Parent Talk: Mario is always the correct choice for family-friendly gaming. All parents and kids should already know who he is, but if you don’t, consider it time to introduce him to your family. Kids can love the games because of the colorful, charming levels and fun power-ups, but older kids, teenagers, and adults can easily be captivated by the thoughtful challenges and addictive gameplay.
Review Basis: Completed all worlds. Collected almost all of the Star Coins.
Note: As of writing this review, I have not yet played the DLC Coin Rush packs.
Classic “New” Mario gameplay. The New! Super Mario Bros. series is a throwback to the classic 2D side-scrolling Mario game—that much is plain to see. However, the series has now carved out its own niche, becoming its own entity in the franchise; NSMB is not just a throwback to Mario that happens to be a part of the main series, it’s a sub-series that has its own conventions. If you have played NSMB on the Nintendo DS or Wii, you should instantly feel comfortable with jumping into this game.
The controls and mechanics are as simple as ever, but oh-so-addicting. You can run, jump, wall bounce, and more. However, it’s the power-ups and level design that steal the show. Each level is an intricate obstacle course that challenges you to get as many coins as possible, find hidden routes, find the hidden Star Coins, and achieve the best possible time. This means that you will have to play through stages many, many times. Most levels can be completed rather quickly, which makes the game ideal for quick game sessions on the go. Every time you complete a level, you’re compelled by that “Just one more!” feeling.
+ Coins, coins, and more coins! Collecting coins has always been a staple of the Mario franchise, but Nintendo will nuts with the coin collecting in this game. You are tasked with collecting as many coins as possible in each level. The game tracks how many coins you collect in each level, as well as how many coins you have collectively, and the global player total. There’s something of a thrill when you pass landmarks like 10,000 and 30,000 coins. The power-ups and level design are all built around the theme of coin collecting: certain power-ups make coins appear all over, others let Mario turn blocks into coins, and so on.
+ Power-ups, new and old. Fan favorites like the Fire Flower, Super Mushroom, and Tanuki Leaf will never leave, but Nintendo added some clever new abilities. The Golden Fire Flower turns Mario into gold and lets him throw golden fireballs, which turn blocks into coins. Enemies defeated with the golden fireballs also give each coin bonuses.
+ Impeccably-solid controls. While the NSMB series unfortunately does not do much to spin on the themes of Mario worlds (ice area, fire area, etc.), the levels are as fun as ever. Some stages challenge you to run across the surface of the water as Mini Mario, avoiding enemies and collecting coins while the screen shifts to the right. Some of the ghost levels are like mazes, tricking players into trying all kinds of routes. There are also quite a few levels to go through, about 80 of them.
+ A difficulty level that accommodates all players. Many “core” gamers like to lament trends in gaming that allow all players to hop in –after all, we had to cut our teeth on the original NES games, so they should experience the same difficulty, right? Seasoned players will be able to breeze through the game and amass tons of lives. I collected several hundred lives before I knew it and I rarely ever died. However, I had more fun being challenged to collect hard-to-get Star Coins and to complete the more diabolical special stages. Younger or more inexperienced players who just want to reach the end of the game can still do so, by way of the special Tanuki suit. However, the game keeps track of levels completed in this way, so players can feel like completing the level normally is more of an achievement. As an adult who plays many games, I took this for granted, but inexperienced players may find this as a reason to stick with the game.
+ Coin Rush mode. The Coin Rush mode is simple but addicting. It’s basically a “time attack” mode that challenges the player to find the best possible route that will net the most coins. Each Coin Rush pack is a random selection of three stages (with the exception of the DLC packs, which contain unique Coin Rush levels). This plays well into the game’s Street Pass functionality. It’s fun to challenge other people’s times and see how well you can collect coins; it’s a simple feature that Nintendo should contain to explore.
+ Co-operative Local Play. If you have a friend, playing together is great fun.
+ Lots of levels! The alternate stage paths are actually quite well hidden, which adds extra incentive for repeated play sessions. Not only do stages each have three Star Coins to collect, there are occasionally alternate routes. Some of these routes lead to cannons, which can open up new worlds. Not to mention the fact there are a Mushroom and Flower world to go through, and a Special world.
+/- The music. The tunes are catchy and upbeat, but unremarkable. The main theme has been recycled for years and it’s just gotten stale. It would’ve been nice if more of the stages had unique themes, especially because it would help differentiate this entry from the DS and Nintendo Wii versions. Because the graphics and music are so similar, most gamers will probably mistake them for the same thing.
+/- The Mega and Mini mushrooms make a comeback, but they are used so sparingly that it’s easy to forget about them during the game. They seemed to be included as an afterthought, especially the Mega mushroom. The Mini mushrooms are used in some pretty clever ways (running along the water), but this should have been a sign for Nintendo to implement new ideas for these powers.
– The level themes. The stages are creative and well-designed from a gameplay perspective. They are all fun to play, the controls are tight, and it’s always fun to find secret routes and grab as many coins as possible. However, the stage themes are as generic as ever. Most every Mario game has a fire world, an ice world, and so on. This would’ve been a great opportunity to use new themes for the stages, especially because it would have set this entry apart. This is one of the issues that may give some players a negative impression.
– The game is too easy. While the game does accommodate more inexperienced players in a novel way (using the Silver Tanuki suit), it could have been adjusted still. Take for example, the Super Mario Galaxy series on Nintendo Wii. The Galaxy games have gameplay gimmicks that let more inexperienced players enjoy the game and bypass difficult areas (which is perfectly fine), but it has challenges for tougher players. To clarify, I had 500 lives at the end of NSMB2. 500 lives! There was literally no possibility for me to ever see a Game Over screen. This is both something good and bad; it lets new players play, but it’s not as balanced as the plumber’s other adventures.
– The 3D effect. This is by far the most criticized part of the game. After legitimizing the use of 3D in Super Mario 3D Land, it was expected that Nintendo could apply the same magic again…but that’s not the case here. Most people hate the 3D effect in this game. The backgrounds are normally both colorful and detailed when playing in the standard 2D mode. However, when playing in 3D, everything is fuzzy and out of focus. This was meant to give the game a sense of perspective; the 2D plane that the characters are on is in focus and is thus grabs our attention. The objects in the background are intentionally out of focus. I can understand why Nintendo choose to do this, and I actually didn’t mind playing in 3D, but this is definitely one of the times when the 3D effect can be seen as a detriment to the visuals.
NSMB2 is addictive, classic fun. It’s almost the video game equivalent of junk food; you just keep going for more. It’s easy to pick up and play on the spot, the coin collecting gimmick is fun. It doesn’t match up to the core series, but it’s charming. The score is admittedly generous, but it’s hard to deny the charm of a Mario game, even if it’s a disappointing one.