The original Super Mario Land was one of the first games I had for the Game Boy (as I imagine was the case for many people, getting the system with Mario Land and Tetris was quite a common combination) and one I played over and over. So, when a sequel was released I was quite excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
The early Mario games didn’t exactly have what could be called a consistent story to them, so this game starts with Mario being forced out of his giant, imposing castle (because Mario needs a castle for some reason) by his evil doppelganger Wario, making his first appearance. Mario then has to travel to six different themed areas an collect the titular six golden coins to unlock the main gate to the castle and defeat Wario.
The popularity of Wario stemming from this game led to him star in his own series of games, Wario Land, which themselves led to the WarioWare series of games, though none of the other new enemies really had any lasting success. Series mainstays Goombas and Koopa Troopas also make welcome appearances.
As well as the usual fire flower and star man invincibility power ups, Mario has a ‘new’ item in the form of the rabbit ears which enable him to fly – function wise this are quite similar to the racoon suit or cape from Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World respectively, so it isn’t exactly ground breaking.
Mario Land 2 is one of the games that I wish had been released in colour, though it does at least have a fairly decent palette when played in a Game Boy Colour. Owing much to the art style and design of Super Mario World, the sprites and levels are big and bold, with quite a lot of detail found all over. It’s quite astonishing looking back at the difference between it and it’s predecessor and the level of advancement seen on the Game Boy in such a short time, as we’re used to games these days only becoming incrementally more advanced. Each of the different areas has a distinct design theme used across its levels such as the space area or the pumpkin zone filled with ghosts and witches and so on.
The big sprites do mean that not as much is on screen at any time compared to other games in the series, meaning everything feels a lot closer with only a short distance ahead of you visible on screen but I don’t recall falling into any pits or other death traps because I couldn’t see anything coming so this isn’t really a downside.
Musically the game is typical Mario fare, with some catchy tunes by veteran Nintendo composer Kazumi Totaka. Even with the limited power of the Game Boy’s audio chip they sound good. The traditional Mario sound effects such as Mario’s jump and the sound of coins being collected are also present and correct.
Similar to Mario Bros 3 and Mario World, Mario Land 2 features a map that you move around to select levels. Unlike most Mario games these can be played in any order you wish, which adds a bit of freedom and non-linearity to the game.
I would say that it is much easier than the first game, however. The overworld map has a game of chance that you can play, that trades in coins you’ve collected while playing for extra lives, and even without this they are plentiful enough that most players will be in little danger of running out of lives and reaching a game over screen. There are also minigames at the end of each stage if you hit the bell, which grant you lives and power ups.
Despite great reviews at the time of its release, Mario Land 2 is somehow not as popular as the first Game Boy game. It remains an incredibly fun game however, and one that I find has held up very well (despite wishing it was in colour) and one that I always enjoy revisiting.