There isn’t a whole lot of new about New Super Mario Bros 2. That isn’t really a criticism, the winning formula of sidescrolling Mario platformers is one of the gaming world’s most enduring constants. If New Super Mario Bros 2 wasn’t incredibly similar to previous 2D Mario outings, it would be a shame.
If you’ve played a previous 2D sidescrolling Mario game, it’s enough to say that this is largely more of the same. Whether or not you’re ready for that is an individual decision but there’s not a lot in here to make this an unmissable Mario experience. It still starts with a cursory scene wherein Princess Peach is kidnapped, Mario goes haring after her, chasing through themed worlds that include desert, ice and lava. Each world ends with a boss battle against one of the Koopa Kids and Princess Peach being dragged onward towards another world until the end.
The only major difference in this iteration is the swing of focus towards coin collection. There’s gold everywhere. In addition to the seemingly greater number of coins generally scattered around the landscape, there are special sections and even a couple of ways to get special powers that greatly increase your coin collecting abilities.
Repeatedly hit some of the coin-yielding blocks and they’ll go gold – the next punch planting a brick-patterned golden block firmly around Mario’s mustachioed visage for a period of time. From then on, coins ring out behind Mario with every movement, faster or riskier moves like running or swinging, yielding a stream of circular wealth. Your coin count is aggregated across all levels, game modes and even saves.
Of course, this mass of gold means that the life counter is virtually pointless. With so many coins rolling in, the 100-coins-1-up bonus ceases to have any worth – I’d amassed seven lives by the end of World 1-1 without really trying. By the end of the game, I had around 70 lives and I’d had several instances of multiple deaths in tricky jumping sections.
So that secret block that throws out a green mushroom is no longer a thrill but that’s the direction Mario games have been going in for years so it’s hardly a surprise. The white raccoon suit appears after several failings and makes Mario invincible to all but bottom-of-screen deaths, too. It’s almost impossible to fail to finish the game.
Having said that, it is quite tricky in places. Collecting the three large gold coins per course involves plenty of exploration and plenty more risk and there is an opportunity for coin-score challenge among friends thanks to the Coin Rush mode and its Street Pass functionality. You’re given three random levels from a certain range of the game and have to collect as many coins as possible.
There’s also a local Co-Op Mode which sees Luigi get in on the action.
The gameplay takes many of its subtle differences from Super Mario Bros 3 – the raccoon suit and its flight ability return, along with plenty of the enemies from that installment. The ability to fly, given a decent run up, allows for much more upwards exploration and there are loads of secret areas to find that feel quite rewarding thanks to the extra coins they’re usually packed with.
That coin target is set at a million, though, and even with multiple playthroughs, it’s going to be a lofty target to aim for. After one fairly standard play through, my coin total is around 12,000. Even with a few more plays through the entire game, and a decent run at the Coin Rush mode, it’s unlikely to peak much above 100,000. That’s still only around ten per cent of the aspirational figure we’re striving for – so, essentially, you’ll end up having to grind for coins.
- It handles brilliantly, has bags of character and some great design.
- Exploration is encouraged and rewarded.
- Very focussed gameplay, there’s no overcomplicating the core mechanics.
- There isn’t a lot to make it stand out over relatively recent Mario games.
- It’s not particularly lengthy and is very easy, if you choose to take the assists.
- The coin collection starts off well but ends up grinding.
New Super Mario Bros 2 is enjoyable but it’s also very familiar. There are some good ideas here and some nice design but there’s not enough to make it an essential game to play. It’s an average 2D Mario game, which still makes it one of the best 2D platformers around and if you’re ready for another dose of classic Mario goodness, you’ll probably love it. If you’re still happy playing one of the older New Super Mario Bros games, this can wait.