New Super Mario Bros. DS Review - 04/01/2008

So here we have Super Mario, with his original, awesome game from the NES years translated onto the DS and updated with a new 3Dish world and touch screen antics. But does is really have the guts of the original and if it does, why does it need to be updated?

Mario is a gaming icon; there is nothing that he can do that isn't just plain brilliant, right? Unfortunately that statement is unnervingly true, especially when it comes to rehashes. So the idea in this game, as it was in the original, is to move from world to world fighting the evil that is Bowser. The only thing is that this time it's not Bowser but his son Bowser. Jr. As you can guess there really isn't any story to speak of, there is a small plot, of course Mario wouldn't just chase Bowser across multiple worlds for no reason. So as you see in the opening title Bowser Jr. has taken Princess Peach, and this causes the whole plot of Mario chasing Princess Peach and Bowser Jr. over the eight worlds.

The game takes place over these worlds, giving you about ten levels on each thus about eighty levels in total. The gameplay is split into two distinct sections, the world map and the world levels. The World Map is basically a plan of the world, and to move around this you have to use the directional buttons and from there you can select either a level to play, or you can activate a mini-game (I'll get to them a bit later). To select a level a simple tap of the A button will take Mario onto the mission. Of course there is no save option when you first play the game, and that isn't unlocked until you have completed it. This can make it all a bit unfriendly for portable action as if you are halfway through a world you need to find a mini-game buy point to be able to save it. The saving grace of this is that mini-game buy points are pretty easy to come across and once you have figured out the save system you soon leave them well alone until you need to save, instead of paying out willy-nilly.

Mario games will never get old.

Something that is also new is the use of the touch screen. If you wish to travel back to an earlier level then you can simply tap the world you wish to travel back to and Mario will appear at the hub for the first level.

The mini-games work on the basis to either give Mario all important Power-Ups or give him more lives. There are three types of game to play, and they're split into categories accordingly: Action, Puzzle and Table. The difficulty of the game depends on the type, and it changes the reward that you get for completing them as a result. The downside to the mini-games is that almost all are blocked by a sign, stating how many Star Coins that it costs to buy the game. The Star Coins are scattered around the different world levels with three in each.

The world levels are fairly similar to the original game's but the gameplay in them has been slightly changed to reflect the new system it is on. The levels play out in a simple way, the fundamental concept is that you have to guide Mario through the level to reach a flagpole and small castle at the end. Sounds a cakewalk doesn't it? Wrong, the levels are full of pitfalls, collapsing bridges and as always Mario's enemies: Bowser's minions. Now I bet you're saying to yourself that it sounds just like any Mario game and the gameplay sounds just like the original. "What's the difference, then?" The difference is that the Power-Ups, and how you use them has changed. The Power-Ups have taken on a bunch of new skills, for instance a new Power-Up is a giant mushroom that will turn Mario super sized. Just think of a Big Mac, but a fat, Italian Plummer instead of a beef burger. This Power-Up is temporary but allows Mario to destroy everything on the level by just walking into it, enemies are crushed under his feet and blocks are obliterated as he strolls through them. That may sound brilliant, but as with most good things there is a draw back, which in this case is that Mario will destroy everything. You will not collect coins (except the Star Coins) and you don't get other Power-Ups.

Anyone familiar with Mario games of old will be right at home here.

Another change is that the use of Power-Ups has been altered; the normal way still applies, but after you have Super Mario, complete with fireball spitting power, if you find any more Power-Ups of the same nature (i.e: the strange little flower that gives you fire-power) you can collect it and store it at the bottom of the screen for use later on if you lose your power or if you have to restart a level.

As this is an updated game, as you will suspect the graphics engine has had an overhaul. The change in graphics is slight and very specific but makes a massive difference to the look of the game. The level backdrops and play areas have stayed as they were, happy in their 2D life and probably will never change, the same goes for the normal bad guys Mario comes across: they are stuck to the background like a baby who's got its hands on superglue and slapped them against a wall. But Mario and the main opponents, including the main bosses, are all 3D. This changes the way in which you view the plumber, though it is something that has been going on for ages on other consoles - just because it's Mario it is fresh and new, it's like something you have never seen before.

Once again, as it is an update, the sound has been upgraded and boy does it sound good. Nintendo have kept the Mario trademark humour in the sound more then anywhere else. The game will react if you close the lid of the DS saying in Mario's voice "A-Bye-Bye" and when you open the lid again Mario once again shouts at you "It's me, a-Mario!" small things please small minds, I know, but the first time I heard it, it really made me smile, it's just so simple but amazingly funny and clever at the same time. There is no real dialogue in the game and it doesn't particularly need any, but the rest of the sounds, like Mario's jumps, and as he loses his most powerful forms, are spot on and remind you so much of the original game it's untrue.

Poor Luigi, he's always been second to Mario, but this is just embarrassing...

So what have we learnt here today? Well, Mario unlike his Sega counterpart has lasted the test of time and still comes out on top. New Super Mario Bros. is just pure fun, but fun like you have never tasted before. This has to be one of the best reasons to own a DS there is.

- Alec Hilton