Considering plumbers (Italian or any other nationality) are hardly renowned for their time-keeping and consistency, it's strange Mario continues to be one of Nintendo's main mascots. Appearing on every games machine the company has created, he's got onto DS right at the start with Super Mario 64 DS, which as its name suggests, is a remake of the classic N64 Super Mario game.
But that was then and this is now, and on two screens which includes a stylus and touchscreen combo, how do the revolutionary game ideas of 1996 work in 2005?
Well, for one thing, the basic plot hasn't changed much. Princess Peach must be saved from the clutches of evil (again!). But if Mario is the main face of the game - well it's his name in the title - at least he's got some friends to help him out this time. Other Nintendo favourites with their special abilities - Luigi has his high jump, while Yoshi can trap enemies in eggs and Wario can smash big blocks - are on hand too. And collecting power flowers gives each character even better skills such as invisibility, fire breath and the ability to float.
Also, underlining this isn't a straight port, you begin the game as Yoshi the dragon. Asleep atop Princess Peach's castle, Yoshi doesn't see Mario and the team enter the castle and awakes to find everything too quiet. Time for an adventure!
As you explore the castle, you'll discover the pictures that act as portals to the different game levels, each of which contain a number of goals. These can range from simply reaching the end of a complicated platform system to collecting a specified amount of red coins from around the environment. Some goals require the specific abilities of certain characters meaning you'll have to revisit the levels once you've unlocked the playable versions of Mario, Luigi and Wario. The variety and excellent level design keeps things fun and exploring the same areas again is rarely tiresome. Of course, the prize for achieving each goal is that old Nintendo favourite, a golden star. Collect enough of these - there's 150 in total - and you can unlock doors to deeper areas of the castle.
And adding more playability to an already big game are the extra mini-games. Available in the adventure mode, these are accessed by capturing the bunny rabbits that hop around the castle. Each has a key to unlock a mini-game, which utilises the DS' touchscreen in a range of strange, fun and ridiculous experiences.
In terms of other DS features, there's a four player multiplayer mode which you can play with only one game card. The dual screen set-up isn't that well used however as the lower screen just shows a map. It's not detailed, but does show the location of any stars ready for collection. Graphically, the game's nice and colourful, as is the music with some catchy tunes and good sound effects to draw you in to the Mario universe.
The only real let-down is the control system. The d-pad method is clunky to the point of uselessness and, at least initially, the touchscreen controls are just as bad. But given a little time to get used to it, you should find a gentle use of the stylus produces the required results and before too long you'll be tip-toeing, running and somersaulting with the best of them.
And with so much to do and explore - there's dozens of hours of game in the main section, let alone all the mini-games - Super Mario 64 DS shines through. Not perhaps as revolutionary as it was ten years ago, nevertheless this is a welcome return.Super Mario 64 DS is on sale now.