New Super Mario Bros. Review

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Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Princess Peach has been kidnapped. Again. In fact, it must be a very pleasant season in the Mushroom kingdom when Peach isn't kidnapped by Bowser, King of the Koopas, or one of his minions. This time, Princess Peach was enjoying a pleasant walk with Mario when she saw her castle struck by lightning and suddenly aflame. When Mario went to investigate, Peach was snatched by Baby Bowser. Now, Mario has to brave an assortment of traps, pits and hostile creature to rescue Peach. Again.

Kyle Ackerman

Over the last decade, Mario has proven that he and his friends are capable of a lot more than running through side-scrolling levels filled with bottomless pits and breaking blocks for spare change. Mario has partied, joined Kart races, adventured through 3D worlds and even tried more than one role-playing game on for size. But with the New Super Mario Bros., Mario is finally back in the element that made him famous.

The core gameplay is familiar to anyone who's played a Mario-themed platformer since the early days of the SNES. Mario bounds his way through levels replete with platforms, moving elevators, lava, spikes and fanciful enemies. Get all the way through a level, jump onto the flagpole and move to the next challenge. Maps span a creative range of terrains from mountains and volcanoes to green plains, spiced up with deserts, underwater regions and cloud realms.

All of these levels are tied together with a world map that has eight different worlds, each with its own theme. Upholding Mario tradition, every level has a major boss and at least one minor boss, pitting Mario against major evils such as Baby Bowser or a Mole-Powered Tank. For straightforward players who like to rush the goal, the game can be completed by a bull rush along a linear path through six of the eight worlds, but much of the fun of Mario titles is exploring the terrain and uncovering its many secrets.

Not only can Mario break blocks looking for power-ups, buttons or vines leading into the sky, he can uncover power-ups that will make him as large as the screen or nearly microscopic. As Mega Mario, Mario can smash through seemingly invulnerable objects, while Mini Mario can find his way through tiny pipes that would vex a normal-sized plumber. In both cases, Mario can change size to reach previously inaccessible areas. These paths can lead Mario to hidden maps or even entire secret worlds, making it as much fun to explore as it is to pursue Princess Peach.

As usual, Mario collects points and coins, but hidden Star Coins can be spent to remove signs that block paths to new levels and houses. Toad houses are often secure behind such signs and are great places to acquire extra lives or special items, but Star Coin Signs also lead to one of the few problems with the New Super Mario Bros.. Until you've beaten the game once, you can't save just anywhere, and that makes it hard to pause if you are playing this game on the go. You can use the DS sleep function, but that's not enough if you've been playing a long session on the bus or plane and the batteries are low. You can save at castles and when you clear a Star Coin Sign, so after collecting a few Star Coins the problem is a manageable nuisance.

The solid, entertaining platforming action in the main game would be enough for a great game, but the New Super Mario Bros. includes other play modes. If you can find another partner with a DS, there is a Mario Vs. Luigi game in which Mario and his brother race around a course competing to grab Big Stars. There's also an enormous assortment of mini-games. Competitive and single-player games abound in a variety of categories, ranging from action games to simple puzzles. None will hold anyone's attention for long, but most are good for a short diversion. Also, the mini-games take advantage of the DS touch-screen, while the main game could easily be played on the traditional NES controller. Bouncing Marios about with drawn lines is almost as much fun as navigating the various levels of the main game.

All told, the New Super Mario Bros. is many hours of great portable play, and an almost mandatory addition to the collection of any DS owner.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 15, 2006 3:38 PM.

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