I have to admit, I rolled my eyes a little when the first trailer for New Super Mario Bros. U was shown. I had played the original New Super Mario Bros. DS game to death, and then went back for seconds with the Wii version, and this Wii U version looked like far too much of the same. Did Nintendo provide a pleasant surprise and prove me wrong? Well, the short answer is no. However, the long answer is a bit more complicated.
New Super Mario Bros. U starts with a Koopa airship attacking Princess Peach’s castle. Rather than kidnapping the Princess as per usual, a massive mechanical Bowser hand appears from the airship and swats Mario and Luigi miles away. This is where the journey begins.
The world map makes a welcome return via the GamePad.
The world map is also where you’ll get the first glimpse of the Wii U’s ‘Miiverse’. After approaching it with a somewhat uninterested attitude, I must say Miiverse has totally won me over and almost acts like a trophy system. Have you done particularly well on a level? Well you can post a message and brag about it. You’ll often spot little red balloons in the world map, and these contain messages from people who have completed that level – be it helpful hints or someone simply showing off the fact they aced the level without taking damage. That constant sense of community is very appealing.
In terms of the gameplay, it’s a case of same-old Mario. This may sound like an insult, but the platforming is nigh-on perfect with a good sense of weight. There’s also a heck of a lot to do, and even if you just rush through the levels you can still expect a 10 hour+ game. To do that, though, would be a shame as a lot of the fun is in hunting out each level’s three star coins. Some are easy to get, others are well hidden, and often one will be in plain sight but require some dexterous finger-work to reach.
In terms of new things, there’s a squirrel suit that allows Mario to glide for a period of time, as well as giving him a one-use vertical boost and the ability to stick to walls for a few seconds. The gliding and boost are welcome, the wall-sticking not so much. Occasionally you also meet these fat little baby Yoshis who have different abilities (don’t worry, regular Yoshis are around too).
Outside of the story mode you’ll find the challenge mode and coin rush mode. The challenge mode is broken down into levels, with each one presenting a particular requirement that must be fulfilled. Played in small doses it is actually quite addictive, and will certainly provide a challenge to those wanting to test their platforming skills.
In coin rush the objective is to get to the end of the level as quickly as possible. The only way to do this is to continually collect coins. The more you collect, the faster the level scrolls and the better completion time you’ll receive. Again, it’s a great mode.
In terms of multiplayer, it’s local play only, and I was unable to test it out with a full group of people. However, with a couple of people on the go it’s a decent experience, with the person using the GamePad able to help or hinder the others by placing blocks in the way.
Speaking of the GamePad, it works surprisingly well. Initially it takes some getting used to, as the D-pad and buttons are spaced wider apart than normal, but that feeling is soon overcome. Then there’s the ability to play the whole game on the GamePad’s screen rather than the TV. I love this feature, and actually used it a good 70% of the time; playing a console Mario game whilst on the loo is a somewhat novel experience (and possibly too much information). Those worried that the game won’t look any good on a non-HD screen can rest easy, it still looks sharp.
Whilst the game looks good, you can't help but feel we've seen it all before.
There’s the lava world, the ice world, the desert world, the water world; it’s like someone hit copy and paste from the older games. Then there’s the music, which again sounds like it has been recycled from previous games (“wah wah!”). I’ll also give you a guess as to how many times you have to jump on a boss’ head.
New Super Mario Bros. U just feels flat. There’s very little of the flair seen in Mario’s 3D outings, and this feeling is exacerbated by the fact New Super Mario Bros. 2 was only just released on the 3DS a couple of months ago.
- Lots of content.
- A few secrets for those willing to look.
- Playing on the GamePad is awesome.
- Miiverse is great.
- It’s very hard to feel excited about this game.
- A lot of stuff feels like it has been recycled from previous “New” games.
Please don’t look at the score below and automatically think this is a bad Mario game – it’s not. It’s definitely the best of the “New” games, but I could argue that’s because each one is almost a copy of the last, with a few refinements. If you buy Super Mario Bros. U I have no doubt you will have an enjoyable time, but I’d also wager money that this time next month you won’t even remember it.
Good, but ultimately forgettable.