Tag Archive: mario


There is no more ubiquitous character in video games than Nintendo’s mascot, Mario. He’s raced go-karts, he’s played baseball and soccer, he’s taught kids how to type, and yes, there’s that whole saving the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser a couple dozen times, too. So, the thought of Mario doing something new once again isn’t really that new at all. When it was revealed that his latest activity would be teaming up with Ubisoft’s anti-mascot the Rabbids in a tactical-RPG, however, I admit that seemed as random as the Rabbids themselves. But as is often the case, Mario can do no wrong, and with the Rabbids wreaking their usual brand of havoc, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle sees each group of characters play well off the strengths of the other to deliver one of the most fun tactical RPGs you’re likely to play.

The game begins in the real world, where a genius girl has invented a device called the SupaMerge. Just by looking at two items through a pair of fancy goggles, she can merge their molecules together into something useful, like looking at a flower and a lamp to produce a plant whose flowers are actual lightbulbs. The device is littered with bugs, though, and after packing it in after another night of troubleshooting, the girl goes to bed. It’s at this moment, riding in their iconic time-traveling washing machine, that the Rabbids randomly appear, and instantly start wreaking havoc in the girl’s workshop. It’s not long before one finds the SupaMerge, merges with it himself, and then can’t stop looking around at everything around him, including various Mario Bros. memorabilia. Soon, the Rabbids and their washing machine are catapulted into the Mushroom Kingdom, where the panicked Rabbid with the goggles (later dubbed Spawny) continues to merge things he shouldn’t—leaving Mario and friends having to team up with several Rabbids dressed in familiar Mario gear to try to restore a semblance of order.

There are two major parts to Mario + Rabbids gameplay: world exploration and battles. Each of the game’s four worlds is broken down into eight chapters, with a ninth if you count the boss at the end of each one. It may not sound like a lot of worlds, but the number actually works out pretty well in terms of providing legitimate length to the game (considering my first playthough pushed the 20-hour mark), and falls in with the Mario theme of eight stages per level. During most chapters, there will be sections of the world ravaged in some way by Spawny’s goggles that will require some puzzle solving in order to progress. Usually these consisted of having to press switches to move massive sections of the world, or place pipes to try to build a way forward, but the puzzles fit well in the vein of the Mario series and offered a nice break from the one to three battles in each chapter.

Battles break down in a way very similar to what you might see in a game series like XCOM, and you can see them coming as the camera shifts from a more cinematic one during exploration to a more tactical-driven isometric cam. Mario and two allies will take the field and be given one of four tasks: escort a fourth, unarmed character to a safe zone; get one of their own teammates to a safe zone; kill all enemies; or kill a certain number of enemies. I could’ve used a little more variety in my mission objectives, but there was enough to keep things from being monotonous at least.

Each character is able to move a certain number of spaces per turn, and can actually tackle enemies during this phase, or jump off of teammates to move farther than normal on the battlefield. However you move, or wherever you land, it’s recommended that you take cover, with shield icons representing how much protection your characters actually have at the moment (since cover can also be destroyed by enemy or friendly fire). You can then activate one offensive attack and one power per character; what’s impressive about this is many powers and attacks will have special effects when they crit, and if you smartly set your team up, you can stack these for some truly chaotic effects.

In one instance, I fired Rabbid Luigi’s Bworb weapon (it’s an energy orb projectile thing) and set an enemy on fire. This enemy then proceeded to run all over the battlefield until his behind cooled off, but while doing so, triggered Mario’s Hero Sight power (basically, Overwatch in XCOM, which allows players to shoot enemies that cross the player’s line of sight, even when it’s not that character’s turn). That attack’s crit caused bounce—which launched the enemy high into the air—and then activated Peach’s Royal Gaze—her version of Hero Sight/Overwatch—and she shotgunned the enemy and froze them. Let’s just say that particular enemy didn’t know what hit them, and was no longer a threat.

Once completed, each battle is given a grade based on how many characters of yours were knocked out and how many turns it took you to beat the battle. Better outcomes in battle leads to greater rewards upon successfully completing each chapter, with the team then being bestowed with coins to purchase new weapons and XP in order to power up some surprisingly deep skill trees of each character.

