31/07/2012 16:39 BST | Updated 30/09/2012 10:12 BST

New Super Mario Bros. 2 3DS Review: Plumber Runs Mostly East (VIDEO)

In the same way that most publications prepare obituaries for major monarchs, pop stars and criminals, just in case they keel over at an awkward moment, the same tactic could theoretically be taken by games journalists.

A new FIFA on the cards? Just prepare the text in advance: "it's like the old one, but the lob button has improved". Publish. Simple.

Similarly, whenever a new Super Mario game comes around it sometimes seems a waste of time to actually write anything new. Because most of the time - with a few notable exceptions - nothing much changes in Super Mario World.

And so it is with New Super Mario Bros 2, the latest big title to hit the (possibly?) resurgent 3DS handheld. It's the sequel to New Super Mario Bros., released six years ago, which sold 28 million copies.

And it's very, very familiar.

The principle of the game - plumber runs mostly east - is well established. So are the enemies (reptiles, ghouls), the scenery (grass, lava, castles, water, clouds) and the storyline (reptile steals princess). NSMB2 messes with none of those elements. In some key ways, the game is specifically reminiscent of Super Mario Bros 3 for the Super Nintendo as much as Mario in general - the abundance of Racoon flowers and even the level progression is similar - but otherwise the single player is about eight solid hours of standard jumping plumber.

super mario

So what's actually new?

In basic terms, there are six new worlds, with two special stages and one more when you complete the game, as well as a cooperative mode and a new time-trial sub game, the actually-fairly-intense Coin Rush battle.

There is also a new and all-encompassing obsession with coins. Coins are everywhere. There are power buttons you can press to turn enemies into coins, coin time trials which appear mid-game and a coin box which fixes on your head like a crash helmet - and spews coins. There are big coins and small coins, blue red and yellow coins, clouds of coins and... you get the idea. Elsewhere there are also some new power-ups (Gold Flower, a more potent Fire Flower), and some new wrinkles to the level design. But otherwise, the game is pretty much exactly what you'd expect.

It's not as inventive as Super Mario 3D Land and not as good as Super Mario 64. It's just fine. It's Mario.

Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you like Mario, you will like this.

The graphics are sharp, bouncy and fun, the level design is consistently good and inventive, and things tick along in a pleasant, if not exactly taxing, pace. It's got that Nintendo polish, and for all its similarity to previous games it's a legitimate and weighty sequel.

And as much as we mock, Mario is still around and Bubba and Stix are not, for a reason.

Do you need to buy this? if you desperately want more Mario - or you're a new 3DS owner, then sure. Go ahead. But that said - don't trust us. We wrote this review six months ago. Cough.

So when New Super Mario Bros. 3 comes out, just remember to check back and read this review again. We'll even change the headline.

Three stars out of five.