They really should change the name soon…
New! Super Mario Bros. U is the latest in the series of Nintendo’s New! Super Mario Bros. line. And it is probably the best. However, I will say this now to warn people – if you find yourself offended by New! Super Mario Bros., this game will not change your mind (no matter how silly that mind may be).
Often cited as an issue with New! Super Mario Bros. games is length and difficulty. Now, With Mario Bros. U, you will not find a 50 hour long campaign with an epic storyline, but do you expect this? You are tasked with rescuing Princess Peach from the scaly hands of Bowser again, going through eight worlds of awesome platforming fun to save her once more. It’s not riveting stuff, but it gets the job done in setting up why you need to go across the fantastical world the developers have crafted for you.
And what a world this is, now in HD for the first time. On the surface, the game looks the same as its older brother on the Wii, but look a little closer and you’ll notice key graphical differences were applied into making a wonderful looking game. Fireballs from Fire Flowers now light up their surroundings, making heat waves when they hit something ineffectually, ice and crystals envelop levels with a crisp, lush look that could only be achieved with the Wii U’s HD trickery. While it is a little disappointing that they stuck with the same engine and as the Wii game, the new improvements (particularly in lighting) do impress.
The same however can’t be said for the majority of the game’s backgrounds, which don’t offer much in terms of visual fidelity, New! Super Mario Bros. U is a game spent entirely in the foreground.
Indeed, as with the graphics, the whole game has not changed an awful lot from its Wii brother, but that is not a bad thing. As with New! Super Mario Bros Wii, U is a hugely fun game, and maintains the same level of difficulty as it’s home-console predecessor, which is most definitely difficult enough for newcomers and old fans of the series to have a blast. Level design helps in gameplay (as always), and each level in this game is as much a treat for the eyes as it is the thumbs and brain. Nothing ever feels unfair, and everything is there for a reason – for fun.
Adding to the fun on offer is a great soundtrack that, again, is not too different from what we’ve heard before. But why fix something that ain’t broke? It’s a fun soundtrack for a fun game that is sure to leave as big a smile on your face as it did mine.
Throughout worlds 1-7 lays a game with a strong eye for fun, but it is not until the final world that the game really comes into its own. World 8 is the shortest of the lot, but it is also the strongest, with a brilliant soundtrack running throughout topped off by yet another fantastic final boss battle – something this series never gets wrong. If the whole game was up to the standards of the final world, New! Super Mario Bros. U would easily be among the very best Mario games.
This isn’t to say the rest of the game is bad, far from it, but just to say that the final world is a step above the rest. One of the main issues with the game however does lie in its lack of new ideas. We are given one new powerup to play with (a flying squirrel suit) and a baby Yoshi, which comes in three forms, each as great as the last. The baby Yoshi’s either light up your way, blow bubbles to get rid of enemies or to jump on or act as a a kind of Yoshi balloon that can be used to elevate you upwards and hopefully out of harm’s way for but a limited time.
The squirrel suit steals the show however, and it really adds another layer of complexity and strategy into the seemingly simple game. With the normal squirrel suit you can glide – maintaining the glide by landing on an enemy – and grip hold of a wall. However, you can get a super squirrel suit if you catch Nabbit. Occasionally Nabbit will turn up in a level you have already beaten, and you have to catch him before the end of the level – a fun diversion from the main game. The super squirrel suit gives you unlimited gliding-boosts (done by shaking the Gamepad), instead of the regular one that only gives you a couple of boosts upwards before landing you back on the ground again.
The rest of the powerups are as good as they’ve always been, but suits like the Penguin suit seem underused compared to the standards like the Fire Flower. The items however do seem stronger this time round, perhaps thanks to one of the new modes on offer.
Beyond the main game, there is plenty to get up to. There are the multiplayer modes as seen in the Wii game, Coin Rush mode and a new mission mode. The multiplayer works just as it did in New! Super Mario Bros. Wii, and still co-op for me is something of an annoying curio, as I feel everyone gets in the way of my progress, but if you enjoyed multiplayer on the Wii version, you’ll have just as much fun here. Coin Rush mode is interesting, as it makes every level a scrolling level, with the speed of the level scroll increasing every time you pick up a coin. But the mission mode steals the show of the extras, acting as a very neat way of teaching you the expert moves and strategies for speed runs and picking up many extra-lives (which isn’t too much of an issue as they are in abundance anyway). The amount of content in New! Super Mario Bros. U is quite staggering; especially considering it was a launch game.
As with all of the games in the New! series, there are three Star coins to collect in each level, and this is where a lot of the challenge comes in – some are easy enough to collect, but others are hidden away, often consuming a fair few lives along the way. The Star coin formula is as good as it ever was, and it really helps the longevity of the experience.
You may be asking, what does the game do to make use of the unique Wii U? the answer is two things. First and foremost, during multiplayer, a fifth player can get involved, either helping or hindering level progress by placing blocks on the touch-screens real-time image of what is happening on the television; this is quite fun, but really, it doesn’t add anything to the experience. Secondly, the game is fully integrated with Miiverse, with people’s posts appearing on the fantastic over-world map; you are asked at the end of some levels to post something of your own, it’s an inspired use of the great Miiverse that hasn’t really been equalled since, let alone bettered.
While New! Super Mario Bros. U doesn’t reinvent the wheel; it does refine it and acknowledge what a glorious history it has had. It’s a crisp, great looking game that knows exactly what it wants and how to do it in order to slather an idiotic grin across your face from start to finish.
You should all know by now what kind of game this is, worth anybody’s time.