And so begins another adventure for the world’s most famous plumber as Bowser, for what at a rough estimate is the 1,248th time, kidnaps his main squeeze Princess Peach and whizzes her away, so leaving Mario to pit his unlikely gymnastic excellence against the contorted landscapes that lie between him and Bowser’s lair.
By now, if I was the moustachioed maestro, I might be tempted to not only relocate a little closer to Bowser’s castle, but also take a look at installing some kind of security – perhaps Liam Neeson (in Taken mode) might be persuaded to take back Peach on Mario’s behalf? Surely enough to make Bowser think twice before considering a repeat offence.
Alas, Neeson was presumably busy, so off Mario trots into New Super Mario Bros. 2 a return to the series’ 2D routes, so limiting the freedom of movement that the more technically ambitious Super Mario 3D Land afforded him, but, in return, enabling Nintendo to craft some fiendishly difficult obstacles within the extra rigidity that a 2D landscape provides.
NSMB2′s new twist on the established blueprint is to throw enough golden coins at Mario as to make even Scrooge McDuck green with envy. Coins erupt from pipes, materialise out of thin air, and twinkle about the skies like so many stars on a clear night. Blocks which yield multiple coins upon repeated head-butts – a series staple – now even envelop Mario’s head for a short period, so that his every move is punctuated by a constant stream of extra income.
There’s no doubting that this increased collecting of coins is initially interesting, but it does lead to one or two issues. First and foremost is the almost unlimited amount of lives you’re granted, a by-product of each 100 coin haul handing Mario an extra life. Perhaps Nintendo should have upped that goal to reflect this outing’s unique coin count; 500 coins per life a decent compromise say.
Beyond this initial complaint there’s also a feeling that the ease of coin hunting is counter-productive – no longer is there any buzz to be derived by the collection of each and every coin for example. Indeed why risk a life at all when you know the next pipe is likely to yield 20 coins at a bounce anyway? Also, to get a little more high and mighty, do we really want Mario to be indulging in the type of greed usually reserved for Wario when he should be off rescuing his beloved for a half-crazed tortoise-dinosaur hybrid?
Back to the gameplay and NSMB2, beyond its heightened coin collection, plays nigh on identically to its DS forebear. Graphics are perhaps a little more polished, though not by much, the classic Mario score is once more provided by a mixture of instrument and vocal talent, Mario’s signature moves return unchanged and in terms of power-ups expect to yield mini-mushrooms, giant mushrooms, fire flowers and super leaves, with only the golden flower – which has Mario casting that produce yet more coins – as yet unseen.
The 80+ stages take place across the customary greens, yellows, reds and blues of meadow, desert, volcanic and arctic worlds and, as seems to be de rigueur for 2D Mario titles, each stage hides three giant golden coins to collect which will at least provide Mario completionists with something to aspire to. Certainly boss encounters with Bowser’s brood of offspring won’t be challenging anyone with even basic Mario experience.
If this review sounds a little downbeat it’s because – despite NSMB2 being a quality game boasting the qualities ubiquitous to the series – there’s something slightly… dare I say unimaginative about it. Nowhere is a ‘wow’ moment to be found, nor a demonstration of what Nintendo’s vision was when creating the game; other than wanting to get another lucrative Mario title out on store shelves – with seems suitably fitting giving the game’s obsession with the collecting of coinage.
That doesn’t mean the game isn’t unenjoyable – I still leapt, flew, dashed, wall-kicked and climbed through its assorted stages with a smile on my face (or else a scowl as once more I missed that hard to get golden coin by a smidgen and promptly fell to my demise) – it’s just that there’s an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, which newbies won’t notice, but which grizzled veterans of the Mushroom Kingdom might have cause to question.
There is a new mode on offer at least – ‘Coin Rush’ offering a scramble for coins across three randomly selected stages from your world of choice – while those of you with 3DS owning friends might find extra value in the co-op mode which plays in a similar fashion to the Wii’s own New Super Mario Bros. with players opting to help or hinder each other (and often hindering purely by mistake).
A reasonable if unmemorable entry into Mario folklore then, and one which leaves us with one pondering whether the Wii U’s own entry into 2D New Super Mario Bros. territory will offer more than a graphical shot in the arm as Nintendo decides where to take its premiere series.