Game: New Super Mario Bros. 2
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Available on: Nintendo 3DS Only
The tubby plumber makes his second appearance on the Nintendo 3DS within the space of nine months.
This time around, Mario seems to be indulging in the sort of coin-grabbing greed that would make his evil-doppelgänger Wario jealous. The standard gameplay exhibited in the New Super Mario Bros. series has been injected with capitalism, as the game’s levels are absolutely filled with gold, be it from the hundreds of coins that litter the landscape, or the powerups that turn Mario into some sort of fireball-wielding Midas. Or a family-friendly Goldmember.
It is clear that New Super Mario Bros. 2 takes a fair piece of inspiration from arguably one of the best games in Mario’s history (that would be Super Mario Bros. 3). Not only does the Raccoon Leaf power-up return (along with the ability to fly), but so do the Koopalings (also known as the Koopa Kids), naturally acting as the bosses of each World, they have kidnapped Princess Peach (Again).
Within ten minutes of gameplay it is incredibly easy to see how familiar the game is compared to its predecessors. There are a worrying amount of elements that are almost exactly the same as the DS and Wii instalments; same enemies, the same tired types of levels (yes, there is a slippery ice world) and even the exact same music is used throughout the game. A sense of disappointment came over me for the first 10 minutes or so.
However, as they say, even an average Super Mario title is better than most other games and New Super Mario Bros. 2 happens to be a damn good Super Mario game. Once you get beyond the feeling of deja vu, you find yourself starting to enjoy the game for what it is: A cracking platforming title that works well as a portable game.
The 80+ levels are small enough to finish in a couple of minutes, it is a great game to pick up, play a level or two and put back down again. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a relatively easy game, with Super Mario veterans (like me) easily being able to rush through the game and rescue Peach within a couple of hours play. However, the challenge (and most of the fun) comes from the search for Star Coins and hidden levels; something that could take quite a while.
The thing that lets down New Super Mario Bros. 2 the most, is just a general lack of imagination. As great as the game plays, it just doesn’t feel special like a Super Mario title should do. We’ve already had two previous New Super Mario Bros. games (with a fourth coming to the Wii U) and, as it stands right now, this sub-series just feels tired and lazy. When I think of Mario games; I think of the surrealness of Super Mario Bros. 2, the brilliance of Super Mario World and the increasingly challenging stages of the Super Mario Galaxy games, but this game is lacking all of these elements, the spark that makes those games so exciting and fun to play.
While the game’s secondary objective of coin-collecting seems to be a big focus of the game, it isn’t even a necessary endeavour. As per previous New Super Mario Bros. games, collecting three huge Star Coins are used to unlock alternate routes and bonus levels, but the goal of earning a million normal coins isn’t the all-important task that the game makes you think it is. Without giving too much away, completion of this task is incredibly unrewarding, making you question why Nintendo even took this direction.
Graphically, this game doesn’t really push the Nintendo 3DS to its limit, but neither does it need to. The system’s 3D functionality is underused, although the game does employ a clever effect where the higher the 3D mode is set, the more out of focus the backgrounds are, giving a subtle, yet effective sense of depth. Audio-wise, the game is relatively unimpressive too as the game recycles music and sound effects from the previous New Super Mario Bros. titles.
It’s really difficult to look at this game from a critical viewpoint. As you’d expect from a Nintendo game, the fundamentals and mechanics are solid (as they should be), but with this being the third in a series of almost identical games, I can’t let this game’s faults slide just because it’s got Mario on the box. Coming 9 months after Super Mario 3D Land this just seems a step back, with the reward for the game’s focus on coin-collecting feeling like a kick to the teeth.
VERDICT: New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a good, solid game; I can’t stress that enough. Ignore the game’s lack of imagination and pointless coin collecting, and you are still left with a good example of pint-sized portable gaming, recommended for those who love no-frills platforming. However, for a series that has such high standards, Nintendo could have done more to differentiate this game from the DS & Wii titles that have come before and not base the entire game around a concept that doesn’t even offer a satisfying reward for the player.