Product Type: Nintendo Nintendo DS games
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New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
Member Name: plipplop
New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
Advantages: Huge fun, easy and addictive
Disadvantages: If you don't like Mario
New Super Mario Bros for the DS is pretty much Mario at his best. There's nothing revolutionary here; none of that jet-powered water cannon thing we "enjoyed" in Super Mario Sunshine for the Game Cube and none of that ghost-sucking vacuum-cleaner nonsense that kept me hooked to Luigi's Mansion on the same platform. This is a pure and simple "platformer" based around the pure and simple premise that Mario has to save the day. The main point to note is that Super Mario Bros marks our hero's first return to 2D action, following his 3D adventures on the Gamecube and N64 – and it's all rather nostalgic.
The mission / story line is pretty obvious. Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser (yet again) so it's up to Mario to battle his way through eight different worlds, each comprising a number of sub-levels. Each world contains 2 or 3 check points (usually castles) where Mario ends up battling Bowser or Baby Bowser, with one key one at the end of the world which unlocks the next world. In essence, get from start to finish without dying, rescue the princess and live happily ever after.
The range of worlds (and sub-worlds) is as diverse and colourful as ever; with the bold, simplistic graphics working surprisingly well on the small DS screen. Although the unit itself is split-screen, the action only takes place on the upper screen, with a progress map showing on the lower screen. This works well. As each level is timed (within a range of timings from about 200 seconds to 400 seconds) it's very important to track your progress and the simple layout on the lower screen enables this at a glance. As you travel through the worlds you'll cut across fields, hills, haunted forests, icy mountains, marshlands and open stretches of water, with all the childish colour and imagination that you've come to expect from the designer. Difficulty of the levels ranges somewhat but for the seasoned gamer, there is nothing here that will cause any real angst. The trickier levels are probably those where, as well as working against the clock, you have to cope with the fact that the screen is slowly creeping right to left, meaning that if you get held up you simply fall to your virtual death. Disappointingly, the boss levels are generally quite easy, too easy in fact and if you're after a real challenge, you'll probably be a bit disappointed.
As with any Mario game, you can expect the same diverse range of characters, friends and foes, all in their usual surroundings. There are a few rarities (Pete the Piranha plant shows up from Sunshine) but otherwise, the name of the game seems to be Koopa genocide (bless 'em.) The baddies are despatched in a number of methods (including fireballs, jumping on their heads, pushing them off cliffs or kicking them into a volcano) but remember this is strictly playful game play and there is not a jot of unsuitable violent content here. As with previous Super Mario Bros games (and as the name suggests) there are a variety of Mario incarnations here, and you'll need to employ them all at various points in the game to get the best results. Giant Mario seems good at face value, but has a habit of falling down holes, whereas Mini Mario is more difficult to control and often ends up disappearing into the jaws of a bad guy. Anyone familiar with Mario games will have a bit of a head start on how to get the best out of these guises, but a new gamer will pick them up dead easily too. There are all sorts of touches that fans of the original will like, but it all feels fresh and new enough not to feel like a simple rehash.
As you progress, you'll be collecting little gold coins, big gold coins (three on every level), red coins and 1-ups (or added lives for those of you who aren't familiar with gaming slang.) Within levels there are many secret levels, often hiding those elusive big gold coins and in order to access worlds five and seven you'll need to defeat the boss at the end in a particular way. I have to say, I'm not awfully patient at working these things out for myself and there are some cool walkthroughs at www.gamefaqs.com for those of you who might want a little helping hand. To unlock certain levels, you will need to have collected a certain number of big gold coins. These will also enable you to save your progress, but if you are killed, you can carry on from where you got to previously without too much of a hardship. The music and sound effects are far from revolutionary, but hugely comforting for those of you in need of an old gaming friend.
All in, I would describe the main platform game as suitable for all ages (I think the guidance sits at 3+ simply for mastery of the controls and my 4 year old nephew is quite comfortable with it.) In terms of difficulty, there's nothing too stretching here and end to end I completed the whole game in about three weeks (with a bit of game play most evenings.) Once you've completed the whole thing once, you can carry on collecting those coins and things you missed but the only additional challenge comes from the ability to use big gold coins to release different designs of wallpaper. Whoopee. There is lasting appeal here, however, and it's good enough to replay again. (And maybe again).
The beauty of this game, however, is that it's not just the main game to which you will become hopelessly addicted.
There are also a number of mini games, all immediately unlocked and available, unlike other games where they have to be unlocked as you progress. They are, apparently, recycled from the Super Mario 64 DS game but in context there are still enough to please all tastes. My favourites include a race against time to separate ever growing numbers of B-Bombs and a mole-bashing game that makes a funny squeak. The leader board on each game opens up the way for competitive game play. The multiplayer mode holds little appeal for me (rushing around grabbing stars and stomping on each other) but I think young kids would love this. I'm just old and boring.
Generally speaking, I've had more fun with this game than any other game I can remember for a long time (perhaps apart from Donkey Kong Country on the SNES). The childish approach is appealing because it's not excessive and the nostalgia element alone is enough to recommend. For around £25, the package is great value for money and the DS format works incredibly well too. I loves it.
Highly, highly recommended.
Summary: Help me - I'm addicted
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