Once upon a time (like all good tales), Mario had a dream where he climbed to the top of a long stair case before opening a door. On the other side of this door was a world he had never seen before, where a voice was calling out for help. A few days later while Mario was climbing in the nearby hills, he and his friends came across a small cave, where upon entering he was shocked to see the world in his dream spreading out into the distance before him.
Set in the dream world of Subcon, Mario, along with Luigi, Peach and Toad must lift the evil spell on the land by defeating the evil ‘Wart’. Massively different to the original Super Mario Brothers<, the game mechanics for this title have been completely reworked. Alas Mario 2 did not start out life as a Mario adventure and originally starred several other characters in a game named Doki Doki panic. This means that while the game is indeed very good, it lacks the Mario magic we have come to know and love.
Enemies can no longer be jumped upon in order to kill them, jumping on various creatures sees one of our heroes balancing on top of the unfortunate enemy, which can then be picked up and thrown. Vegetables now play a huge part as well, with characters picking different varieties from the ground and using them as weapons against the minions of Wart. Furthermore, the power up system has been dramatically altered with the heroes taking up to four hits before they die and the fireball being removed altogether. The invincibility star is still present, requiring you to collect a certain amount of cherries to make it appear.
Players are now presented with a choice of four characters to play with, all of which have their own special characteristics. Mario for instance is a good all round character, while Luigi can jump very high but is weak. Peach can float and Toad although unable to jump too well is very strong. Certain levels are easier with certain characters so it pays to think about who you are going to use before automatically picking Mario every time.
Graphically, the game is a big improvement from the prequel, with more detail and a distinct cartoon feel to the graphics giving a lot of character to the game, though backgrounds are still bland and uninspiring. Everything moves at a decent pace, with slowdown and flickering not a major issue. While levels look similar there is still enough difference between them to make you realise you are adventuring in different areas as you progress through the game.
In truth though, this is not up there with other Mario adventures but still a fun game. Unfortunately, it's the game play side of things that lets the second installment down. While competent it never really creates the excitement a Mario game should. Sure, characters are controllable and the thing moves along at a nice pace with the odd bit of innovation here and there, but after a few levels you will find yourself getting a touch bored and wishing for some of the genius present in the original.
Overall, Mario 2 is a fun platform game that has enough charm and nice touches to keep you amused, However when compared to either the first or third installments of the Mario series it becomes very apparent there is a definite lack. You will not be able to work out exactly what is missing but something definitely is - it's a good game, just not a great one.