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Latest 'Super Mario Bros.' a superb sequel

By Marc Saltzman, Gannett
  • "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" reinvents one of the most popular video games ever
  • New version features 80 colorful levels, multi-player mode
  • Game features classic left-to-right movement, hidden surprises
  • Reviewer calls the game arguably Wii's best of the year

(CNN) -- What better way to reinvent one of the most popular video game franchises of all time than by adding simultaneous multiplayer fun?

This is precisely what Nintendo has done with "New Super Mario Bros. Wii," the first game in the series to let up to four players jump, climb, fight and fly through the vast Mushroom Kingdom -- all at the same time, on the same television.

Featuring more than 80 colorful levels, this new "platformer" game has you running from the left side of the screen to the right -- just like the past games -- to collect coins, bounce on bad guys and reach the flagpole at the castle.

But this time around, you can share the screen with up to three friends, each of whom holds a Wii remote sideways to play.

Unlike in many co-op games on the same TV, everyone shares the same play space in "New Super Mario Bros. Wii," opposed to a split-screen view of the action.

Game Info
Title: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Price: $49.99
Rating: Everyone

The "camera" then pulls back to show more of the world when characters move farther away from each other, or zooms in tighter when characters are closer together.

At the start of the main mode, you select a character to play (the mustached Mario, his brother Luigi or one of two Toads). Each have their own unique abilities and work to rescue the kidnapped Princess Peach.

Environments range from towns to skies, deserts to icy levels, dungeons and so on.

If you perish, however, you'll reappear in a bubble and it's up to the other players to pop you out while you frantically shake the Wii remote to fly in their direction.

Depending on whether you're playing cooperatively or competitively, you can also pick up other characters and toss them into the abyss, ride Yoshi (and use his tongue-lashing attacks) or don special suits that let you fly, slide or freeze bad guys.

You can play "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" by yourself, but the game was designed for group play with its handful of cooperative and competitive modes, along with minigames.

Some actions require more than one player to pull off, such as hopping up and down on a seesaw to reach high areas.

As with its predecessors, this game includes many secrets and surprises as a reward for those who explore. They could be extra coins and power-ups, underground caverns or the ability to warp to future worlds.

Arguably the finest Nintendo Wii title of the year, and one that's ideal for the entire family, "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" is an extraordinary pick that should yield many weeks and months of multiplayer fun.