New Super Mario Bros.
| New Super Mario Bros

Why New Super Mario Bros.? Why not All-New and Super-Duper? Or Super Ultimate? Or the completely over the top New Incredible?

Start playing, and the logic is revealed.

See, New Super Mario Bros is the combination of two things – 'New' and 'Super Mario Bros.' – not three, and only about a quarter of the content in the game is really new. Mario has some new moves (including an amazing wall jump that helps him bounce between vertical surfaces), but the world he hops through and the Princess-rescuing storyline is almost identical to those in Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World (both of which are available on the GBA, and were first released over 15 years ago).

Nintendo has remixed the levels a little and added perfunctory touchscreen functionality (you tap the lower right corner of the screen to deploy the single spare power-up you can hold in reserve), but the experience will be very, very familiar to anyone who's played or looked at a Mario game before.

It's like one of those compilation albums: Now That's What I Call Mario 2006. The core, pixel-perfect running and jumping is unaltered, and offers hours of challenge that's part dexterity, part trial-and-error, part timing, and part chance. But some of those pesky filler track features have been removed.

It's a formula that's been well-worn over the past 20 years, especially by imitators, but never worn out by Mario. Everything about the main thrust of this game, the running and jumping, just works.

Mario moves with real momentum, but never seems out of control – his jumps are dexterous, sometimes knee-jelly-making, and always versatile. He skids to a halt when you slow down or soars when you bounce off the right surfaces. New additions such as spring-loaded platforms propel him into spinning jumps that you can gracefully use to float back down to earth or, using his new ground-pound move, turn into a destructive smash.

Being Mario is so much fun that Nintendo could get away with a game that's just about him running around. Well, that's pretty much what they have done, but you take the point – strip away the enemies and the story and there's still genius ticking away under the bonnet.

Of course, such tampering won't be to some hardcore tastes. There's no doubt New Super Mario Bros is easier and shorter than previous versions. New power-ups – a giant mushroom that makes Mario a towering colossus that destroys everything on-screen, a mini-mushroom that has the complete opposite effect, and a blue shell that hardens Mario Kooper-style – are really only useful at specific times in the game. Plus, an old power-up (the trusted fire flower that turns Mario's dungarees white and gives him a fireball to throw) completely knocks the game upside-the-head – two-thirds of the bosses can be defeated with this weapon, completely removing any threat and challenge.

But it's a testament to the game's overall balance that it still stands as one of the best DS titles so far, despite the sometimes dodgy add-ons.

Indeed, the gamemakers deserve credit – they could have just released a Super Mario Bros. DS game that didn't bring anything new to the table. Instead this – the first 2D Mario game in over a decade – is modernised but not stupidly so. For example, there's judicious use of 3D in some levels, taking advantage of the DS' power, but it's never thrown in for the sake of it.

More importantly, the level design is consistently excellent, with hidden areas and levels demanding replay: there are three star-coins to find in each world, which when collected can be spent to unlock different paths, while two worlds (25 per cent of the game!) can only be accessed by defeating bosses as the miniature Mario, enabling him to slip through a crack in the path between areas.

And even if you rush through it in a day or two, you'll still only have opened about three-quarters of what's available – and that's just the traditional singleplayer game. A fun wireless game and all the touchscreen games from Super Mario 64 DS are included too.

Ultimately then, what you get is one of the best platform outings in all of gaming, an instant classic when it first appeared, which even with some newness thrown in remains almost perfect today.

New Super Mario Bros. is out on June 30th.

New Super Mario Bros.

A platformer with some downs alongside plenty of ups, nevertheless New Super Mario Bros. has 'Must Have' written all over it