At this point in your gaming life, I’m sure you know Mario. You know what a Mario game plays like. You know what a Mario game looks like. You know what a Mario game sounds like. By now, you know that when you pick up a game called New Super Mario Bros., you’ll get just that: a new Mario game. It won’t break any new ground or turn the genre on its head but it will give you more of the fantastic platforming that’s made Mario the biggest icon in gaming.
If you’ve played either of the previous NSMB games on the DS or Wii, you’ll know how NSMB2 plays. Just like the previous two entries, the goal is to not merely race through the levels and defeat the boss castles but to collect the 3 star coins hidden in each level and use them to unlock new levels and powerups. Things are just the same as they’ve always been, only – this time – the game will keep track of the total number of coins that you’ve collected, tasking you to complete the lofty goal of collecting one million coins.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t even try to be different from its predecessors. With the sole exception of the Golden Flower powerup, every part of the game is essentially the same as you’ve played before. Not even the world themes (of which there are 5, plus 3 secret worlds) show any sort of variation from the norm. Though that’s not to say that the levels themselves are uncreative or boring; there are actually quite a few imaginative ideas at work. This becomes especially apparent near the end of the game, with levels that deteriorate from meteor strikes as you play and entire stages that take place on the back of moving blocks or ships that coast through the sky. These levels are quite challenging and exciting, and it’s just a shame that it takes so long for the game to ramp up to them.
For a 3DS game, there’s certainly not much of a 3D element. The most noticeable change is that, as you crank up the 3D effect, the background gets increasingly blurrier as if you’re changing the focus of a camera. It’s a neat effect to be sure but, in my case, I preferred to keep the 3D slider on low (if not off completely) so that I could actually see the detail in the backgrounds. Otherwise, the graphics look exactly as you’d expect (just like a higher resolution version of the original NSMB on the DS).
Despite its lack of exciting 3D, NSMB2 does take advantage of the 3DS’ other unique feature: streetpass. Every time that you tag someone else, you’ll exchange Coin Rush records. Coin Rush is a neat little extra where it pits you against three randomly selected levels from a few worlds and challenges you to race through them while collecting as many coins as possible. The hook is that you have extremely limited time with which to do so. Exchanging records will give another player the same level set that you completed and challenge them to collect more coins than you. This is by far the best way to collect coins and, if you’re planning on going for the million, then you should be prepared to play a lot of Coin Rush. Still, don’t think that it will be easy; at the time that this review was published, Nintendo said that there had been only about 13,000 people who’ve hit the mark worldwide.
Nintendo was also kind enough to include a multiplayer mode just like the one in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, albeit only two player instead of four. You likely won’t spend a lot of time on this (especially since you’ll need two systems each with a copy of the game) but while it lasts it’s good, chaotic fun and you’ll almost always end up collecting more coins as a team than you will by yourself.
The worst thing that can be said about NSMB2 is that it’s just more of the same. Even dressed up in it’s golden veneer you are essentially playing the same Mario game you have for years. Whether or not this is a bad thing depends on how much you love Mario. If you haven’t had enough platforming lately and wouldn’t mind replaying levels to push your coin count ever higher (each level keeps track of your record) then you should certainly give New Super Mario Bros. 2 a chance. After all, a Mario game, even a familiar feeling one, is still a damn good time.