By Jinny Gudmundsen, Special for USA TODAY
(USA Today) -- It's raining gold coins in the newest Mario game, a side-scrolling adventure for the Nintendo 3DS.
In New Super Mario Bros. 2, hero Mario once again needs to rescue Princess Peach. But he may be a little distracted, since The Mushroom Kingdom is awash with moolah.
Trails of gold coins fill the air while other coins burst out of the pipes. Mario can earn a power-up that places a Gold Block on his head, which pops out more gold coins. If he finds the Gold Flower, it turns him into a Midas-like Mario where throwing Gold Fireballs turns everything into coins.
It's wild fun that makes players feel like they are in the middle of a gold rush. The game offers a separate Coin Rush Mode where players gather as many coins as they can across three levels and then challenge their friends to a coin-off.
Aside from being filled with more gold coins than any other Mario game, New Super Mario Bros. 2 presents nine new worlds to explore, each containing many levels within. The levels are filled with side-scrolling challenges where you jump on top of baddies, bump blocks floating overhead to unlock surprises, jump onto platforms (some of which are constantly moving as if a snake is slithering around them) and shimmy down drainpipes to find new concealed areas. You can find power-ups that make you bigger, smaller, invincible, and even one that puts Mario into a raccoon suit. With the latter, Mario gets the ability to fly, whack things with his tail and access special hidden areas.
All of this makes for great Mario excitement. But where this game really shines is in its two-person Co-op Mode. If two players each own the game, they can decide to play the whole game together, one playing as Mario and the other as Mario's brother Luigi. Played over a local wireless connection, the cooperating players can do things to make playing the game easier. If one player stands on top of a block while the other player bumps it to release the power-up, the one on top automatically gets the power-up. If two players activate a special hoop, finding the eight pieces in a limited time is so much easier to accomplish than trying to do it alone. And if one player isn't as good at navigating platforms and lags behind (or dies), the game floats the player back into the game by encasing him in a bubble which his teammate must burst. And picking up vanishing coins is so much easier with two.
When two players tackle this game together, it provides kids the opportunity to talk through how to best cooperate to attain a goal. And inevitably some silliness will occur, such as one player making Luigi jump on Mario's head and vice versa. My two sons used the game to bond, but it is also a great way for an inexperienced parent to enter a child's videogame world.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 has plenty of levels and challenging hidden areas, making it fun for game enthusiasts. But it also a good choice for less experienced players or children new to gaming . The game gives you ample lives, so you can try difficult areas over and over again to get better. And the levels offer a save point half-way through; so that if you die after that point, you come back to life at the mid-way point. The game also has a built-in help mode for players who are struggling. Called the Assist Block, it appears above a besieged player to spit out a power-up which turns Mario into the Invincible White Raccoon Mario. With Mario being invincible, players can easily proceed through a hard level.
If you are looking for some good, wholesome platform-puzzling, filled with Mario-type comic mischief, pick up one or maybe two copies of New Super Mario Bros. 2. It's a fun way to end the summer.