The lights are on
I know I'm a bit late to the party on this, but New Super Mario Bros. U is a terrific platformer despite its all-too familiar territory and design.
Each New Super Mario Bros. title is a slightly different experience with one overall idea; to bring the nostalgic joy of yesterday's Mario games into today's generation of gamers young and old. The DS original introduced this idea, the Wii iteration added couch co-op to the mix, and the 3DS edition is much the same as its DS counterpart, except it has an emphasis on coin-grabbing. So how does the Wii U iteration fare in comparison?
From the outside, it looks like the same game with an HD coat of paint. However, upon picking up the Wii U GamePad and plugging away by yourself or with a friend, it eventually becomes clear that it's like the Wii edition with the added twist of being able to place platforms for your friends to go for those hard-to-reach items or coins. For the solo player this doesn't add too much to the table unless you're using a Wii remote in conjunction with the GamePad's screen, but for co-op sessions it's a godsend.
Obviously, there's not to much in the way of story--a castle party with Peach is rudely interrupted by Bowser and his cohorts who hold Peach hostage while sending Mario, Luigi and their toad friends away. However, whereas New Super Mario Bros. Wii reminded me more of Super Mario Bros. 3 in its design, the Wii U game reminds me more of my favorite, Super Mario World. At any point, you can look over the entire world map to see how much more you have to go, and it seems like a lot of platforming is ahead of you.
The game introduces a new item in the form of a flying squirrel mushroom. Like the name implies, this item gives you the ability to fly temporarily after giving yourself a good running start. In addition, Yoshi makes a comeback, and he's brought his little Baby Yoshi friends that can grant you different abilities for stages. For example, the magenta (fuschia? pink/purple? Whatever.) Yoshis can turn into air balloons at the tap of a button to help you over gaps in certain levels. These abilities become very useful without ever feeling shoehorned into the gameplay.
In addition, there is a whole new challenge mode that gives players different challenges and types of challenges to try besting themselves or their friends with. For example, there are speed run challenges that obviously challenge you to get through a certain level within a specific time frame. Another mode has you reaching for as many (or as few) coins as possible. Then there's a new Boost Rush mode that puts Mario veterans to the test with challenges that require the Wii U GamePad's ability to add platforms.
All of this is an old-school Mario fan's wildest dreams come true. However, there are a couple things about the game that bother me. The GamePad's implementation is awesome for couch co-op, but it can become a borderline annoyance for solo gamers, especially the ones that want to play the game in its entirety using the GamePad. Since the game fully supports Off-TV Play, having two displays can become annoying and rather distracting.
Also, given that Nintendo released this as a Wii U launch title, it does bug me a little bit that the Wii U Pro Controller isn't compatible with this title. You would think that a game like this would be excellent for it, but I guess someone at Nintendo didn't see things that way. On another note regarding the console's launch, since the Wii U boasts an all-new online system it would have made sense to add an online co-op mode. The fact that no online play mode is present is sort of a disappointment, especially since I currently have seventeen friends on my Wii U and I can't play this with a single one of them.
New Super Mario Bros. U, overall, isn't a bad game. In fact, it's one of the most solid games for the Wii U that I can recommend for now. However, its lack of a few things that would seem common-place in today's gaming community makes it difficult for me to give this any higher of a score than 8.75 out of 10.
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