If you ask a group of gamers whether or not the New Super Mario Bros. games are worthy successors to the original 2D Mario titles, you’re practically guaranteed a number of different answers. Some like the colourful 2.5D graphics and modern Mario platforming condensed into a side-scrolling adventure while others abhor it for the stock music, easy difficulty and the fact that the games tend to have minimal differences between them. New Super Mario Bros. U released for the Wii U hopes to turn non-believers into believers and provide more of the same (albeit much higher quality) to fans of the series. Does it achieve these goals? Yes and no.
Predictably, New Super Mario Bros. U starts off with Bowser kidnapping Peach and Mario goes off to save her. New Super Mario Bros. U plays distinctly similar to previous games in the series with a familiar brand of 2D platforming. New additions include carrying baby Yoshis that have different abilities like lighting up dark areas and blowing up bubbles – a flying squirrel suit, and some old power-ups like the mini mushroom feature new abilities like granting the ability to run on walls.
The world map is reminiscent of Super Mario World in the sense that the levels are not confined to their own hub but are part of a larger world. The level design is the best in the series so far and the difficulty has been raised to the point that some of the later levels are quite difficult and finding all the coins and doing the special courses should have you playing for 15-20 hours.
Up to five players can play together, four controlling with Wiimotes and another using the Wii U’s signature gamepad to aid or hinder players by placing blocks and stunning enemies. Playing together with friends adds a new layer of intensity to the game and a good portion of the fun comes from using that gamepad to make life difficult for the other players.
There are two new modes, Challenge Play and Boost Rush to add some spice to the standard offerings. Challenge Play is a mode that adds specific challenges to each level like beating a level very fast. Boost Rush is a mode where the screen is scrolling automatically and your aim is to collect coins to make it scroll faster and ultimately finish the level as fast as possible. You are able to use your personal Mii avatars as characters in these modes and while I didn’t care for them, the arcade-style structure should appeal to completionists.
In terms of presentation, I find New Super Mario Bros. U rather inconsistent. While it looks great, its audio design is rather uninspired. The world map and some of the backgrounds are incredibly colourful and look gorgeous displayed in native 1080p. As expected, New Super Mario Bros. U runs at 60 frames per second which is absolutely necessary for a platformer like this one. But despite its appealing look, the art-style has become somewhat boring and dated at this point and I wish they would’ve changed it up for this iteration.
Simple and somewhat bland music has been a staple of this series since the first game’s release in 2005. The unadulterated platforming bliss contained herein deserves much better than tunes you’d probably hear in an elevator. The sound effects and background noises are typical Mario fare but classic sounds like coin sounds and the familiar sound of stomping on a goomba’s head are all here. Unfortunately, due to the Wii U’s nonexistent support for licensed forms of surround sound like Dolby TrueHD it’s tricky to make full use of the audio options available to hear all that New Super Mario Bros. U provides.
The Wii U’s signature tablet controller sees little use of its tablet-specific features in NSMBU but the ability for off-screen play is fantastic and I’m still amazed that I can play while someone else is using the TV. I hope more developers are considering making use of this currently underutilized feature with their titles in the future. It’s also worth noting that Nintendo is also planning to release DLC in the near future like new levels and the ability to play as Luigi.
New Super Mario Bros. U is a game that will not attract much of the “hardcore” gaming audience to the Wii U but it is a great launch title for the new system. If you dislike the New Super Mario Bros. games, chances are this one won’t persuade you to hop on the bandwagon but fans of both the series and great 2D platformers will be greeted with one of the most fun titles to emerge from the genre in recent memory and is quite possibly the best game in the series. But, as good as it is there are still some disappointing characteristics of the series that will likely continue to turn off those opposed to the series.
Nonetheless, fans of the series will definitely enjoy everything here even though it is just more of the same. Now that Nintendo has released two of these titles in the past six months, I can’t wait to see what they cook up for the next generation of 3D Mario games.
- Superb level design
- Tight gameplay
- Balanced difficulty
- Colourful graphics
- Artstyle may be dull for some by now
- Extra modes aren’t as fun