If you’ve been following Mario since the glory days of the NES, most of what you really need to know is in the title. This is the first new Super Mario game since 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine, and the first new 2D Mario game – not counting updates or remakes – since 1992’s Super Mario World. Now all you need to know is whether it’s a Super Mario worthy of the name, in which case I’d suggest you look at the score, race out, buy and play.
The rest of you may need a few more details. Well, essentially this is a similar effort to last year’s Sonic Rush: a classic, going back to the roots 2D platformer with enhanced visuals that take advantage of the DS’s 3D horsepower. Of course, there is one major difference. Sonic Rush always felt a bit like an apology, as if Sonic were saying sorry for Sonic Adventures 1 and 2 and Sonic Heroes, and that he too was glad to be back in 2D, where he belonged. New SMB feels less like the prodigal son returning, for the simple reason that Mario has nothing to apologise for. Mario 64 now seems certain of a place in the Greatest Games of All Time room in the Big Games Hall of Fame, and Super Mario Sunshine, while inferior, was still smashing stuff.
All the same, there is something great about seeing Mario get back to fundamentals. And trust me, they are really fundamental. Just as in the original Super Mario Bros, you start each level with the chubby plumber at one end, the finish flagpole at the other, and a whole lot of platforms, coins and enemies in-between. The controls basically – and quite rightly – ignore the DS touchscreen. You run and you jump, bouncing on the enemies destroys them, and vacated Koopa turtle shells can be kicked at other baddies. Bricks and gold blocks – which may or may not contain coins or special items – can be cheerfully nutted from below, while pressing down when jumping above them unleashes the good old Ground Pound – a heavyweight bottom-first stomp that destroys any blocks sitting below.