New Super Mario Bros Wii U. It's a flagship title for Nintendo's new flagship console. It's also the first time that Mario has entered the world of HD, meaning that Mario has never looked so good, despite the fact he is getting on a bit. As much as things change though they always stay the same, so while Mario on Wii U does bring innovation, he also brings along a little bit of familiar too.
The beauty and most frustrating part of Mario games as a gamer is that everyone seems to be attracted to them. This is obviously a wonderful thing, but at the same time it's also a bit annoying when you have to wrestle the controller off the kids or the wife so that you can get on with your hobby. Thankfully New Super Mario Bros U tackles this problem quite brilliantly thanks to the inclusion of four player co-op. Now the only problem is if you have enough Wii Motes to go around.
Let's take a step back from the new features for a moment though and look at the world itself. New Super Mario Bros U give players a vast map to play through. As you'd expect it houses the usual entry points to levels, fortresses and castles, but in addition adds a little more interactivity, allowing you to pick up items, defeat enemies, find hidden paths and secrets and even read messages left by other players of the game. The map also includes alternate paths which you can use to make your way to the end goal, meaning that there's plenty to keep you occupied before you even begin.
Starting from the first level, things feel so very familiar and quite simplistic, however as you progress the difficulty ramps, leaving your frustrated as you lose all your lives and have to continue from your last save point. Thankfully as the difficulty ramps so the new power-ups start to appear and you'll need them if you hope to take down the numerous enemies which litter your path to the princess.
If you are as terrible at Mario games as me, then you'll notice that Luigi is present after numerous failed attempts at a level in order to guide you through. In this 'super guide,' Luigi will run through the level and even complete it for you if you let him. You can take over from him at any point, which is handy if you are stuck at a particularly hard section or if you wish, you can just watch his technic and start again.
As mentioned up to four players can take the screen together, allowing you and friends/family to take control of Mario, Luigi and two Mushroom People, while someone else on the GamePad can help all of you along by making platforms appear, to allow you to reach hard to get to places. The multiplayer is fantastic fun, although if you only have one Wii Mote and the GamePad you cannot play co-op, instead the only option is once again to use the GamePad to create platforms, which seems a bit of a shame.
So what else is new? Well I have a particular fondness of the Challenge Mode which throws up all manner of situations such as asking you to dodge the projectiles of a lone enemy, speed your way through levels or get through levels without killing anyone. It's a frustrating experience but one of these highly addictive modes that you'll keep plugging away at until you achieve your goal.
There are other modes too, such as Boost Rush which sees you trying to get through an automatically scrolling level as it increases in speed as you collect coins. The idea here is to clear the level as quickly as you can, although that's easier said than done. Finally there is also the return of Coin Battle, where you rush to collect the most coins, with the player on the GamePad placing Boost Blocks to help players get coins that are difficult to reach.
Graphically, New Super Mario Bros U is a bit of a mixed bag. Sure Mario is now in HD, but there does seem to be something missing. Obviously this is the first wave of games for the console, so perhaps down the line we'll see more but for now the graphics feel all polish and no substance. It just feels like a lot more could have been done to make this, the Wii U's flagship launch game, stand out from the crowd. Maybe I'm being picky in wanting more, because it does look good, it's just that I feel it could look better.
So what is the preferred method of control for the single player, GamePad or WiiMote? Personally I have to say the former. I love the GamePad, it's light, easy to use and it's also pretty great being able to turn the TV off and continue your game on the GamePad screen. You don't use the touchscreen during the main levels, however it all just feels a lot more seamless not having to switch from one control method to the other.
Overall it seems that Mario's first venture onto the Wii U is a great one, although perhaps not an instant classic. Saying that, anyone who loves the Italian plumber and his brother will lap this up thanks to its new features and newly found HD gloss. New Super Mario Bros is addictive as ever and thanks to the GamePad it also has a new lease of life. This is what a launch game should be, addictive, nostalgic and feature packed enough to last you until the next wave of titles and beyond.
(Version Tested: Wii U)
- It's Mario, in HD
- Great new features
- Addictive Multiplayer
- Brilliant Map Layout
- Graphics could offer more
- GamePad can't be used in conjunction with Wii Mote for co-op play only, to Boost