Mario is back once again in the third installment of the New Super Mario Bros. series.
Bowser's kids have kidnapped Princess Peach this time and Mario sets out again to get her back.
While rescuing Princesses is fairly standard for a Mario platformer, this title also has another goal: collect one million coins, a challenge that is sure to keep players busy for a long time.
The main game has you going through six distinctive worlds, chasing after the Koopalings that have kidnapped Peach. Each world has alternate routes and levels, some being opened using star coins while others can only be accessed by finding alternate exits on certain levels.
There are also three star coins hidden within each level, and thankfully they are not so easy to find, adding to the longevity of the game. Additionally, there are two extra worlds that can only be accessed through secret exits.
Apart from the main game, there's also a co-op mode, playable with only one game card, and a new mode called Coin Rush.
Coin Rush challenges players to collect as much coins as possible on three randomly selected levels. To make it even more challenging, players are given only one life for the challenge, and each stage starts with the timer at 100. To add more life to the game, Nintendo has announced that additional levels will be made available through its online store as downloadable content.
Since there's a big emphasis on collecting as much coins as possible, all of the new gameplay features are focused on it. Coin blocks, after depleting their stash of coins, can be worn on Mario's head, spewing coins as he runs. A golden flower turns Mario golden, allowing him to shoot golden fireballs that transform bricks into coins. Golden circles turn all enemies golden for a short period, and defeating them results in coins being spread everywhere.
Some old powerups make a return too, such as the Mega and Mini mushrooms, though they're only available in a couple of levels. The Fire Flower and the Leaf, which turns Mario into Raccoon Mario, are the most common powerups, and are found on every level.
Mario controls brilliantly, with no issue to be had whatsoever. Most of Mario's acrobatic maneuvers can be pulled off with ease, such as his wall jump, triple jump and ground pound.
The game is fairly easy compared to the older Mario side-scrollers, with checkpoints halfway through most levels and 1ups all over the place. In fact, extra lives are practically shoved down your throat, with coin collecting, hidden blocks and toad houses just a few ways to get them.
And while some levels will cost you several lives, there is never any fear of a game over. The game even hands you a near invincible suit when a level is failed five times. Even though I avoided using the suit, by the time I cleared world six, I still had 214 extra lives.
Even with its focus on coin collecting, New Super Mario Bros. 2 still feels too similar to previous entries.
The gameplay is as good as it gets and the level design is fantastic, and while it doesn't really evolve the series in any way, it's definitely one to consider if you are in need of a solid platformer.
Score: 8 out of 10