New Super Mario Bros. U

August 11, 2013

It’s not every Nintendo launch that we’re graced with a Mario game right out of the gates, but the Wii U has seen fit to release New Super Mario Bros. U on day one. Early adopters have been given an easy justification for their purchase, and Nintendo have an instant winner that’s sure to sell thousands on the name alone. But let’s review it anyway, shall we?

This is the fourth game now in the New Super Mario Bros. series, which makes it hardly ‘new’ anymore, to be honest. The series is a revival of the older 2D-style of Mario games, although it seems to be predominantly taking inspiration from Super Mario Bros. 3. There are overworld maps, boss fights with Bowser’s extended family, sojourns to his fleet of flying pirate ships, and even a new power-up that gives Mario the ability to fly.

Well, I say fly, but it’s really more gliding. The new flying squirrel suit allows Mario to soar from platform to platform, as well as grab onto the sides of walls and platforms. In truth, it doesn’t feel very different to the Raccoon/Tanooki power-ups from past games, although the ability to stick to surfaces does help get you out of some tricky situations. It also gives you much greater control over your descents, which helps with chaining together your enemy knockouts. That said, you already have all the tight controls and amazing gameplay that 2D Mario titles consistently deliver, and the gameplay is still fantastic fun even without the new suit. Mario is still a joy to control, and there are very few times you can say you died unfairly and not due to your own stupid, stupid fault.

Baby Yoshis also appear as another new power-up of a sort. You can meet them within levels or on the overworld map to make use of their special abilities (such as floating, spitting bubbles and glowing). The trick is, you have to pick up and carry them around to actually take them anywhere, and then drop them if you need to take care of something else. This can be a little annoying, especially as Mario has a tendency to throw things rather than drop them, meaning you’ll be sending plenty of Baby Yoshis sailing into bottomless pits, but most likely won’t care and just get on with the level. Yoshi himself does make a more welcome and useful return, gaining a new meter that keeps track of fruit he eats along the way – when full, he’ll spit out a power-up.

The actual structure of New Super Mario Bros. U is obviously meant to be very familiar to everyone who’s heard of Mario, making it extremely easy to jump into and play. There are eight worlds (nine, if you count the bonus ‘Superstar Road’), which have finally eschewed the numbered system of World 1-1, 1-2, etc. for proper names like ‘Acorn Fields’. There are mid-level bosses (which are far superior to the weird triceratops challenges from New Super Mario Bros. 2), end-level castles, ghost mansions and Toad shacks – basically everything you’ve come to expect from the series. Aside from a single major split in the path early in the game, there some smaller forks in the road within worlds, and several levels do have alternate exits.

The Star Coins return as the ever-tempting-yet-frustrating collectibles. There are three in every level, and you’ll pull your hair out trying to find each and every one, even though their only real purpose is to grant you levels on the Superstar Road, which is a reasonable, if not inspiring, reward. After trying futilely to reach a star coin for an hour, you’ll probably just give up and move on, much as I eventually did so often.

As for the Wii U aspects of the game, New Super Mario Bros. U takes after the Wii installment of the series, with five-player co-operative gameplay. While four players can take on the side-scrolling action on-screen with their Wii Remotes, a fifth player can assist them using the Wii U Gamepad, by tapping the screen to create blocks and stun enemies. The integration of the Gamepad works, though it feels a little basic – sort of like the second player firing Star Bits in Super Mario Galaxy, it seems kind of superfluous, but nice to have. When playing alone, the Gamepad replicates the TV’s display, becoming completely redundant unless someone else needs the TV and you have to play elsewhere.

There are also a variety of additional modes to supplement the main game, including plenty of challenges and ‘coin battle’ and ‘boost rush’ modes, which will test your platforming skills and add some longevity to the experience. Some are geared towards speed runners, which in my opinion are the most fun to play.

Now in HD for the first time, New Super Mario Bros. U looks sharp, colourful and smooth. The design of the levels pop with personality, but the character models seem to just be upscaled versions of their Wii and 3DS counterparts. The same can be said for the rest of the game, coming off as a really sharp looking Wii title. Isn’t it time for an upgrade in visual department along with the resolution bump? The music is catchy as always, and there are many familiar themes woven into the game.

New Super Mario Bros. U may be the best title in the New Super Mario Bros. series (perhaps tied with New Super Mario Bros. 2), but for all the fuss about being the first Mario game on a new Nintendo console, there really is very little to justify the upgrade. I remember a time when a new 2D Mario game would bring with it changes that upgraded and redefined the gameplay experience, whether it was the Raccoon suit in Super Mario Bros. 3, or the scope and new moves of Super Mario World, or even the totally different mechanics of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. This philosophy has since transitioned to the 3D titles, and despite their name, the New Super Mario Bros. games are more concerned with bringing us more of the same with slight improvements, rather than anything truly new. I understand that’s the point, and make no mistake that this is still a really fun and solid game for the Wii U, but it’s not a reason to pick up the console just yet.


Classic Mario gameplay | Addictive as always | Great co-op | Challenges


Not much new, obviously | Gamepad features are fairly basic

Overall Score: