Combining the best of the old with the best of the new

It’s very probable that anyone reading this article has at some point in their life played a Super Mario game. The tale of the portly Italian plumber and his never-ending quest to save the princess of a fungal kingdom from a marauding dragon-turtle and his army of flying turtles and fire-spitting piranha plants is … well, it’s weird.

But it’s also a part of our cultural heritage. Playing a Mario game is the equivalent of watching a Spielberg movie or listening to a Beatles song and the newest offering, New Super Mario Bros. WII, is like listening to “Hey Jude” and watching Raiders of the Lost Ark all rolled into one. Yes, it’s just that damn good.

While most recent Mario games have either involved the third dimension or revolved around diverse sporting events, NSMBWII returns the series to its side-scrolling 2D roots for the first time on a home console since Yoshi’s Island in 1995. The end result is that NSMBWII plays and feels like a sequel to Super Mario World, which is in no way a bad thing.

This time around, Princess Peach is abducted by Bowser Jr. and the rest of the Koopa Kids during a birthday party and subsequently stowed aboard an airship. Mario and the gang give chase, of course, following the airship through eight wonderfully varied worlds until they finally arrive at Bowser’s enormously intimidating castle.

While this is all something we’ve done before, NSMBWII still manages to feel fresh.  Maybe it’s the expert level design or the addition of the new Ice Flower and Penguin Suit power-ups, but whatever it is, NSMBWII is charming, occasionally frustrating and undeniably fun.

The pacing is excellent, the secrets are plentiful, the soundtrack is genuinely delightful and the gameplay is spot-on as always. Throw in a local cooperative mode where up to four players can play simultaneously and you’ve got a recipe for one of the most frantic, fun and downright infuriating multiplayer experiences to come along in years.

If you feel the need to take a trip to the halcyon days of 2D platforming glory (And who doesn’t?), throw some batteries in the ol’ Wii remote, invite some friends over and pop in New Super Mario Bros. WII. You won’t be disappointed.

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