NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. / Nintendo / Nintendo DS
New Super Mario Bros. doesn't have the same "wow" factor that the best of the old Mario platformers had when they came out - sorry, kids, but if you weren't there for those, there's just no way to replicate it. Nonetheless, this is a great game, packed full of great levels with that classic Mario feel to them, and I would go so far as to say this is a must-have title if you own a DS.
Amazingly, this is the first 2D Mario platformer to be released in almost fifteen years - the last was Mario Land 2 for the monochromatic Game Boy, after which that series was co-opted by Wario (who is a-gonna win). All manner of go-kart games, sports and 3D escapades in the time since then, but none of the side-scrolling action that the whole Mario dynasty was based on. Interesting, huh?
It doesn't mess with the formula too much. Bowser, in tandem with Bowser Jr. (I'd love to know who the mom is ... Kammy Koopa?), kidnaps the Princess, and Mario goes through 8 worlds to rescue her. Each world is broken up into sub-levels, connected by an overhead map in the style of Mario 3 and Mario World (more like Mario 3, however, as there is stuff that moves around on the map as you enter and exit levels, and Toad Houses with mini-games you can play for bonus items and extra lives). Of course, some worlds have hidden exits, and thus branching paths. There are also three hidden Star Coins to find in each level, which you spend unlocking gates that lead to optional levels and such.
The gameplay is rock-solid, and the level design is on par with what you would expect from a top-shelf Mario game. Strangely, flight is no longer emphasized here, after being such a key part of Mario 3 and Mario World - no Tanooki Suits or Capes this time out, but honestly, I don't think the game suffers much from it. This game's big new twist are "Big and Small Mushrooms" - a mushroom that turns Mario into a rampaging invincible giant, smashing through the levels at will, and one that turns you super-tiny, needed to squeak into some small cracks in certain areas.
Not much else I can say, man - if you like Mario platformers, I'm certain you'll like this. Enjoyable and nostalgic, even if not really innovative.
* Gameplay Video
* Mega 64