New Super Mario Bros. U Review
The Wii U's launch was received with mixed reactions across the gaming world. While the debut of Nintendo's newest console hasn't been as successful as the Wii, it has proved to be a relatively innovative piece of technology. The Wii U's launch titles have showcased how the GamePad can have us experience games in new ways, including being able to stream certain games to the GamePad so friends and family can use the TV for other purposes. New Super Mario Bros. U not only shows off the potential the Wii U has to be a truly great home entertainment experience, but it's easily one of the best games currently available on the system.
The game begins at Princess Peach's castle, with Mario and friends enjoying some tea. Unsurprisingly, Bowser and his minions show up in their airships to ruin what should have been a pleasant day. Of course, Bowser kicks everyone out of the castle except for Peach and once again it's up to Mario, Luigi and the rest of the gang to rescue her. After this opening cinematic, the world map appears much like it does in other Mario games. The map is split into different areas, each one being controlled by a different Bowser goon. The goal, naturally, is to get through all of the stages while collecting coins, power-ups and defeating area bosses one by one until finally confronting Bowser.
Probably the first thing most players will notice about the game is how beautiful New Super Mario Bros. U looks. The Wii U is the first Nintendo console to feature full high-definition graphics, and Nintendo's use of vibrant colors work perfectly for HD. Video games always look better on HDTVs when they feature bright visuals, and New Super Mario Bros. U proves it. The graphics processor in the Wii U also helps bring the characters on the screen to life by using current-gen physics and smooth animations. Indeed, this perhaps the most lively Mario game to date.
Most of the stages will seem very familiar to those that have played other entries in the Mario franchise. The levels all consist of jumping from platform to platform, knocking out enemies, dodging projectiles, collecting coins and finding secrets. Mario's move-set is pretty much the same as New Super Mario Bros. Wii, including the ability to pull off Spin Jump's by shaking the Wii Remote or GamePad. The stages can be challenging at times, but for the most part are relatively simple. The difficulty, like in most Mario games, gradually ramps-up as the player progresses through the game but most veteran players shouldn't have any problems beating stages on their first attempt. The true challenges in this game involve finding all of the secrets and collecting every Star Coin. By using the Miiverse, The Wii U's built-in social network, you can leave notes for other players to provide hints on how to tackle different stages and brag about your accomplishments.
One of the best parts of any Mario game is the power-ups. Familiar faces such as the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower and Starman are all featured in New Super Mario Bros. U. Semi-new additions to the Mario power-up library are also back, including the Ice Flower and Mini Mushroom. The Propeller Mushroom also returns, but is a little difficult to find. New to the series are the Super Acorn and the rare Penguin Suit, both of which are pretty fun to use. The Super Acorn turns Mario into a flying squirrel, which allows Mario to glide after a jump, latch onto walls and get some added distance while jumping. The Penguin Suit, obviously, turns Mario into a penguin. While wearing this outfit, Mario is able to shoot ice balls just like the Ice Flower, swim better and do a nifty belly-slide.
By using the GamePad and up to four Wii Remotes, New Super Mario Bros. U makes for an excellent party game. While four people control Mario, Luigi and a couple of Toads, the player with the GamePad can either help or hinder their friends by using the touchscreen to stun enemies or place blocks. If playing alone is more your thing, the game controls nicely with either the Wii Remote or the GamePad. Additionally, the game can be streamed to the GamePad's touchscreen, which is perfect for those that have to share their TV with others and is one of the Wii U's best features.
Bonuses and secrets are abundant in New Super Mario Bros. U, which greatly add to the replay value. Modes such as "Time Attack", "Coin Collection" and "1-Up Rally" are pretty much separate games and provide for some great challenges. Finding all of the special Star Coins (three in each stage) will net you the hidden world known as "Superstar Road" which boasts its own secrets, including the elusive Penguin Suit and collectable Star Coins. There's even a "Records House" that unlocks after completing the game that tracks all of your statistics. As a completionist, I find this addition to be most welcome.
New Super Mario Bros. U is a very well designed game, and is perhaps one of the best Mario experiences to come along as of late. The multiplayer capabilities are where the game is at its strongest, but there is still plenty of fun to be had playing alone. I wouldn't call New Super Mario Bros. U a system-seller, but it should be among the first games you purchase if you decide to take a chance with the Wii U. You won't regret it.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.