Speaking of characters, though, one of my few issues with the game is that there are only eight characters total here, you can only choose three at a time, and you don’t even get the last character for your party until only a couple of stages before the game actually comes to an end. You also must always have Mario in your party, and there must always be at least one Rabbid. This was all really limiting on the strategy front because, particularly towards the end of the game, I felt I was being forced to put out a team that wasn’t necessarily my best. It might be a way to create artificial challenge, and I get the hesitation to allow Mario to be put on the bench, but the characters should then really have been better balanced, or should have offered up some greater variety between their abilities.

I think the general lack of powers for each character, no matter how strong your characters might get, was also a bit of a limiting factor. Each character only gets two weapons and two powers, and although they can earn stronger versions of everything as the game progresses, I would really have loved it had each character had more abilities they could learn instead of just powering up what they already had. It would offer more strategic nuance—especially when you’re so limited on how you can create your team—as well as give you something more tangible to work towards, considering you’ll at least have the base version for everything unlocked for each character by world two.

The set-up is clearly there for a classic adventure fitting of both these franchises. The story finds a way to incorporate the humor of the Rabbids, yet still deliver an adventure worthy of Mario. When it came to gameplay, admittedly Mario + Rabbids had to strike a difficult balance. Typically, Mario and Rabbids games are easy to pick up and play for gamers of all ages—tactical RPGs, however, are usually far more involved, and boast an intricate set of rules that only grow more so as the game progresses. Marrying these two concepts would not be easy, and unsurprisingly, Ubisoft erred on the side of accessibility over complexity. This isn’t to say Mario + Rabbids is a pushover if you’re looking for intense strategy sessions. It’s quite the opposite actually, especially in the game’s later stages, and you’ll be tempted at times to turn on the game’s easy mode (which gives your characters a 50% health boost). Still, I felt like the game only scratched the surface of some concepts, not willing to dig too deeply for fear of isolating certain audiences. If anything, my complaints for wanting more from these systems only hammers home the fact that there is a solid core strategy game here, which I would love to see evolve and grow stronger in the future.

It also needs to be said that Mario + Rabbids offers up some fantastic replayability. There are dozens of collectibles to be found, many of which can only be acquired by returning to worlds previously visited after your guide throughout the adventure—the detached user-interface for Spawny’s goggles named Beep-0—powers up after each boss battle. Each world also gains an additional 10 challenge battles when you beat it, and there’s an extra four challenges to be found in the game’s central hub of Peach’s Castle, too. There’s also Amiibo support, but not nearly as much as in many other Nintendo games; only Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi amiibos are necessary here and using them once will net each character an extra weapon and that’s it.

Finally, there’s also a 2-player local co-op campaign separate from the main story to be tackled. Here, players can each choose two characters, and must work together by taking turns to overcome the heightened challenge thrown at them. Careful teamwork is required here, because it’s very easy for each player to try to do their own thing, only to be ambushed by enemies and see your game end in a quick and humiliating defeat.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a game that none of us knew we wanted, but should be happy is here. It again shows that you can stick Mario into any multitude of situations and he’ll deliver a high-quality experience that everyone can enjoy. As a tactical RPG, Mario + Rabbids does leave a little bit to be desired in terms of depth of gameplay, but overall provides a fun experience that will have you racking your brain as you try to overcome the scenarios before you—and belly-laughing at the hijinx Mario’s unlikely new sidekicks, the Rabbids, bring to the Mushroom Kingdom.

Publisher: Ubisoft • Developer: Ubisoft Paris/Milan • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 08.29.17
8.5
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle may not be the deepest tactical RPG, but it delivers a solid all-around experience that takes advantage of the strengths of both Mario and the Rabbids—making for one of the most surprisingly enjoyable game experiences you’re likely to have this year.
The Good An odd team-up on paper turns into one of the better tactical RPG experiences out there.
The Bad I wish that some of the great ideas here had been given a little more depth.
The Ugly The constant fight against the want to turn on easy mode when facing off against some late-game bosses.
Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.
Advertisements

I’m sure like many gamers of my generation, stomping on Goombas and Koopa Troopas with Mario was the first video game experience we had. Over 30 years later, Mario’s moves and looks may have been consistently upgraded, but the simple joy of jumping on an enemy’s head and running for the flagpole goal remains ever satisfying no matter the system. So, with Mario appearing over on a mobile platform for the first time ever in Super Mario Run, I’m sure a lot of us were more than willing to make the leap with him. While the game may have the look and feel of a proper Mario, however, there are enough questionable decisions here to have made this one of my least-favorite trips to the Mushroom Kingdom.

