The first Super Mario Land game was a solid title although a bit shallow. The sequel however feels a lot closer to SMB 3 and SMW in all respects. Like the first in the series the game wasn't created by Miyamoto but instead by Gunpei Yokoi, who in fact was the designer behind the Game Boy and later the failed Virtual Boy (the fiasco of which lead to his resignation and eventual hit and run death. So you see, the Virtual Boy is actually guilty of murder.) Anyway, onward to the review...
The game is played over the course of 32 levels in six different themes. To it's credit the game veers away from the usual Ice and fire themes, although there is a forest themed world. Instead of the generic Haunted House that is in every Mario game there is a Pumpkin themed world (with a witch for the boss,) along with another world that takes place inside of a giant clockwork statue of Mario where the villains are toys. The levels are laid out on an overworld map similar to SMB 3, and not all of them need to be completed to finish the game.
As for the game's presentation, it's the usual Mario game with the usual Mario powerups, Starmen, fire flowers, mushrooms, etc. This time instead of a cape or racoon tail you get a hat with rabbit ears that lets you fly. Pressing the A button while wearing the hat makes you jump around like a rabbit. Bad guys also fit the mold pretty much, goombas, koopa turtles, flying cheep cheeps, etc. For the most part the enemy types fit into whatever theme the zone is you're in, for instance birds and insects in the forest zone, ghosts and witches in the Pumpkin (Halloween) zone, etc.
As for the levels themselves they're up to standard with the occasional touch of brilliance. Some of them have multiple paths through or hidden exits to find other hidden levels. Tricky jumps, crumbling bridges, auto-scrolling water levels, floaty space levels, everything is thought out well. This is one of those games where something isn't there unless it serves a purpose, i.e. there won't be so much as a piece of background scenery unless it has some kind of function. There is zero "dead space" in Mario games as a rule and this one is no exception.
This was actually the first game to feature Wario, before he became like the greedy/evil Mario counterpart (although he is somewhat deformed looking.) Here Wario appears as the last boss and really isn't that hard to beat. Boss battles in general are pretty cake in the game. Overall the game is pretty easy, in fact there's also an "Easy Mode" accessed by pressing select at the file screen, just in case it's still too hard for the kiddies out there. In reality you're more likely to bite it from messing up the occasional tricky jump than from bad guys or boss battles.
A worthy addition that is a huge jump from SML 1. This was in fact the last all new side scrolling Mario game until New Super Mario Bros. came out in 2006. Fans of the console games will enjoy it although it doesn't break too much new ground.
Graphics: A huge improvement from the first SML. The characters are large, well drawn and animated, and look closer to SMB 3 in style. In a few areas with black backgrounds they take on a white outline, which while it makes them look like paper cut outs doesn't interfere with gameplay much.
Sound: The usual Mario bings and boings. Some of the levels have pretty catchy music.
Gameplay: Classic Mario, not much innovation in comparison to the console games but light years ahead of the previous handheld installment.
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