Sunday, 19 August 2012

Review: New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)

"In [the Mushroom Kingdom], you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women."
- Tony Montana (Scarface, 1983; paraphrased)
New Super Mario Bros. 2 certainly takes a more serious and dramatic turn when it's viewed through the lens of Brian de Palma's ode to drug-fuelled, mid '80s, Cuban gangsters in Miami. It's still a Mario game as it's traditionally known. It's a side-scrolling platformer where goombas are flattened, blocks smashed, turtle shells hurled, and tricky platforms navigated by, what else, jumping. And the coins... so many coins.

Through the regular game or the Coin Rush mode, every time Mario (or Luigi) collects a coin it's added to a cumulative total. Everything seems to thrust the Mario Bros. toward Scrooge McDuck levels of greed. Gold switches activate fountains of coins, a "coin head" power-up dings with coins at every move, enemies can be turned into gold and stomped for coin bonuses, and clusters of coins will spring out of nowhere for a single reason: collection.
Frank Lopez: Lesson number one: Don't underestimate the other guy's greed!
Elvira Hancock: Lesson number two: Don't get high on your own supply.

- Scarface, 1983

Like the first New Super Mario Bros., there's the usual complement of growth and shrinking mushrooms, along with the old stand-bys like the fire flower and raccoon suit, that can also be put into "storage" on the touch screen for later use. You know, when you need a hit, even if you know you could stop any time you want. There's also the inclusion of the white raccoon suit if a player fails enough and frustration sets in; it makes Mario nigh invulnerable but it won't save Mario from bottomless pits.
"You wanna f*** with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend!"
- Tony Montana (Scarface, 1983)
Some of the levels can be pretty tricky to complete, particularly if players want to nab every available Star Coin, but there's never any danger of seeing a "Game Over" screen. At the close of the game, I had more than 50 spare Marios available. That's not a surprise because there are 1-UP mushrooms everywhere and the level of coin collecting that is encouraged virtually guarantees a hefty stockpile of extra men at all times.

Thinking about it a little more, New Super Mario Bros. 2, could really be the occluded reality of Tony Montana as the neurons stop firing in his brain. It's his ultimate fantasy.

He topples Bowser once more to take his place at the top of the ladder of power, the landscape literally explodes with coins, and he has Princess Peach in his arms. Money, power, women. Who knew Mario could be so damn sinister?

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Who doesn't love a great platformer?
- Much more twisted if you bring Scarface into the discussion
- Hardcore players will love collecting the Star Coins to access the "challenge" levels after the first run-through

The Bad:
- Subversive undertones of greed and misogyny
- Never run out of extra lives
- Not much has been changed or tweaked since the original

Score: 9.0 / 10