Like its Wii predecessor, New Super Mario Bros 2 is a celebration of Mario’s timelessness.
It serves up yet another chance to rescue Princess Peach in a 2D Mushroom Kingdom, and reminds you in seconds just how much fun it is to control the world’s most famous plumber. It’s a familiar and comforting throwback where every encounter with Mario’s enemies feels like meeting up with an old friend.
The sole departure with tradition here is the greater emphasis on collecting coins. Instead of the usual light sprinkling of shiny gold, the Mushroom Kingdom now looks as if Scrooge McDuck’s swimming pool has been emptied over it. To underline this new twist there’s a Coin Rush mode where players must race against the clock to complete levels while filling Mario’s dungarees with gold.
In truth the coin mania is largely a cosmetic change, for even when Mario and Luigi (in the local co-op mode) are being showered with treasure the game’s still about tried-and-tested head-stomping, brick-nutting and flagpole-grabbing.
Yet despite drawing on long and illustrious tradition, New Super Mario Bros 2 never quite hits the high notes. At their best, Mario platform games offer worlds that overflow with imagination and constant surprises. New Super Mario Bros Wii and Super Mario 3D Land are must-plays because of Nintendo’s inventive levels. In contrast, the worlds of New Super Mario Bros 2 feel just a bit, well, pedestrian. They’re entertaining, sure, but also lacking in the flair needed to make all but a small handful truly memorable.
This is a ‘no surprises’ Mario, then. That still means it’s good, but it’s also too predictable and too conservative in its approach to deliver the kind of outstanding experience we’ve come to expect from platform games bearing the Mario name.