The Super Mario Brothers franchise is like the zany character in everyone’s favourite sitcom: it’s usually the most entertaining aspect in each episode; and while it may not be on screen the whole time, it’s the biggest reason that everyone tunes in to watch. Sure, the formula doesn’t change much; but there is something to be said for reliability – and due to that, any departure from the norm is usually noticed and appreciated for what it is. New Super Mario Bros. U doesn’t deviate very far from what we would expect from the latest and greatest Mario title; but it’s different enough to make it a very entertaining game – and a definite purchase for your new and shiny Wii U.
The first thing that sets New Super Mario Bros. U apart is the fact that it looks gorgeous – so good that it feels like you’re playing the box art. It takes a second to get used to; and honestly, I’m not sure I can easily go back to the older titles without a bit of a mind-shift. HD suits our moustachio’d friend like a glove; the various worlds really pop in 1080p. Up until the release of New Super Mario Bros. U, I would argue that New Super Mario Bros 2 for the 3DS was the best-looking Mario title*; but New Super Mario Bros. U really puts the 3DS title (and all others) to shame.
The first difference game-play makes itself known right from the get-go, when the game presents you with the choice to play using your Wii U game-pad, or the Wii-Mote (with the game-pad in “boost” mode). This key difference is what makes the Mario franchise much more accessible to a larger number of people. For instance, my kiddo has tried to play Super Mario games in the past with some success; now, with me using the tablet while she plays with a Wii-Mote, time spent playing tends to be a little less frustrating – for both of us. Whoever holds the GamePad is essentially the guardian angel, protecting the other players from harm: whether summoning blocks to help boost the Wii-Mote players up higher, manipulating certain parts of the environment, or flicking enemies back (among other things), the GamePad player helps others achieve success**.
Miis and U – a match made in heaven.
New Super Mario Bros. U feels like the most complete Super Mario game that I have ever played. First of all, the production feels tighter all around – right from the introduction if feels like a lot of work has been injected into the game. Level design seems like it is on a higher tier than that of some of the recent titles in the series; this is not to take anything away from stage design in the predecessors – it just shows how much more work must have gone into New Super Mario Bros. U. New powers and characters are well thought-out and implemented, giving even seasoned pros something to get used to.
All of these aspects become even more impressive when you take into account that this game can be played by up to five people***. Some multi-player platformers just don’t feel “big” enough for more than one player. New Super Mario Bros. U does a great job accommodating everyone – especially when you consider that collision detection is present in spades, turning any game into a team-building exercise. Again, it is here that the GamePad holder becomes more than just someone who helps to reach the unreachable: they become mediators and counselors, protecting friendships from going sour; or they are fecal matter agitators, hastening the death rate among their peers and encouraging bad feelings. It’s a game that suits all stripes.
In addition to being used for Boost Mode, the GamePad can actually be used to play the game instead of the television. This is a nice touch that allows those families with only one television to live in peace and not start any global conflicts. Graphics and sound are pretty tight – and there seem to be few extra things that you can do that cannot be done on the Wii-Mote. The only disadvantage of using the GamePad, though, is that you can’t really wander very far from your television. Range seems to be limited to less than 20 feet in my house – so if I was to play on the GamePad while my wife watched television, I would have to use headphones to keep the sound to myself.
Why mess with a winning formula?
In terms of overall difficulty, New Super Mario Bros. U seems to be carrying on the fine tradition of “hey, let’s make the first few levels so easy that they lull the player into a false sense of security; then we will crush their spirits”. I’m kind of glad that this is the case, because making it too easy would not be as satisfying. There are a ton of special things to collect and secret areas to discover – and any single player will be hard press to discover and collect everything in the first pass. In fact, it is easier to get through some levels with help from a few well-coordinated friends and a talented Boost Mode user.
Should you fail repeatedly on a level, a guide block will eventually appear that will help you out. This isn’t really a new feature, but it is certainly welcome to those who require a little assistance. On the other hand, if you do something awesome, the game will prompt you to post something on the world map which will find its way to the MiiVerse. This is a pretty neat feature that highlights Nintendo’s new focus on online social networking.
In addition to the campaign, the game has a few extra modes: Boost Rush, Challenge Mode and Coin Battle Mode. Boost Rush is all about how fast you can finish levels – with the scrolling speed accelerating as you collect coins; achievement times are laid out and your result will get you a gold, silver or bronze rating. Challenge Mode tests your various Super Mario skills in levels not seen in the main game campaign. Coin Battle Mode is self-explanatory. In addition to the main story mode, both Boost Rush and Coin Battle Mode support up to five players.
I hope that’s not on account of too many beans.
Nintendo has done a great job with New Super Mario Bros. U. They have taken their established formula and tweaked it a little; they have also added new twists to make it the best Mario game yet. It is a well-rounded game that is fun to play on your own or with friends. The fantastic graphics really shake things up and some of the extra game-play modes will keep you coming back over and over again! As I stated before: this is a must-have for your Wii U!