While Mario was rescuing Daisy in his first Land-title, Wario stole his castle, took the land which was previously called Mario Land, and brainwashed the inhabitants to think Wario was the king and Mario their enemy. Since Mario seems to think keys are too hip, he must instead gather 6 golden coins from villains around the land to open up the castle door and take down Wario.
Similar to the last title, Super Mario Land 2 was also developed without Miyamoto’s support, and instead with Gunpei Yokoi and Hiroji Kiyotake. This is actually one of the Mario-games I did not get to play through until the 3DS came out, but I remember it constantly being brought up when I looked at lists for best GameBoy games. After revisiting the original, I was quite looking forward to seeing how the sequel would improve.
Why is there an easy setting?
Instead of the linear approach from the last title, we are now presented with an overworld map after an intro-stage. There are 6 areas we have to visit, each containing a certain amount of stages ranging between 3 to 6. You will visit some creative locations, such as a mechanical Mario, the inside of a huge turtle, and an enormous house. But while the concept sounds like a recipe for success, the quality of the levels range from linear paths to somewhat interesting. Some of my favorite ideas are the autoscrolling moon-level where you fly and dodge stars, and one inside a tree where you use resin to climb through fun platforming-challenges.
However, I simply found myself running right through other stages until I got to the end without any surprises to them. Many of the more creative concepts don’t get to evolve much either, making them a cool extra, but easily forgettable. And just to get it out my system: the water-stages are also a bore. The enemies do help, however, by being creative and different from each other, making it important to notice if they have anything that can harm you, such as certain ants that can become a spikey ball, or bees. They do not get to shine very much due to bland levels, but are at least intriguing. That is, except for the boss fights. They are incredibly easy and similar to each other, often by flying in a U-pattern and having you jump on them 3 times to take them out.
The stages have at least some branching paths that can lead to hidden goodies, such as coins, extra lives, mushrooms that will make Mario big and other power-ups. However, they felt unneeded since the game is very easy throughout the 6 areas. I never felt the need for reaching the high-up bell for the bonus-games in the end of each stage or gamble the coins I collected for extra lives, since they were never needed. The power-ups fair better, but not by much. We have the returning fire flower, which again makes it possible for Mario to shoot up to 2 bouncing fireballs at the time, and the new carrot. The Fireball is a really good extra against the enemies, since the variety is huge and it can be a good help to have some support.
However, the carrot will give Mario ears which function as wings and can make him float. This, unfortunately, can easily break the game, since you are moving mostly on a linear path to the right and therefore can bypass many obstacles or even the level itself. It would have been one thing if it was hard to acquire, but it is about as common as the fire flower, making it a power-up I actually tried to avoid, just so I could see what the levels had to offer. The invincibility power-up also returns, and while it can be acquired throughout the game as a rare powerup, you can also beat 100 of the brainwashed minions to acquire this. I do not know why this also had to be added as if you can’t tell already: the game is really easy. This is very unfortunate, especially since the levels range in quality. There is even a hidden easy setting and I will judge you if you use it. However, the final stage, which is the castle, cranks up the difficulty quite harshly and while it is welcoming, the difficulty-spike is too high, the stage is very long with no checkpoints, 6 boss fights that can be a bit of a drag, and one jump I swear was created by a sadist.
Thankfully, Mario controls well with the abilities to run, jump, and bounce of enemies. Taking inspiration from Super Mario World, he can now perform the spin-jump if he is big and doesn’t have the flying power. It is mostly for breaking blocks underneath, but it is used decently for finding hidden secrets or just getting a move-on with bouncing on question-mark blocks for more goodies.
I am sorry for hammering it in, but without any challenge, it became quickly obvious how straightforward this adventure could be. It even was odd for me to see it had a save-feature when you can easily beat the game in about 1 hour and 40 minutes. It has some creative parts and is somewhat solid, but due to only about half of the game providing any enjoyment, I don’t see much reason for playing through it.
Gameplay Score: 5/10
Bizarre worlds with repetitive tones
We have gotten a big jump when it comes to presentation. Everything has bigger sprites, making enemies and Mario look much better and detailed, as well as having the creative worlds pop out nicely. Everything has a cartoony style that fits the bizarre locations we visit, such as inside a house where books and ants are huge, and the moon with lovely and angry stars. The areas are well-designed and that actually compliments where on the map you are, and the backgrounds are lovely. They really went all out with the themes they chose and it shows.
The music, however, is composed by Kazumi Totaka. While he has done some very good work, just about 90% of the tunes here are remixes of one single piece, making the game lose a lot of atmosphere. The track itself is decent and really an uplifting one, but uses few notes, making it feel empty. Compared to how grand a chiptune soundtrack could be on the GameBoy, this is inexcusable. The famous Totaka song is hidden here, but am I the only one who does not like the tone of it?
Presentation score 7.5/10
More of the same, but why?
Besides the joy of finding the hidden song, there are a couple of secret levels that can be found. While it does encourage exploration throughout levels, the secret levels themselves aren’t that enjoyable and, just like the main-game, range in quality. You don’t get much from beating them either except for showing of that you got 100% on a save-file. It is not even a good bragging right, since it is not that impressive of an achievement.
Extra Score: 4/10
I am not really sure why this game was so highly praised, since I found it way too easy with a poor difficulty-spike at the end. It certainly has some creative stages, but also quite a lot of boring ones that I literally just ran through. Making the fly-ability easy to acquire could also quickly break the game. It is original with unique and fun locations to visit, but it is more of a beginners platformer than something to recommend to the general crowd. If you are bad at the genre, it is not a terrible choice. For the rest of you, there are plenty of other platformers to choose from, including the Mario-games