Sunday, June 11, 2006

Video Games: New Super Mario Brothers

This afternoon while waiting for numbers to change on my computer, I completed New Super Mario Brothers on my Nintendo DS. New Super Mario Brothers (henceforth NSMB) is the first new side-scrolling Mario game in over a decade. I was a huge fan of Super Mario World, the last Mario side-scroller, so I was really looking forward to NSMB. The game definitely lived up to my expectations from a gameplay perspective.

The gameplay in NSMB definitely lives up to the standards set by Super Mario World. The level design is very good with very few exceptions, and they introduced a few new items that add nicely to the gameplay. There are three new items, only two of which are particularly interesting.

The mega-mushroom is my favorite, transforming Mario into a giant, block and enemy smashing Mario. It is fun to smash your way through part of a level destroying everything in your path. I didn't use the mega-mushroom all that much in the later levels, but it was fun when I did.

The other new power-up is the mini-mushroom, basically the opposite of the mega-mushroom. It shrinks Mario down to a miniscule size. This isn't particularly useful in-and-of-itself, but it does let you access secrets that otherwise would be off-limits.

The graphics in NSMB are excellent, especially considering the switch to a 3D Mario character, instead of a normal sprite-based Mario. The sound is also top notch. The game doesn't do a whole lot with the dual screens of the DS, with the touch screen displaying a general idea of your progress through the level and allowing you to access the extra saved item that you are carrying.

My main complaint about the game is that it really short, and it doesn't hide that fact from you. A significant portion of the game (probably 1/3 total) is 'secret' and thus completely optional. There are also a number of gold coins on each level that are difficult to get and not directly required, but allow you to unlock additional places in the game.

If you ran through the game completing just what was strictly required, you could easily beat the game in just a few sittings. Even though I spent a lot of time trying to collect extra gold coins (and dying because of it), and trying to unlock all the levels in each world, it took less then 10 hours to complete the game.

Now granted I have not played through the two 'secret' worlds, but that is a pretty short game by any stretch of the imagination. Compared with Super Mario World, which had 96 levels (with only 10-15 optional secret levels), the ~60 levels in NSMB with ~20 of those being optional secret levels feels really short.

Still the game was a lot of fun while it lasted, and I will definitely be going back and trying to get 100% complete. Also there is a multiplayer mode which is supposed to be quite fun, and I am looking forward to trying as soon as I find a friend with a DS. I enjoyed the game a lot, I just wish it had lasted longer.

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