New Super Mario Bros. is a superb platformer that manages to deliver a game that feels both old and new at the same time.
New Super Mario Bros. is one of the best 2D side-scrolling platform games to be released in years. Despite making a lot of references to the old Super Mario Bros game this feels like a completely new adventure. While experienced players may finish it in a few hours, this game is still amazing and a must-have for Nintendo DS owners.
As in most Super Mario games the story is quite simple, Bowser Jr. kidnaps Princess Peach and Mario needs to rescue her. There are eight worlds in the game with a total of eighty levels, along with some secret passages and bonus places. The presence of alternate routes means that you only need to play six of eight worlds. What’s most interesting about the levels is that they are highly replayable as they have many hidden items and there are many secrets for you to find. Furthermore, each of the eighty stages has three Star Coins that Mario can use to purchase access to Toad Houses to gain extra items or lives. These special Coins may also be used to buy more backgrounds and paths on the World Map.
As in Super Mario Bros 3, here you have a variety of levels to play. There is an ice world, a desert world, undersea levels and so on. Fortunately, level design is great and the gameplay is even better. You control Mario in a similar way you did back in the NES era, by using just two buttons, one to jump and the other one to throw fireballs. Alternatively, you can hold down the second button and run faster, you can also climb walls and slide down certain places. These moves come in handy at specific points in the game, so if you want to find all the secret items you’ll probably need to be familiar with them.
There are also a couple of power-ups, each giving Mario a unique ability. The mega mushroom lets you transform into giant Mario, allowing you to run through obstacles and making you invincible for a short while. The mini mushroom makes you really small, letting you reach places you weren’t able before, like tiny pipes. Finally, there’s the Blue Koopa Shell, which allows you to either attack enemies or hide in it avoiding attacks. These power-ups are awesome, but you don’t really find them that often so it’s good to have the always reliable fireball. Additionally, moves from 3D games featuring Mario were also included like the ground pound, wall jump and triple jump.
While some of the levels are not so challenging some others can be quite demanding. It’s really good that most of them tend to be short so they make the game feel really portable. Besides that, you can save the game anywhere on the map. To add even more variety there are a couple of boss fights along the way. For most of them you’ll need to memorize the enemy’s pattern to know exactly where to jump and move, but most of the time you can win by just throwing fireballs. Bowser Jr. will be your opponent most of the times and these fights are usually short and underwhelming as they don’t make a great impact.
Visually the game looks great. It resembles the old Mario games while using some new refreshing graphics and effects. While the game is seen in 2D, some of the characters and objects are 3D polygonal renderings on 2D backgrounds which provide a 2.5D visual effect. Soundwise New Super Mario Bros. includes remixes of old songs from the Mario series and some new ones and the rest of the sound effects are what you’d expect from this kind of game.
Besides the single player part of the game some multiplayer options were included. There’s a two player Mario vs. Luigi mode which lets you play competitively against a friend. In this mode you try to collect more stars than your opponent at the same time you try to hit him in his head or throw fireballs at him. Also, there are multiple minigames than you can play either with a friend or by yourself. These make good use of the touch screen and even though some are really inventive they get tiring after a while.
In conclusion, this game is superb as it manages to combine the old with the new. It doesn’t necessarily reinvent the genre but at least it manages to deliver one of the best 2D platformers in years. This interesting approach makes it an instant classic that everyone with a Nintendo DS should play.