentioned, there’s not really much new to see and do here. There has been a dramatic shift in focus with regards to the game’s regular coin collection, with players now encouraged to find as many as they possibly can within each level, and a grand total kept at all times to monitor your progress. At first the amount of coins on offer does feel a little ridiculous, but despite racking up 700-800 coins per level in some cases, it’s another well implemented feature that’s designed to keep you playing long after you’ve rescued the Princess.
To help you in your bid to grab as much gold as you can, the Raccoon suit has made a return, offering Mario the ability to power up by running at full speed before taking to the air for a brief period of time. It’s a power-up that has long been a fan favourite, so it’s definitely nice to see it making a return after a short absence. On top of that, there are some new gold power-ups, such as the gold flower which destroys almost everything in its path, leaving coins in its wake, or the gold mushroom, which rewards you with a wealth of coins in one go.
The game can obviously be played without worrying about collecting coins, but it’s a pleasantly addictive side to the game’s platforming action, and one that you’re likely to find yourself getting caught up in surprisingly often. For those of you who can’t get enough of coin collecting, the Coin Rush mode should provide plenty of enjoyment. Essentially, this mode randomly picks three levels from predetermined worlds, sets your time to 99 and challenges you to not only collect as many coins as possible, but also to get to the end of all three levels without dying. It’s trickier than it sounds, and it does add another level of depth, but it’s not quite as expansive as we would have liked it to be.
There are plenty of things in NSMB 2 that aren’t the way we would’ve liked. The game is too formulaic, for example, literally a copycat of the bulk of 2D scrolling Mario games that have come before it, from worlds to power-ups to enemies. You’ve seen it all before, countless times. A little more imagination certainly wouldn’t have gone astray here, but you can’t fault the execution, or the enjoyment to be had.
Damn you Nintendo, why must you tie us in logical knots.
Bottom line, if you like Mario then you’ll think this is great. If you’re a bit sick of Mario, then this isn’t going to change your mind.