Review: New Super Mario Bros.
Posted 30 Jun 2006 at 22:47 by James
After leading us round a path that took us through several fortresses, countless warp pipes, magic mushrooms, three dimensions, one FLUDD, and more spin-offs than a clumsy tennis player, Nintendo have finally come full circle and delivered what some of us have been waiting over a decade for – a brand new, side scrolling Super Mario Bros game. And it's about time too. New Super Mario Bros. brings everything right back to basics. We don't need no rubbish offshoots, we don't need no three dimensions, and no water jetpacks on our DS. This time, Nintendo leave Mario alone – and all in all, it's another example of platforming perfection.
Admittedly, if you're a Super Mario veteran, the game might seem initially disappointing. The levels feel perhaps a little too familiar; it feels more like a rehash than a brand new game. You're treading (and jumping through, and pounding) old ground in the same way as you always have done. Although the worlds are all brand new, they are full of nods to old level design, and as such you instinctively know exactly what to do when faced with a new hurdle.
But before you know it, you will find yourself absorbed and entertained beyond even your initial expectations. This isn't a rehash – this really is a new game. A new Mario game, no less. And you will fall in love with it, as you fell in love with every Super Mario game before it. It's an exciting blend of new and old; 2D gameplay and 3D sprites; retro values with a modern twist. New Super Mario Bros plays almost exactly like its forefather did over twenty years ago, and, incredibly, it still feels fresh today.
This is partly due to the new visual style, which cleverly combines 2D and 3D without looking tacky or crude. Each world is a haze of vibrant colour as you hurtle through the beautiful landscapes, leaping from block to platform with the practised ease of a gymnast. Mario and his foes are all rendered in clear, sharp 3D that, surprisingly, looks fantastic when coupled with the 2D environments. Everything looks particularly spectacular, of course, when you're crashing through every obstacle with reckless abandon and a Mega Mushroom in your belly. This handy new item increases Mario's size to that of near screen-filling proportions, allowing you to barge past anything and everything without fear of injury. Various other new items also add pizzazz to what is otherwise a quite "stripped down" Mario game, including the Mini Mushroom and the wonderful Blue Shell power-up. An extra item can also be stored on the Touch Screen, to be activated whenever you need it (in the same manner as Super Mario World).
There are several other allusions to past Super Mario games, including the Mushroom Houses, the wall-jumping manoeuvre, the classic Mushroom Kingdom enemies, and the afore-mentioned similarities in level design. But perhaps best of all, the game mechanics are dead simple – as indeed they have always been. No real touch screen gimmicks (bar the item box) have been included here, allowing players new and old to instantly click with the controls. Nintendo have spent ten years believing that they should fix something that isn't broken, and at last they have seen the error of their ways.
But despite the familiarity of the gameplay, New Super Mario Bros still offers plenty of challenge for players new and old. As well as retaining the smooth, simple mechanics, Nintendo have continued to provide enough challenge for those well acquainted with Mario games, without frustrating those who aren't. And if the difficulty really does prove too much to handle, the minigames from Super Mario 64 DS make a triumphant return, with a few new ones thrown in for good measure.
Ultimately, New Super Mario Bros is much more than a nostalgia trip. Its classic gameplay and retro ideals serve to remind you why you first picked up that joypad, while bringing enough new to the table to satisfy your thirst for fresh Nintendo gaming goodness. With the levels all as delightfully replayable as any previous Mario title, you would be hard pressed not to rank this up with the very best of the DS catalogue. The wait is over, people. Make sure you pick this up.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Easily one of the best titles on the Nintendo DS. Screw innovation – this should keep you happy for a long time.
Retro gameplay with a modern twist.
It's a brand new Mario game!
Perhaps a little too familiar?