Like the start to almost every Mario adventure, Princess Peach invites Mario over to her castle, and Mario arrives just in time to see Bowser kidnap his beloved. Again. This time, Bowser also proceeds to lay waste to the entire Mushroom Kingdom, reducing it to rubble and scattering the Toad population to the winds before he escapes to his fortress.

The bulk of Super Mario Run is comprised of 24 stages across six worlds in the game’s Tour mode. The first three stages are free to everyone who downloads the game, which I appreciate because it gives you a pretty solid taste of the game before you decide if it’s something you want to drop $9.99 for—a steep price to pay when talking about mobile games usually.

As the name would suggest, the game is an endless runner—Mario never stops moving normally, and all you have to do as the player is tap the screen to make him jump. There are special blocks carefully placed in the game that will pause everything, but if Mario misses them, he just keeps running and jumping at your command. The only other time he’s not sprinting to the right is in certain Ghost Houses and Boom Boom battles, where a wall jump will start Mario heading in the other direction.

MariovsBowser1160

Despite Mario’s legs always churning like a locomotive, a lot of the classic platforming challenge we’ve come to love from the series remains, and never being able to stop actually adds a new layer of difficulty to the gameplay. Of course—as Super Mario Run has more of a casual flair—there are no lives to lose or no real consequences for failure (unlike Mario’s console outings). Still, there is challenge here, since you need to beat a stage in order to advance. Timing your jumps on or over enemies becomes critical as moving platforms and other obstacles are added to each subsequent stage. And, in order to collect the three sets of five special coins (pink, purple, and black) that are scattered in each stage, you’ll need to use every trick the game gives you to grab them successfully. Since only one set of coins appears at a time, if you’re obsessed with collectibles, you know you’ll have to play through each stage at least three times to nab them all.

If collectibles aren’t your thing, then one downside to the full game of Super Mario Run is that even with the challenge steadily ramping up, it shouldn’t take you more than two or three hours to knock out all 24 stages. Drabbing all those aforementioned collectible coins does change the stages slightly (platforms and enemies move to make the new coins challenging to reach), but if you’re not a collectible fiend, you’re likely to end up disappointed at those coins being the driving force behind the main game’s replayability.

There are two other modes that do try to keep you coming back outside of the Tour mode, with the first being Toad Rally. In order to try to lure the scattered Toads back to the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario can spend a Toad Ticket—easily earned via a daily bonus and completing stages—to take on the ghost of another player in a particular stage. If Mario can outperform the ghost by collecting more coins, defeating more enemies, and just generally progressing farther than the ghost in the time given, then Mario will lure Toads back with his impressive feats and bolster the population of the player’s particular Mushroom Kingdom. If Mario loses, some Toads may leave your Kingdom, so there is a risk involved—but luring back more than you’ve lost helps level up your game, potentially leading to expansion.

Why would you want to expand it, you ask? Well, Mario can also spend collected coins to help rebuild the Mushroom Kingdom in Build mode, where you’ll use Toad Houses, statues, hills, flower fields, and other items to help bring the Kingdom back to its former glory. Build enough structures, and have enough Toads, and you can expand the Mushroom Kingdom via Rainbow Bridges. You can also unlock new characters this way, such as Luigi or Yoshi, and each handles a bit differently than Mario in the main game. If world building is something that appeals to you, Toad Rally and Build mode work together to offer an interesting alternative to just replaying all the levels again and again.

MarioRunMushroomKingdom1160

Personally, though, I didn’t find this to be enough to make me want to keep coming back to Super Mario Run. World building really isn’t what draws me into a Mario game. I admit I could see myself grinding for all the collectible coins to get more playtime out of each stage, but Super Mario Run has some technical shortcomings that really came to be fatal flaws which would keep me from doing this.

The first is something that I’ve been noticing with more and more mobile games lately, and that’s the fact that they have trouble performing on older mobile devices. I originally started playing the game on my iPad 2, and the game would lag terribly and crash after every few stages. I talked with some friends who had also tried it on older gear, and they had the same issues. When I switched to my iPhone 6, however, everything changed for the better. The lag and crashing issues dissipated, but let this serve as a warning to anyone without a more recent phone or tablet to play on.

