+ Level design
+ GamePad control
+ Four-player matches
- Limited innovation
- Requires 4 scavenged Wiimotes
Final score: 9 / 10
Controller support: Yes
A working Wii U home console
New Super Mario Bros. U is a game that never strays from the classic mechanics of the series and manages to introduce enough content to keep fans occupied for dozens of hours. The quality level also makes it a very good reason to buy the new Wii U home console.
At the same time, the game fails to shake up the franchise in any meaningful way and some long-term fans might be disappointed that New Super Mario Bros. plays similarly on the new home console and the 3DS.
Nothing much ever changes when it comes to narrative in Super Mario video games so Princess Peach, Bowser and his minions, Mario and Luigi are involved in the new Wii U game as they have always been.
The big change is the fact that Bowser chooses not to kidnap Peach and take her away, but rather to invade her castle with his Koopalings and Kamek, Boom Boom and Bowser Jr.
He then uses a mechanical arm to throw Mario and Luigi away and they need to journey back through a traditional overland map in order to save the day and defeat their enemies.
New Super Mario Bros. U is a simple game: run, jump, evade enemies, collect coins, discover secrets, defeat Bowser and get Princess Peach back once more.
In order to keep players interested, Nintendo has always sought to add more content by creating new stages, new challenges and new characters to encounter, while also re-making older content with new ideas and twists.
The most recent game in the Mario series manages to mix the two trends very well and there’s a feeling of almost constant joy at the discoveries one makes as the game progresses.
Nintendo also understands that it needs to impress gamers in order to keep them playing and there are quite a few old faces from the series who are making a return just to chase players for a level or two and an interesting array of new enemies is also introduced to satisfy veterans.
The familiar mushrooms and their incredible effects are present and gamers can also get access to a new squirrel suit, with a floating ability, a short-term clinging mechanic and a boost that can be used mid-air.
Yoshi is also back, although in a small number of levels, but otherwise the game is very classic in its approach to the Mario formula.
Its best use in New Super Mario Bros. U comes in one of the Challenge levels, but it is also nicely mixed in the single-player portion of the game, although it takes some time to learn how to best deploy it.
The Wii U feature that Nintendo has been promoting most before launch is the GamePad controller, with the included touch screen, and New Super Mario Bros. U knows how to make use of it.
A gamer can use the screen in order to create platforms that allow their friends to get to unlikely areas, can destroy all the projectiles that appear on screen and also gain enough stars to activate a purple state which allows them to tap the screen in order to kill all threatening enemies.
I didn’t feel that the actions were enough to keep the GamePad wielding gamer occupied at all times, but it was an interesting use of the new features that made the overall game experience more interesting.
The problem with the new GamePad is that the sticks can feel very sluggish at times, although the character himself always responds to commands.
This introduces a weird disconnect between my commands and Mario’s actions, especially when focusing on the television screen, but the sensation tends to dissipate after I play the game for a while.
I was constantly grinning while playing New Super Mario Bros. U, which is a sign of the game’s quality, but rationally, I know that the game fails to push its own series and the genre forward in any meaningful way, which will certainly disappoint long-term fans.
Graphics and audio
New Super Mario Bros. U is one of the most beautiful video games that Nintendo has ever created and that is clearly a good sign for the future of the new Wii U home console.
A simple upgrade to the resolution of the art assets would have been the easiest way of making the game look good, but the development team went one step further and chose to create a number of new assets and added a lot of extra detail to the stages and the backgrounds.
A lot of players might miss the additions, and that’s a shame, but no one will be able to simply ignore the crisp new outlines for the characters, the bright colors and the smooth movement that the Wii U is capable of delivering.
I was also impressed with the screen quality on the new GamePad controller and after a few sessions, I almost entirely abandoned my television set in order to play New Super Mario Bros. U entirely on the smaller but closer screen.
I’m less impressed by the sound design in New Super Mario Bros. U.
The game is suitably cheerful and the familiar music is designed to trigger a pleasure response in any veteran gamer’s brain, but there’s nothing new here, no innovation, no clever use of sound as a way to enhance gameplay.
Four-player matches of New Super Mario Bros. U can be exciting and competitive, but they can also be frustrating, with shifting alliances mixed with impressive acrobatic moves.
The only problem with the multiplayer mode is that it requires Wiimotes to be used, which do not come in the standard Wii U pack and need to be purchased separately by those who lack an older Nintendo console to scavenge them from.
Nintendo could also have expanded the scope of the multiplayer mode by simply adding an online mode instead of insisting on a local only experience, a step that will probably define the new Super Mario Bros. game.
New Super Mario Bros. U is clearly a must buy for those who have picked up the new Wii U home console from Nintendo and it might also be one of the main reasons to get the new hardware.
The game is solid when it comes to core mechanics and as classic as possible without turning off modern gamers, but the Challenges and the Boost Mode also introduce some interesting new ideas to the series.
The Coin Battle is also a great way of transitioning gamers from the older Wii to the new gaming platform and will offer hours of fun and might even strain some friendships after intense games.
The only big problem with New Super Mario Bros. U is that the game fails to truly evolve the formula of the franchise and might leave long-term fans disappointed.
After all, the introduction of a new console is a good occasion for Nintendo to introduce major changes to its biggest characters, but so far, the fan base has only seen timid promises from Satoru Iwata about a new kind of Mario game sometime during 2013.
Until then, buy New Super Mario Bros. U and enjoy it as a 12-year-old would.