New Super Mario Bros. 2 features some compelling new wrinkles to the co-op formula from New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Last month we went hands-on with New Super Mario Bros. 2's competitive coin rush mode, but that's not the only way to play against your friends in Mario's upcoming 3DS release. New Super Mario Bros. 2 will feature a revised version of New Super Mario Bros. Wii's co-op mode that focuses on only two players but adds some new ways to screw over your buddies in the process.
Part of the fun (and pain) of co-op in New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the weight of other players. Instead of letting players exist in the same spot, they run into each other and cause chaos by bouncing each other into pits and enemies. Players are even more encouraged to bump into each other in New Super Mario Bros. 2.
At the beginning of a co-op session, one player is marked with an arrow to signify that he or she is in the lead. The stage will only scroll when this person moves, giving them some degree of control over their partner's progress.
While that restriction would be annoying on its own, Nintendo has turned the struggle over leadership into a gameplay element. Is your co-op friend constantly flying ahead without regard for your safety? Or lagging behind just to give you grief? A butt stomp on the head will hand control over to you. If that maneuver is too difficult for you to nail down, you can also take over by entering a pipe before your co-op partner.
In my hands-on session, this mechanic led to numerous mad dashes for pipes or situations where we'd get stuck in a tiny area bouncing around like mad men trying to hit one another and gain the leader role. The back and forth momentum adds a compelling wrinkle to a co-op system that was already as much about causing your friends anguish as it was about helping them out.
However, New Super Mario Bros. 2's co-op is missing an opportunity to incorporate one of the major elements of the single-player experience: greed. This sequel is centered around the idea of collecting as many coins as possible, with an overriding goal to gather one million total between all the game modes.
Though you'll play against your friends' records in Coin Rush mode, co-op is truly cooperative: All coins gathered by both players will go into a single pool. In fact, you even get a times two multiplier while playing co-op, which will make it easier for both players to hit that million coin milestone. This choice guarantees that you'll get something out of co-op play even if your partner is a jerk, but an option to fight over who can collect the most coins during a simultaneous run would have felt natural.
As the first traditional portable Mario game with full co-op across all levels, New Super Mario Bros. 2 has a lot to prove. Nintendo seems more than up to the task, though. Everything that I saw builds on the unique sometimes-friendly, sometimes-competitive co-op of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Getting a chance to play a Mario game alongside a friend is fun. Getting a chance to make them scream in frustration while doing so? Priceless.