The other technical issue is absolutely unforgivable in my book, and really soured my opinion of this game: the fact that it requires you to always be online. I think Nintendo has gotten a lot of their priorities confused lately; Super Mario Maker for the 3DS doesn’t let you go online to share stages you’ve created, and then you’ve got Super Mario Run, a mobile game, requiring you to always be online. I even put my phone in airplane mode to double check, and sure enough, you can’t even get past the title screen if you’re offline—an error message just keeps popping up, even if you paid for the entire game and not just the three demo stages.

I understand that you need the online aspects for the Toad Rally mode and the ghosts present there, but the fact you can’t play the main game offline is puzzling at the very least. With the holidays coming up, I thought Super Mario Run was going to be releasing at the perfect time considering all the long plane flights and car trips I’ve got coming up, and I’m sure I’m not the only one traveling over the next couple of weeks. The fact that I can’t play the game in a car, subway, or bus if I’m using a device without cell service, or on a plane at all—places where people are most apt to want to play mobile games—feels like Nintendo shooting Mario in his foot. This is one of the worst examples I can find of always-online gameplay, and it really hampers Super Mario Run and the potential enjoyment of it tremendously.

MarioRunPauseBlock1160

Super Mario Run has a solid core as a mobile game. The endless runner style is nothing we haven’t seen before, but adding Mario’s classic platforming challenge created an extra degree of difficulty we don’t always get with the genre. Unfortunately, this was the brightest spot for this game. Even with all 24 stages, the main game is short, and relies heavily on collectibles and side options like rebuilding the Mushroom Kingdom to keep you coming back for more. Couple this with the fact that it needs to always be online to even be playable, and I think Nintendo really misses the point of what mobile games are supposed to be. Super Mario Run isn’t the worst mobile offering I’ve seen, but it could—and should—have been so much better.

Publisher: Nintendo • Developer: Nintendo EPD/DeNA • ESRB: N/A • Release Date: 12.15.16
6.0
Super Mario Run does a nice job of capturing the feel of a classic Mario game. The fact that it needs to always be online in order to play deters me from grinding through its collectible driven-gameplay, however, since it limits when and where I can actually play the game—defeating one of the primary purposes of playing a mobile game in the first place.
The Good Challenging platforming that will instantly remind you of other Mario games from over the years.
The Bad The always-online aspect is infuriating how much it can hinder when and where you play.
The Ugly All the times I wanted to say, “that’s what she said” whenever someone mentioned you can play with it with just one hand.
Super Mario Run is available on iOS platforms and coming later to Android. Primary version reviewed was for iPhone 6. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Trouble with Koopalings

There’s been a lot of talk lately in the game industry about sequels and what we expect from them. How much they need to change or raise the bar to keep people coming back for more. How they need to break the mold so it doesn’t seem like each game is just cut from the same cloth over and over again. One franchise, however, never felt it needed to do that. It just kept churning out sequel after sequel and rarely changed a thing. A few new powers here, a couple new worlds there, but since the very beginning, everyone’s favorite plumber, Mario, has really never changed. And somehow, he’s still as fun as ever.

To put it simply, as Mario approaches his third decade of relevance, his games continue to define platforming perfection, and New Super Mario Bros. U is the new pinnacle of his long and storied run.

Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach for the 143,658,903,279th time, and it is up to Mario to once again stomp on the seven Koopalings, Bowser Jr., Kamek, and Bowser himself across eight themed worlds in order to get her back and save the day. Moreso than any previous Mario game, New Super Mario Bros. U is the perfect love letter to the era I consider the franchise’s heyday—Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World.

Wily old Mario veterans will immediately recognize the overworld map, which has shades of Super Mario World written all over it. Then there’s the item system, where you have a stockpile that you can reach into and arm Mario with before each stage, was a Super Mario Bros. 3 invention. It’s a departure from the more recent outings, where you could only have one item in storage but were able to use it mid-stage—presumably because that approach made the past few games a little too easy. Mario wants you to hone those jumping skills again!

