The lights are on
Since the DS Nintendo has known that New Super Mario games sell, and this time that put that knowledge into strategy, releasing New Super Mario Bros. U on day 1 with the Wii U. Nintendo also knows not to mess with the formula. NSMBU is like the rest of the side-scrolling Mario games: a blast to play and easy to pick up. Multiplayer returns, helping prove that the mode will stick for years to come, though some of the levels are still hard to complete with more than one person. Four players can again take on the roles of Mario, Luigi, and two toads, but now a fifth player can use the GamePad to activate boost mode, popping up to four platforms in the level at will that can take a single jump before rapidly shrinking. For non-gamers who can't even tackle Mario, a more skilled player can sit backseat and protect them from a deadly fall. For solo players, the game can be played entirely on the GamePad with no need for a TV, with only minor hiccups.
The power-ups have also changed. While mushrooms of course return, and fire and ice flowers, players can get acquainted with the new super acorns will give the characters flying squirrel suits with which they can glide and latch on to walls. Green Yoshis also return, but are kept to certain levels. More important and mobile are the baby blue and pink Yoshis, who Mario and co. can carry through levels, using to blow bubbles that capture enemies or inflate like a balloon that can be used to glide, respectively. These two new Yoshis, along with a more strict yellow one that controls light and only appears in certain levels, are basically new power-ups.
The game world itself is one large, connected map, with multiple and splitting paths, as well as hidden exits in levels, that give players the opportunity to skip entire worlds. Returning as world bosses are the Koopalings, though none of them should be feared, little more than Boom-Boom who shows up in almost every world. Some levels are tough even for Mario veterans, but the game throws enough lives at you that you can reach the max of 99 halfway through the game, even after losing several.
Outside of the game, players can participate in challenges that are extremely tough even when their difficulty is ranked low. These challenges range from speedruns of level segments to attempting to glide a distance without touching the ground by bouncing off enemies, and there are plenty to keep you busy.
NSMBU is a welcome launch title, and one that can't be beat. It doesn't try to show off the GamePad, and doesn't even require one except to start the game, and anyone can play it. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of throwbacks to classic Mario games (one world is a giant world, similar to world 3 in Mario Bros. 3), only the power-ups and challenges are new, and neither are game-changing. Even when completing every level, the game isn't terribly long, able to be beaten in well under 10 hours if the player isn't occupied with getting the 3 special coins in each level. One thing is for sure, while fun, NSMBU isn't trying to change the formula like most of the main Mario games do.
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