Super Mario 64 DS review

It's-a-him, Mario! But NGC says the touch screen does few favours to the best game on DS

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Hands up, everyone who hasn't played this. There must be a few people out there who haven't experienced Mario's finest moment on its native N64 format, and if you're one of them, you'll love this. There's even more to do than there was before, with an extra 30 stars, new levels and new characters.

That we have any reservation at all is entirely due to the control system. Mario 64 was less designed with the N64's three-pronged controller in mind than the controller was created specifically for the game. It wouldn't work the same with an Xbox or PS2 pad, and it's no surprise to find it doesn't work all that well with a touch screen.

Precise movements are very hard. You have to keep lifting your thumb and recentering it on the screen to get Mario to run at full speed. You can't do the useful side-flip move very easily. You'll never get Mario moving as fluidly as you could with an N64 pad, and the game suffers because of it. The option for D-pad control is a backwards step barely worth considering.

But despite this, Super Mario 64 DS is more than playable. It holds its own against more recent games, even with the control problems, and the new stuff is well worth seeing.

Chief among the new additions is the inclusion of Yoshi, Luigi and Wario. The latter two replace the old metal cap and vanish cap - you have to play as them to collect certain stars. Where these caps used to be, Mario finds a special flower that blows him up like a balloon and lets him float over the difficult bits. Whatever they've done to the control system, and the associated dumbing down of certain objectives (specifically the flower and the star-revealing map), the quality of the level design still shines. They're the best playgrounds in any game ever, offering limitless ways to get to a goal, explore secrets, or simply have fun. The game dates back to 1996, but no platformer since has come close. It's a work of genius.

Which is reason enough to buy it. It's the cartridge that has done about ten times as much service in our DS as every other US launch title combined, and if you never played it all those years ago, you might not be disappointed by the controls. If only the machine's best game actually showed off the possibilities of the touch screen rather than highlighting its lack of an analogue stick.

Super Mario 64 DS is out now in the US and Japan. A UK date has yet to be announced

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