And it’s not just the item system that will make you want to brush up on your platforming skills, as every Mario baddie worth his salt returns to get in our mustachioed plumber’s way and make things even more perilous. The level designs are also a bit more abstract this time around, so if you think you’re going to just stockpile dozens upon dozens of lives like in the past few games, you might want to think again.

One returning element that helps counteract all these changes, however, is the our good friend Yoshi. You’re still unable to bring him with you from one stage to the next, but he’s a huge help on the levels you can use him, as they seem specifically designed for Yoshi’s unique attributes, including his new power where if eats enough fruit, he will actually…uhhhh…produce power-ups.

We also see the return of Baby Yoshis in blue, magenta, and yellow varieties, each of which provides a special ability for Mario as he carries them through a level. Yellow lights up dark caverns, Blue shoots bubbles that trap enemies and turn them into coins, and  Magenta can inflate like a balloon and carry Mario for short distances. Although they never grow into full-sized Yoshis, these babies can also eat anything that gets in your way, making it worthwhile to lug them through as many stages as possible.

Aside from a lot of features from the past returning, there are also a few new additions that might make you “oooh” and “aaah.” The most obvious is the much ballyhooed (and somewhat belated) transition to full HD graphics. Simply put, no Mario game has ever looked this good. Some of the world backgrounds are so vibrant that they look as though they’ve been painted onto your TV. They’re so gorgeous, you almost want to take a pictures and put them all in some sort of incredibly dorky museum.

We also get a new power-up in the form of the Flying Squirrel Acorn, which joins old favorites like the Fire and Ice Flowers, Invincibility Stars, and the Super and Mini Mushrooms. It certainly isn’t my favorite power-up of all-time, since you can’t really fly with it like you could the Tanooki Suit or Raccoon Leaf. Instead, you just glide gently across the stage, which isn’t nearly as useful. Still, the Acorn did help inspire a new enemy to add to Bowser’s hordes, and there’s also a much more useful P-Acorn variant (like the P-Wing from Mario 3), where Mario can infinitely glide if you perform a spin jump at the right time. I  also would’ve loved to have seen the Penguin and Frog Suits return, but with a limited item storage system, I can see why the lineup has been cut back some.

There aren’t just changes to the single player game, though, as New Super Mario Bros. U also features three multiplayer modes. Yes, you and four friends (one person can now use the Wii-U remote’s touch screen to place helpful Boost Blocks to help their friends cross especially hard gaps) can still move your way through the single player stages together and cause craziness as you “accidentally” push each other into bottomless pits.

Specific to multiplayer though is a revamped Coin Battle mode, where you and your friends compete to gather the most coins as you work your way through a level. There’s also a coin editor system, so you can design your own stages for the mode. Another multiplayer mode is Challenge Mode that offers unique obstacles for you and your friends to overcome, like seeing who can earn the most lives or get the fastest time in one run. Rounding out the multiplayer is Boost Rush, where you try to traverse scrolling stages that scroll faster and faster as you progress.

All things considered, even though Mario hasn’t really changed that much after all these years, he finds a way to keep himself just fresh enough while still maintaining the high gameplay standard that keeps us all coming back for more again and again. New Super Mario Bros. U doesn’t disappoint and is a must have launch title for anyone picking up the Wii U.

SUMMARY: A love-letter to the days of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U’s multiplayer modes, insane platforming, and beautiful HD graphics offer more than enough to provide hours of fun for gamers of all stripes.

  • THE GOOD: Same classic formula with a fresh coat of paint and puzzles.
  • THE BAD: Tanooki Suit > Raccoon Leaf > Flying Squirrel Acorn.
  • THE UGLY: The unbearable pain Yoshi must feel when he craps Fire Flowers.

SCORE: 9.0

New Super Mario Bros. U is a Wii U exclusive. 

Flimsy Paper

The Paper Mario franchise is that rare video game spin-off that succeeded and then stuck around. Part of this is because it presented a unique way for us to look at one of gaming’s most cherished protagonists. Playing on the physics of Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, and the rest of your expected Mario cast of characters being cardboard cut-outs of themselves added different and entertaining game play that has allowed this to flourish. But could this series’ first portable title stand strong and continue the franchise’s trend of great RPG games, or would it be lost in the wind?

