Mario made his first appearance in 1981's Donkey Kong arcade game. In the years since, Mario has changed professions (from carpenter to plumber), his name (from Jumpman to Mario), temporarily moved home (from The Mushroom Kingdom to Brooklyn), tried his hand at professional go-karting (Mario Kart), practised medicine (Dr. Mario) and regressed to infanthood in the form of Baby Mario (Yoshi Touch & Go). Now, in New Super Mario Bros., Mario is on strong form. We got our hands on a pre-release copy of the game and a new Nintendo DS Lite (lovingly imported from Japan) to play her by.
At first we're reminded of Super Mario World on the ol' SNES, but a few minutes of gameplay reveals some inspired new additions to the game. A more potent variety of mushroom is now available. This is significantly bigger than the mushrooms Mario's eaten in the past, and it causes him to grow to a ludicrous size. For the purposes of this blog, we will be calling this state of super-size Super Super Mario. When you're in Super Super Mario mode, Mario takes up almost the entire screen on the DS and will smash and grab his way through the landscape. It's a wonder to behold.
It's interesting that Mario has come full-circle to embody the brute force of his arch enemy Donkey Kong. Although you do have to eat one of those rare Giant Mushrooms to achieve the Super Super Mario state, when you've swallowed one, you become this raging gibbon, invincible and hungry for coins, slain enemies, anything. It's incredibly satisfying. Those who might read into this a metaphor for modern American consumer culture should be ridiculed. It's plainly just good, uncomplicated fun.
The second new addition we've spotted are the fast rotating discs that Mario can step onto. These spin Mario around like a helicopter, quickly causing his arms to stretch out like blades under the centrifugal force, eventually providing enough lift to fire him skyward into a massive jump. If you're unlucky you might find, like us, that your jump ends with a rather unceremonious crushing by two large steel blocks pounding against each other. Who were the town planners in the Mushroom Kingdom? It's Milton Keynes all over again. New Super Mario Bros. will be available to buy in the UK on 30 June, and the Nindendo DS Lite is set for release on 23 June. -CS
Update: a full review of New Super Mario Bros. is now live.