New console, new controller, new Mario. Everything is just so damn new! Though being the fourth New Super Mario Bros. title, is it as fresh as it likes to claim? You can keep sticking New at the front, but one day those mushrooms will go stale.
New Super Mario Bros. U is another throwback 2D platformer, with Mario, Luigi, Yellow Toad and Blue Toad going on an adventure to rescue Princess Peach. Collecting coins,, jumping pitfalls and eating mushrooms on the way to the end stage is all present and correct, with only a few new inclusions in place to freshen up the formula. New Baby Yoshi’s have been introduced to blow bubbles, float high and glow up dark caverns plus a new squirrel suit allows Mario and co to glide smoothly through the sky. These new elements are fun though scarce, leaving it up to the level design to bring the freshest delights.
While keeping true to the classic Mario’s of old, New Super Mario Bros. U excels thanks to the perfectly formed level design. Each level is paced so the player is never left to run through stretches of dull flat land and secrets are placed in devious locations, but never irritatingly vague. New concepts keep popping up till the final level, though sometimes discarded too quickly, and the crisp HD visuals give the clinical visual style some life. Just a shame they couldn’t do some work on the music, which while inoffensive and sometimes catchy, is regurgitated from the New Mario games of old.
New Super Mario Bros. U is one of the best examples of 2D platforming when it comes to level design, but every time the game tries something a little daring, it quickly recoils and brings in another lava level or bah noises. One level looks like a painting (as seen in the image provided) but this is a one-off, the game sticking to HD renditions of the deserts and ice worlds we’ve seen so many times before. It looks crisp, but it doesn’t provide the same impact when you consider the changes in visual style made between the first three Mario Bros. games, Mario World, Mario 64, Mario Sunshine and Mario Galaxy. Something too radical regarding visuals and audio would just distract from the amazing Wii U features, right?
The features which make use of the Wii U vary in terms of how they showcase the consoles capabilities. The inclusion of Miiverse integration which allows a player to post a message online when they complete a stage or fail miserable is a novel one, and it makes the world feel a little more personal when you see the world map filled with messages from strangers around the globe. The ability to play the whole game on just the game pad is another great feature, especially when you’ve come back from work late and just want to grab hold of something which isn’t your c… coat hanger.
The main feature advertised which allows a player to place blocks on the game pad screen is a lazy one though, and feels more like a compromise the fifth player has to put up with as they didn’t dibs a Wii remote when it comes to co-op play. Which is why they’re allowed to be a jerk and cause mayhem as they trap players and screw them over when players hang above pits. No one will play nice on that thing.
New Super Mario Bros. U is disappointing when it comes to reinventing the series and making it feel new once more, but the excellent level design and sparks of genius means that Mario still isn’t a shrivelled old man, he just needs a visual makeover. Because our hands are still clicking but our eyes are tired.