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NEW SUPER MARIO BROS BIT

03 June 2006

I've finished New Super Mario Bros, which was to be expected. You literally breeze through it, but since there are plenty of little secrets and hidden levels to uncover the game is not over yet. In fact, the fun is just starting.

There are a couple of things that I'd like to point out about this game. First of all is the save-system. Up until now, I just didn't know why it was as it was. You can't save after you've finished a level, but have to wait until you've finished a castle-level or opened up a secret passageway on the world map using star coins you collect while playing. To me, this was a choice of design opposed to the very principles of a handheld: you want to play a single level for a few minutes while you're in a train and then quit. But because you can't save when you want to, you'll have to either lose your progress or put the DS in stand-by mode. It's not detrimental, but I dislike doing that.

However, I understood why they made it like this after I beat the game and the save-system opened up to allow me to save whenever I wanted. As a reward, you could say. The reasons are quite clear now, though I still didn't like it when I played through it.

On the overall the game is relatively easy. Especially if you're versed in the Mario-games you won't have any problems with it. There are a few tricky levels, but 1ups are plentiful and easily harvested should you get into a tight spot. So all the planets seem positioned to just give you a fun romp through dozens of beautiful levels. I'm also pleased to report that the conversion to 3D has done nothing to take away the charm of the series, so it looks charismatic as ever.

Because the game is so old-school and so purposely nostalgic, it never quite manages to surprise however. Levels are often inventive and fun, but you're never left with a feeling of absolute amazement, a few latter-game bosses and dungeons excepted. It also felt like some grandeur of the 2D console Mario's was lost in the translation to a handheld; as if the levels sometimes lacked the impressive size and non-linearity of the originals on which it was inspired. But that is as much due to the game as it is to the jadedness of the gamer who has already played through the various classics.

All in all, it's a well-crafted, fun game with a lot of charm. Being an old-school Mario brings the vice that it's never really exciting in its originality and the things it does, but also the virtue that it's an instantly loveable game with splendid touches like enemies that dance to the soundtrack of a level.

Oh and, by the way, today is the ceremony where the Clickies are awarded on the biggest comic convention in the Netherlands. So by Wednesday you'll have a report on how that went, whether I won or not and how many books I sold!

Roderick.