Paper Mario: Sticker Star starts off like most every other Mario adventure. The Mushroom Kingdom is throwing a party, this time to celebrate the annual “Sticker Fest” where the magical “Sticker Comet” will come and grant the wishes of everyone who truly believes in its power. Bowser hears about this, crashes the party, and runs right into the Sticker Comet, shattering it into six separate pieces that enhance the abilities of all those who come into contact with them. It’s then up to Mario to once again set off and put the comet back together, all the while fighting Bowser’s army of classic baddies, from the Boomerang Bros. to Spikes.

The great thing about Sticker Star is right off the bat you can tell it maintains all the charm and personality of those that came before it. From the physical humor that plays off the 2D nature of the characters to the music and bright colors of the Mushroom Kingdom, Sticker Star doesn’t lag behind its console predecessors in any way. It really feels like a Paper Mario game. In fact, the 3D-effect only enhances the visuals further, as more depth-of-field tricks can be performed with hidden passageways or items.

These hidden passageways don’t just lead to coin filled treasure rooms, however. In reference to some classic Super Mario Bros. titles, the overworld map is broken into stages and worlds based on themes (desert, forest, water, etc.). Many of these stages, reminding me of Super Mario World, have multiple exits that will open up alternate paths to Mario’s end goal of one of the Sticker Comet fragments. This leads to Paper Mario: Sticker Star having the largest and most sprawling world the series has seen thus far.

There are some flaws with Paper Mario: Sticker Star, though, and the most glaring resides with the new combat system. Scrapping a more traditional, XP-driven system, Sticker Star relies on the item the game is named after: stickers. You must go around the world and collect as many stickers as possible in order to fill up your sticker book. Then when you enter combat, you must spend these stickers, which only have one use each, to perform vintage Mario maneuvers like jumping and swinging a hammer.

Instead of feeling innovative or entertaining, this mechanic instead made me feel like I was in my very own episode of A&E’s Hoarders, as I’d fill my sticker book to the brim and then refuse to ever use them. In fact, since there are no rewards for defeating enemies, I actually started to avoid combat altogether for fear of running out of stickers once the really difficult, scripted battles rolled around. Even the extremely powerful real-world sticker items made me fear combat, as they also took up more space in my sticker book. I ended up becoming so obsessed with organizing and maintaining my inventory of stickers that by the time I reached the first major boss, I had stopped having fun with Sticker Star.

Another irritating aspect of Sticker Star is the constant need to backtrack. Now, I understand this is a common mechanic in many RPGs, but I don’t understand how designers would think having to retreat to your central base (in this case a small town in the Mushroom Kingdom called Decalsburg) all the time or having to re-visit stages you’ve beaten several times over is fun. And Sticker Star is by far one of the worst culprits of this we’ve seen in some time, as you often have to retread the same ground literally dozens of times.

If you can overcome these two major hurdles, there’s a solid concept for a Paper Mario game buried at the core of Sticker Star. Unfortunately, the new sticker-driven combat forcibly removes a lot of the fun from what would otherwise be a stellar portable title, and since so much of the game is progressed through the combat, the experience suffers tremendously as a whole, making this a recommendation for only the most diehard of Paper Mario fans.

SUMMARY:  The plot and adventure are both more than worthy of the Paper Mario name, and the game is set in a massive, beautifully designed world for gamers to explore. Still, these aspects can’t hide the fact that the sticker fighting system is flawed and removes a lot of the fun from the RPG combat.

  • THE GOOD: Massive new world, branching paths, and references to many previous Mario games.
  • THE BAD: New combat system is nowhere near as effective as what we’ve become accustomed to from previous games in the series.
  • THE UGLY: I still miss Mallow and Geno from Super Mario RPG.

SCORE: 6.5

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive. 

Mario loves da gold! Wa-hoooo!

Ever since Mario had to traverse eight definitely different worlds, donned his first set of raccoon ears to fly, and bashed Bowser’s seven nasty Koopalings, the formula to making a great side-scrolling Mario game hasn’t changed much over the years. New items have been introduced, and Bowser Jr. sometimes takes the place of Larry, Morton Jr., Wendy O., Iggy, Lemmy, Roy, and Ludwig, but for the most part, things have stayed relatively the same.

And this formula’s maintained once again with New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS. The Koopalings, who have a bit more of a grown-up design—they’re technically of legal drinking age now, after all—and their dad, Bowser, have kidnapped Princess Peach for the billionth time. So, it’s once again up to Mario and Luigi to storm through the Mushroom Kingdom and leave kicked turtles shells and flattened Goombas in their wake, whether alone, or by linking up for some brotherly co-op action.

