New Super Mario Bros. U
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2013-01-23 Wii U Platform E (Everyone) Nintendo

Once upon a time in Mushroom Kingdom, Mario, Luigi, a couple of Toads and Peach were having a nice peaceful dinner in the castle. But suddenly a big airship with a giant mechanical arm appears out of nowhere, smashing things around, throwing our heroes across the world, and taking the Princess hostage. Yep. There goes Princess Peach being kidnapped again by Bowser. IN HER OWN CASTLE! Seriously, how does she manage? Does she ever even try to escape? Wouldn't you implement some sort of extreme security measures in your castle if you kept being abducted? And while I'm rambling, does anyone else ever wonder where all of Bowser's kids come from? Anyway, thus begins New Super Mario Bros. U.

While this isn't exactly a timely review, I didn't get my Wii U at launch but as a Christmas present, so I finally had enough time to get acquainted with New Super Mario Bros. U. Mixing up old and new, the game brings in new challenges and characters while keeping elements from previous games in the franchise. For example, the game world is reminiscent of Super Mario World, presented as a large seamless world with distinct areas named after food or beverages (i.e., Layer Cake Desert and Soda Jungle). The soundtrack also differs per area, like in Yoshi's Island. Taken from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you can find Toad Houses and Enemy Courses on the map as well. You can win power-ups from these "mini-games", which you will find in the world map inventory, limited to carrying only 10 items this time around.

Yoshi makes an appearance as the useful ride he once was, but also in Baby form. Several baby Yoshis of different colors have different uses in the stages you find them in, but they will not grow into adult form like Green Yoshi. Blue Baby Yoshi blows bubbles that catch enemies; Yellow Baby Yoshi is a light source and can stun enemies; Pink Baby Yoshi floats like a balloon. Unfortunately, you can't take the Baby Yoshis out of their stages, but there are a few that you can find on the world map that can be taken anywhere except the Fortresses and Air Ships.

The gameplay is essentially what you would expect from a Mario game: run, jump, collect coins and power-ups to help you along, get to the goal as fast as possible. Power-ups make their appearace, so you will be finding your usual Super and 1-Up Mushrooms, Stars and Fire Flowers, as well as Ice Flowers, Penguin Suit and Mini Mushrooms.

The new addition comes in the form of the Super Arcorn, which turns Mario and friends into a flying squirrel that can glide and grab onto walls. No Tanooki suit, Leaf or Propeller Mushroom, but this somewhat similar. There is also a special acorn, the P-Acorn, which allows you to fly an infinite number of times on a given stage.

The 4-player multiplayer option returns, allowing you to play as your Mii or a character. This of course requires additional Wii-Motes which are not bundled with the system, so you must either purchase some or go rummaging for your old Wii accessories (which we did). And if you'd rather use the new Wii U Pro Controller, forget it: it's not supported. You really NEED the Wii-Mote for multiplayer.

A fifth player can also join in on the fun by using the Wii U GamePad, in a new mode called Boost Mode. Boost Mode lets the player on the GamePad place temporary blocks by touching the screen, that can either be helpful or hinder the other players. The fifth player can also be helpful by stunning enemies.

Another new addition is Boost Rush, a set of scrolling levels of increased speed where you run collecting coins. You can play it solo or with friends.

Coin Battle is another multiplayer mini-game where is every man for himself as the players scramble to collect as many coins as possible. It's quite simple and it can get pretty competitive, but I don't see much point to it other than collecting coins. My husband and I played it a couple of times and we simply stopped with a shrug and a "meh". If you feel like fiddling with it, there is a "coin placement editor" that lets you add or move the coins around pre-exisiting stages.

Don't get too excited about the multiplayer feature though, as it's only available locally only. With the limitations of everyone needing a controller, taking the game online would have greatly expanded this experience.

I wasn't too crazy about the multiplayer, to be honest. In fact, both husband and I were fairly annoyed by how we kept bumping into each other, usually with bad consequences: bumped down into a pit, onto a passing Goomba, into the water, off a platform, into the munching motions of a Piranha Plant, and so on. You don't just pass each other on a different "plane", the characters collide all the time. It was pretty annoying and frustrating.

Fortunately, the single-player Super Mario experience is solid as ever, and looks great. It's especially rewarding to be able to play it on the GamePad, with the TV off or while someone else is watching a show. You sit there, pretend it's the DS, and have a fantastic HD experience on the palm of your hand. Maybe it's just me, but the worlds seem a tad more vibrant and rich on the GamePad's screen.

Faithful to the classic mechanics from previous games, reinventing old content and introducing new elements to keep the franchise fresh, New Super Mario Bros. U has plenty to keep gamers going for a while. Just don't ask me to play with you, I'd rather be antisocial and enjoy my game alone.

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