Well, as I’d hoped I got New Super Mario Bros today from my wife, and a bit of a cracker it is too. It really does capture the core essence of the enduring all-time classic 2D platformer (in my opinion) Super Mario World, but brings it up to date technically and adds a whole bunch of twists that have been introduced in more recent 3D Mario incarnations, like wall-jumping and butt-stomping.
It’s all really good fun, the physicality of both Mario and the environment is solid as it ever was, and everything just feels right. You never blame the game for failure, only yourself, and whilst the early levels are not that hard, the impetus to play and re-play them to locate all the secrets is extremely compelling, just like it was in SMW.
The graphics are bright and vibrant, and although in still screenshots the characters seem to have slightly less definition than you would expect (since they’re 3D rather than hand-crafted sprites), in motion they look great. The 3D effects that are used for the environs are subtle and fit in to the gameplay really well (like deforming the landscape in response to a switch, the subtle zoom out when performing really large jumps from catapults) - they really could have gone to town and used lots of pointless visual trickery but it’s all well considered, so far at least.
Overall, it’s a joy to play, and all kudos to Nintendo and as always Miyamoto for seeming to always know what works and what doesn’t. Whilst many games these days try to get by on the momentum of their superficial charms - super-wow graphics and sound (and now, increasingly, physics), or the shock / thrill factor of the recent spate of crime/war-related games, but people like Miyamoto are among a rather small collection of designers who realise that all these things are short-lived, and it’s how you put it all together that really matters. For games like this it’s all about the feel, for some others it’s all about the story / dialogue - two areas which tend to be woefully overlooked these days. It’s kind of like a piece of good cooking - you might have the best damn sauce in the world, but if the meat underneath is old and tough it’s still going to be a disappointing meal. I can tell I’ll be playing this one for quite a while.