The twist this time is that the Mushroom Kingdom has apparently gone through some sort of economic boom, because coins are everywhere. New Golden Fire Flowers turn blocks into coins or cause enemies to yield coins when defeated. Golden turtle shells leave a path of coins in their wake for Mario and Luigi to collect. The brothers can even carry around golden blocks that drop more coins as they jump, run, and fly through eight more worlds based in familiar Mushroom Kingdom locales. Along with these new items are the returning regular Fire Flower, Super Mushroom, Invincibility Star, and Raccoon Leaf. With the Raccoon Leaf, we also see the P-Meter return—which, when full, allows Mario and Luigi to temporarily fly through the skies of a given stage.

Aside from the new items, New Super Mario Bros. 2 does offer something that’s been critical to all Mario games, side-scrolling or 3D: tight controls and intricate puzzles that can be solved using Mario’s bevy of jumps and other abilities like the butt-stomp. This platforming perfection is what makes Mario games so fun, and in that regard, New Super Mario Bros. 2 definitely succeeds with its own share of secrets, collectibles, and branching pathways that can be unlocked depending on how you should advance through the game. The more time you put into practicing your jumps, the more you should get out of this Mario adventure.

It’s also nice to see the Koopalings gimmick taking a necessary step forward to provide us wily old Mario veterans a little bit of a challenge this time around. Not only do the Koopalings have their trademark magic wands that allow them to blast fireballs at Mario, but each one also has a lair uniquely designed to their strengths, requiring Mario to overcome extra obstacles he’s never seen before from Bowser’s seven brats. This adds a tinge of excitement to reaching the end of each level; you never knew what to expect next, as the lairs are definitely brand-new experiences.

And speaking of new, the newest game mode, Coin Rush, is probably what will help keep New Super Mario Bros. 2 fresh in people’s minds more than anything, as it provides an arcade-like replayability we haven’t seen in a Mario game in decades. Traversing through three random stages with one life and trying to set a coin high score to share with your friends via StreetPass not only keeps in line with the theme of the game—which promotes you to try to collect 1 million lifetime coins—but also gives you a chance to readily compare scores with your friends like you’d see with online leaderboards.

All in all, not much has changed since the last New Super Mario Bros., but not much really needed to change in the first place. The controls are still as tight as ever, the look and sound drips classic Mario, the platforming puzzles are expertly designed, and even the Koopalings have seen a bit of a facelift. The new Coin Rush mode adds some needed replayability, and the StreetPass leaderboards can become addictive if you’re into that arcade style of play.

The only thing you might not enjoy is the fact that the Princess still hasn’t figured out how to keep out of Bowser’s clutches, but then again, it wouldn’t quite be a Mario game if she did. New Super Mario Bros. 2 succeeds in finding a way to stay entertaining using a formula first used 25-plus years ago, and fans old and new shouldn’t wait to jump into the world’s most famous plumber’s latest adventure.

SUMMARY: Though we’ve seen this formula before, New Super Mario Bros. 2 finds a way to keep itself just fresh enough while still hitting platfroming perfection.

  • THE GOOD: Still the tightest platforming out there.
  • THE BAD: We’ve seen this formula before.
  • THE UGLY: The Mushroom Kingdom’s imminent economic collapse.

SCORE: 9.0

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a 3DS exclusive.

Originally Published: December 11, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, along with Derek Buck and Kevin Lind, we discussed just what is the greatest Super Mario Bros. game of all time.

Originally Published: December 11, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, along with Derek Buck and Kevin Lind, we discussed just what is the greatest Super Mario Bros. game of all time.

Originally Published: November 17, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, Derek and I took an “in-depth” look at Super Mario Bros. Chess.

Originally Published: November 17, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, Derek and I took an “in-depth” look at Super Mario Bros. Chess.

Originally Published: June 22, 2010, on Lundberg.me, NationalLampoon.com, and SportsRev.TV

This week I give my winners and losers of E3 and review Super Mario Galaxy 2 for Nintendo Wii and Mega Man Zero Collection for Nintendo DS. My hot chick pick of the week is Lindsey Strutt.