Princess Peach has been captured by a nefarious collective known as Koopalings, for unknown motives, and secreted to some far-off castle. A moustachioed marvel exclaims ‘Oh-noa!’ and takes off in hot pursuit of his beloved. Nintendo’s favourite royalty are back in New Super Mario Bros 2 on 3DS. The latest outing from everyone’s favourite plumber isn’t anything terribly new, but we always love jumping in and experiencing a familiar, entertaining adventure and some of the very best platforming in gaming.
As always, Nintendo has nailed the gameplay with Mario’s precision platforming. The basic set-up from the first NSMB returns, and the familiar dashing and jumping feels comfortable as ever. Each stage is a two-dimensional obstacle course, with its own unique look and perfect combination of puzzles and platforming. Numerous stages make up each world, only broken up by two castles with the obligatory boss fight at the end. There isn’t really anything to NSMB2 that we haven’t seen before, but for what the game lacks in originality it more than makes up for with fantastic variety of environments. Expect Mario to explore everywhere from underwater to haunted mansions and sandy landscapes. Players are rewarded for exploring, with new areas to discover and sometimes entirely whole new worlds hiding just down a pipe or up a ladder. The plethora of hidden secrets ensures that fans will be constantly replaying levels to find new rewards.
Players can expect the usual assortment of power-ups, including the fire flower and super leaf, which gives Mario a Raccoon suit and the power of flight. A few new power-ups are also thrown into the mix, such as a golden block that transformers Mario’s head into leaking box of coins, and the golden flower, which sees your fireballs transforming all obstacles and enemies into a treasure-trove of coins. Strategic use of the mega and mini mushrooms transform Mario into a giant wrecking machine or nimble paperweight, respectively, and sometimes gives access to otherwise unavailable areas. With amble placement, fans will always have access to their favourite power-ups. Just like the last game, you can also keep a power-up in reserve and select it from the bottom screen, ensuring that players aren’t restricted on how they prefer to transform Mario.
The hook to NSMB2 is the rather far fetched goal of gathering a total of one million coins. Treasure-hunting has always been an integral part of the Mario catalogue, but this objective puts a new-found emphasis on collecting every single coin the graces the screen. Gameplay becomes just as skewered towards satisfying the bank as it does reaching the final flag. Believe me when I say there are coins absolutely everywhere, and players will be addicted to finding every last one. With the right power-ups and some dexterous fingers, there are a several ways to increase your coin haulage. I really only scratched the surface during my first playthrough, but we’ve seen some of the more masterful players accumulate several hundred coins in a single level. Accomplishing the unlikely challenge of locating one million coins might just be possible.
Anyone who has finished the original NSMB shouldn’t expect much of a challenge here. There are undoubtedly several moments that require careful timing and quick reflexes, but on the whole, players won’t be replaying levels to any great extent. Any snags are further compensated for by a robust save system and the ample lives you’re rewarded with. Moreover, given the wide audience that NSMB2 is catering for, the overall difficulty curve is probably right on the mark. Any qualms over skill level can be offset by the high player vigilance that will be required to unlock all of the hidden levels. Following a straight path to the final level can be achieved in just under a day’s worth of playing, but again, there is so much secret content, and the simple entertainment factor from playing for just a few minutes guarantees NSMB2‘s longevity.
NSMB2 includes a multiplayer option that allows two friends to play co-operatively over Wi-Fi. There isn’t really any reason to try out this mode however, as there is no content that actually requires input from two players – it’s all the exact some game, simply with the option of two characters. Further, both players have to be on screen at the same time, and on the whole, 3DS doesn’t handle this multiplayer very well. Another new addition introduces a competitive mode to NSMB2. Using Streetpass, Coin Rush Mode has players attempting to beat each other’s scores by collecting as many coins as possible in three randomly selected levels. Coin Rush Mode is a fun distraction, perfect if you just want to pick up the game for a few minutes. It can also be rather addictive attempting to best your opponent’s scores.
With the power of the 3DS, NSMB2 looks as sharp and appealing as ever. The bright colour palette, variety of environments and faultless animations make the game one of Mario’s most appealing side-on platforming adventures. The only downer is the use of the 3D effect. The first NSMB already gave a good depth to the otherwise two-dimensional visuals, and with nothing more really added here, the 3D option doesn’t seem much of an innovation. Whether playing with the 3D slider turned up and down, it doesn’t make very much of a difference.
You can berate New Super Mario Bros 2 for lacking innovation and following the same tried-and-true formula, but you cannot deny Nintendo’s masterful game design or the sheer delight from jumping on Goomba’s. It is a familiar, yet reassuring and engaging adventure from one of the few companies who knows how to nail the mechanics of 2D platforming. Poor 3D use and cooperative multiplayer do little to undercut the expert level design and bright visuals, while coin-hunting and a score of hidden levels are sure to keep players engaged. New Super Mario Bros 2 isn’t a reinvention, but rather a continuation of one the best handheld series ever made.