New Super Mario Bros 2


New Super Mario Bros 2

We all know him. The ubiquitous Italian plumber, sporting a bright red hat, bushy moustache and a bushy beard, has dominated gaming for more than three decades. His shadow has spanned many consoles and nearly every genre, including platformers, role-playing, kart-racing, and sports. He has appeared in more than 200 games since 1981, and six in 2012. He is a symbol of many generations' childhoods.

When we think about Mario, we don't think of Mario as the kart racer or Mario as the planet-navigator or Mario our brawler or Mario the educational time traveller. Mario is the little pudgy man who runs from left to right on a monitor. Mario is the one who stomps goombas, collects coins, bounces on the heads end-level bosses and tracks the Princess from castles to castles because she's not here.

This is the Mario everyone knows and loves since 1985. This is the Mario that's ingrained in our collective consciousness. This is the Mario that Bob Hoskins made for his terrible film. Super Mario Bros. is more than just the game that popularized the side-scrolling platformer's formula - it is the actual formula.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is Nintendo's latest spin on the franchise wheel. The level design is clear and allows for 3D to be easily divided, although it can sometimes blur the background to create depth. The varied palette of colours and charming, sometimes goofy production design ensure that this latest installment continues the proud tradition of celebrating the joy inherent in Mario as both a character and a figurehead in platform gaming.

The game's easy difficulty curve and control scheme make it accessible. However, more dedicated Mario fans will find additional incentives that take advantage of Mario's unique sensitivity and the expected challenges he faces on the obstacles courses.

Despite this, there are not many new features. Coin Rush is the only notable addition. It's a 300-second, one-life-long, 300-second challenge that takes you through three levels to collect as many coins as you can. This new feature is not enough to make New Super Mario Bros. 2 stand out from other titles, but the game's philosophy does depart from the previous games.

This change is evident in the coin counter. The counter's seven digits, located in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, are the first sign that Mario doesn't want to save Princess Peach's career. Other clues include the gold, Minecraft-esque box-mask power-up that spills coins when Mario runs; the boxes that tick through 5, 10, 50, and 70 coins depending upon the time he headbutts them; the rings that turn enemies to gold; the existence Coin Rush.

The game's focus is not on the story, the fun of the colourful world or the dexterous challenge of climbing through difficult obstacle courses. It's about plotting a course for getting the most coins and the best coins to reach the ultimate goal of a million coins. It's about revisiting the worlds and going to great lengths to find that sweet, sweet gold. Mario has only 12000 coins after beating the story. The seven-digit coin counter's silence suggests that it's not enough. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is excessive consumption, obsessive compulsive behavior, and quantifiable perfectionionism.

It's not revolutionary, but it's a welcome change in this age of achievement-hunting. It's a refreshing change of pace for a series that has been happy to challenge the player in new ways. The game isn't affected by the change - it's the same format under Mario's newfound lust after currency - but it doesn't get significantly better for the change. It just feels different.

There is a conscious recognition of the importance coins have in the larger scheme of things. This is not only for the hardcore players who are striving to be part of the million-coin fellowship. Even casual players will try to get the one large coin, get the one batch of coins they missed, or find the secret room with the 'P' button that opens up a bunch of blue coins. Players expose Mario to new dangers, new ways of dying, and new ways of playing. It's a new language that Mario uses to play Super Mario Bros.

The addictive joy of coin-chasing is reminiscent of Mario's past joys. It's the same as a level in Super Mario Bros. 3 and working up to Bowser from the first Super Mario Bros. but it fits so well into modern convention that it is at least timely.

However, just because it is current doesn't mean that it is timeless. New Super Mario Bros. 2 retains all the great elements of the series - all the colours, all the chirpy songs, all the split-second jumps, all the inconvenient Koopa Shells, and hidden sections that can only be accessed by pipes.

While it remains faithfully anchored to its classic framework, it manipulates the way the audience views what has always been the most arbitrary element of the Super Mario Bros. games, making them more challenging than ever before. There are new dangers and reasons to repeat worlds. This has prompted a sea change in how we think about Mario. It is both entertaining and fascinating.