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5 Reviews

New Super Mario Bros.

Mario's back to his platform roots and he's every bit as good as he was the first time around - which could be his downfall

It's a 9. There you go, you can stop reading. Just whip out your wallet and buy the bloody thing. Okay, there's a caveat so, because it's you, we'll keep on writing.

You see, as loopy a name as it sounds, there's a very good reason why Nintendo's latest Mario platformer is called New Super Mario Bros. and not Super Mario Bros. 5 (or even 6 depending how pedantic you are about Yoshi's Island). As it turns out, New Super Mario Bros. is exactly what it says on the tin - a fresh re-working of the pure, unadulterated arcade gameplay that made Super Mario Bros. on the NES such a huge smash twenty years ago.

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YOUR ROOTS ARE SHOWING
Although Nintendo's new DS game does have more than its share of nods towards the gameplay innovations introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, by and large, it's just you in a moustache facing off against an endless march of platforms, piranha plants, koopas and goombas - with nothing much more than a jump button, Super Mushroom and Fire Flower at your disposal.

Sure, you've got your special new super-sized and mini-mushrooms, but these are mainly thrown in to add an element of strategy to the NSMB (as we're now going to call it) kleptomaniac challenges. You see, each level has a stash of three coins which you're tasked with collecting (although it's not a prerequisite for finishing the level) and you can use these to unlock different pathways - ultimately leading to new levels and even worlds - as you progress through the platform action. All of this excitement happens on the overworld map, lovingly rendered in 3D, which gives the whole thing that somewhat free-form Super Mario Bros. 3 feel. It's worth mentioning though, that you're path through the game is nowhere near as non-linear as you'll remember it in Super Mario World.

DON'T I KNOW YOU FROM SOMEWHERE?
And that, right there, is the problem with Mario. Part of the reason we haven't even bothered to describe the sorts of things you'll get up to through NSMB is because you'll already know exactly how Mario works, if you've played one of his previous platform adventures. This is pure old-skool platforming fun, just like you remember it from Mario's first outing. Trouble is, Nintendo's stripped away so many of the grand additions - Feather Cape, Racoon Suit, Frog Suit and so on - in it's retro-tastic retread, you might feel a bit short-changed by NSMB's, well, familiarity.

This isn't ground-breaking stuff at all - it's a return to the d-pad/single button mechanics of old, presumably to try and entice all those 'non-gamers' Nintendo's so fond of these days into the 'proper' gaming fold. As such, this isn't the place to look if you're expecting fresh, platforming innovation and, if that's what you're expecting, you may as well hold up your disappointment card now.

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So, why's it got a 9 slapped on the bottom of the review? Well, for all its familiarity, there's no denying that NSMB is an absolute blast of pure, concentrated fun. Those twenty year-old gameplay mechanics are still as sound as they ever were, and it's all solidified by some superb, if traditional, level design. You've got your underwater levels, your lava levels and so on - and rather than fannying around with new-fangled additions just for the sake of it, Nintendo's taken it's tried and true Mario stand-bys and streamlined it all into one heaving mass of tightly-knit gaming joy.

SOD SOLO
That's not all though: shoved in with the Mario game proper, there's also a wealth of surprisingly entertaining multiplayer options too - all thankfully playable via wi-fi single-cart sharing. First up is Mario Vs. Luigi, which sees two players taking charge of one of the brothers then racing around a mini-level grabbing stars. It's a frenzied and unbelievably frantic twist on the traditional Mario platform game and provides a remarkable degree of edge-of-your-seat competition. You can tailor matches to your liking, setting the number of stars you need to grab to win, the number of lives you can lose before the other player wins by default, the number of rounds and so on. Initially, you might feel a twinge of disappointment with the rather slim roster of (five) battle grounds, but you'll quickly realise they're pretty extraneous to your fun.

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