It's Mario time again, and it's a race for gold. There's a missing princess and a nasty family of oversized turtles behind her disappearance, but that plot is secondary to the famous plumber's quest to amass his own fortune. After almost 30 years of losing and finding his lady, perhaps the old fellow is weighing up the benefits of a retirement fund?
Maybe it's because we're living in a time of penny-pinching that chasing endless trails of gold seems like such fun. Bash the bricks, out comes the gold. Wear a golden brick helmet, dash about like a madman, and out comes more gold. Leap through a portal and watch as all Mario's enemies turn into gold and, once defeated, drop even more gold.
The aim is to collect one million gold coins, and it's something of a refreshment to have a platformer that's as much about the point-scoring as it is about the secret paths and hidden worlds. Remember when this was always the way? The marriage deliberately brings to mind the original Super Mario Bros, and Super Mario 3 - arguably the two greatest side-scrolling platformers ever.
From each of these games come two classic Mario superpowers: the fire flower and the raccoon suit, allowing our hero to throw fiery death or to ascend into the heavens and access secret areas.
In addition, there are power-ups granting Mario immense - or minuscule - size, and the invincibility leaf granted to players who can't keep away from the cold, icy embrace of death.
Visually, this game is hit and miss. All the gold is very nice, and the classic graphics look all the fresher for it. The simulated 3D is a dud, and players are best advised to leave it off so the rich detail in each level's background can be appreciated.
The music is a blend of effects and tune elements from decades of Mario gaming, and one thing to watch for is the enemies' tendency to stop in their tracks and boogie at certain points in a level's soundtrack. It's an endearing touch, and also one of the few bones the game will throw you. The level design is classic Mario, but there lurks beneath a spirit that is more cruel than in past titles; even the nastier levels in the latter part of the Mario 3 adventure are more forgiving than some of the new challenges.
That said, New Super Mario Bros 2 is charming enough to keep you from throwing your 3DS at the wall. It is a worthy, and rewarding addition to the portable Nintendo library.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS