Of classic platforming and cash-ins.
Launched as downloadable content which was also shelved as a standalone disc, I approached this expansion without any initial thoughts about it being completely built upon the skeleton of the main game. I actually thought it was something what Super Mario Galaxy 2 was for the first one, recycled ideas, concept, art style and basically anything they could to make for a new experience, not a quick buck out of it all.
We all know that Mario is pretty straightforward, the physics have changed a bit compared to what 2D was in the Super Nintendo, but the gameplay still revolves around the same core ideas with improved graphics. You could argue that even this timeless formula was shaken a bit with the release of the incredible Super Mario Maker, since you'd have endless access to as much 2D content as you could possibly want. Since Mario Maker came later on, players were certainly eager for more Mario in HD at the time of release.
Everything here works like Super Mario Bros. Wii U, the overworld map is a copy and paste and the levels are the same. They were just rethought to offer new perspectives generating a game that is supposed to be harder but in reality isn't too far off the original. The most noticeable difference here is that you only have 100 seconds to clear any level. You originally had 400 seconds for most levels and you hardly could complain that it wasn't enough time, this new change will only be a problem on later levels.
Every single stage found in the original -- including the bonus levels -- has received changes, mostly in enemy location and their quantity. Most of the newly found difficulty is because of the hurry up music that is sure to kick in right away because of the 100-second limit, it has a way to instigate this type of fear, though not always objectively so. It's a pretty spot-on method of rehashing the concept and sell a few millions more copies. After all, it's the Mario brand we're talking here, or at least, his brand starred by his brother.
Playing with friends is much easier than it was in the first one where Wiimotes and pro controllers didn't check correctly, being sort of a small mess. You have the option to play as Luigi, two Toads (like the original) and replacing Mario we have the Nabbit character, he's the shady little thief that races through the levels until caught. This addition was the most expected since he plays differently than the others, like a super-powered boss that can walk through enemies at will.
The handheld Yoshis are present the way they were featured in the former game, by getting them during the overworld and using in any level you choose to. The grown-up Yoshi can also be found in a few stages, not as many as we'd probably want but not a major issue. Another aspect to make the game harder is the absence of mid-way checkpoint flags; the levels must be cleared quickly and in one go, no need to save during the endurance.
Upon beating the game normally you get a special block in the beginning of every level to turn Luigi's movements similar to Mario's. Luigi stands as a bit more floaty and unwieldy while Mario is heavier and a tad more precise. This invoques meta for those willing to beat the game with Mario's physics. Sadly you don't get anything cool from doing so, only your own pride toward yourself. Woe is the gaming world that doesn't prize it's loyal gamers for going beyond what's expected with crazy stuff like ultra hard phases or worlds; or at least a few cosmetics to make it feel like it was worth it.
The celebration for Luigi's thirtieth anniversary of his debut is on of the motivations for this release, to commemorate this unique date the developers hid several types of Luigi's pixelated artwork within the confines of each stage. Finding them doesn't count toward anything slightly interesting, unfortunately. Not even a birthday hat at the place of the stock regular one.
We can discuss about this type of content being worthy of getting released but the fact is, people will pay Mario (or Luigi) no matter what. Exploiting this fact leads to sub-par releases like this bonus content (well, DLC is too attached to online distribution) will sell even if it was all the same but as Luigi as the main character and Nabbit as a completely new character simply for the sake of the special date involving Mario's Brother.
Upon playing the newly imagined stages and collecting the 3 big coins from every level you might get a solid 10-hour ride of classic 2D platformer, not a bad deal if you get this for a decent amount of money. Yes, this is downloadable content in the non-Nintendo kind of way, they finally have caught on time when it comes to ripping off costumers with silly cash-ins. Getting both the original and this one in one pack is probably your best bet, just be sure to expect classic stuff being redone for the sake of a few dollars more. We all know that people who would enjoy this will always enjoy no matter what, anyone else might check something else.