New Super Mario Bros 2 is a guaranteed success for Nintendo, of that there is no question. The DS original has sold over 29 million copies worldwide and the New Super Mario Bros Wii shifted another 25 million, so if you think this third instalment of the game on 3DS is going to be a sales flop then we've got a whole bunch of MySpace shares you might be interested in buying. Before we continue though, here's a disclaimer: this review will contain more negative points than positive ones.
In spite of this shocking revelation, you may have already noticed that the score is pretty high. That's because the main positive - the gameplay - remains so well-tuned, responsive and intuitive that even though it disappoints in other aspects it's still an essential title. We just don't feel it's as accomplished as previous games in the series.
It's worth bearing in mind that a lesser Mario game is still an incredible platformer in the grand scheme of things. The physics, the level design, the enemy animation and just the overall feel of the game are always incredible and it's no different here - everything you loved about the previous New Super Mario Bros gameplay is present and accounted for here, and you're guaranteed fantastic platforming action, hence the high score at the end of this review.
But those final ten percent are so important when noting the difference between a great game and a truly sensational one, and here New Super Mario Bros. 2 falls short.
Plot's New, Pussycat?
The story's a real shocker. Brace yourselves, because this time Peach hasn't been kidnapped by Bowser. Well, okay, she's been kidnapped by the Koopa Kids, who take her back to Bowser anyway, but we thought we'd try to surprise you there. Trust us, surprises will be few and far between otherwise.
The big emphasis this time around is on coins - they pop out all over the shop - but no matter how it's sold to us, the reality is that in the main adventure all they do is serve to make the game easier. There's a coin counter that pushes you to get a grand total of a million coins (something that will take many tens of hours and numerous repeat playthroughs before you'll even come close to it), but as you actually play through the game the only difference you'll notice is the number of extra lives you'll get.
A half-decent player will be swimming in lives by the mid-way point (we had 112 lives by the end of World 3) and while decent players will concede they haven't seen a Game Over screen in a side-scrolling Mario game for some years now, it does seem like it's gone a little too far this time.