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Gaming Review

'New Super Mario Bros. U review' (Wii U): HD Mario is best looking yet

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Released on Thursday, Nov 15 2012

New Super Mario Bros Wii U first look

© Nintendo / NeoGAF


Release Date: November 18 (North America), November 30 (Europe)
Platforms available on: Wii U
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Platformer

Although the original Nintendo Wii launched with Wii Sports and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it was without a Mario game until Super Mario Galaxy one year on.

Fortunately, Nintendo has rectified this problem with the Wii U, releasing New Super Mario Bros. U alongside the console. And while it's not as innovative as Nintendo Land, the use of excellent visuals, well-designed levels and unique multiplayer modes ensure that Mario's Wii U debut is a memorable one.

In a departure from the norm, New Super Mario Bros. U doesn't feature a kidnapping, instead, Mario and his chums are sent packing from Peach's castle courtesy of a giant mechanical arm attached to Bowser's airship.

'New Super Mario Bros. U' screenshot
With the Koopalings standing in his way and a dark cloud gathering, Mario must make his way back to Princess Peach before it's too late. It's not Shakespeare, but then Mario games have never been about the story.

Instead, New Super Mario Bros. U is about showing off the Wii U's added horsepower, functionality and features, and in this respect, it largely does a good job. For starters, this is easily the best-looking Mario game to date, thanks to the introduction of high definition visuals.

The backdrops are bursting with colour and packed with detail. Underwater levels are pleasingly bright, perfectly capturing that tropical feel, while late night winter levels, which feature pine trees, shooting stars and snowdrops, are likely to make you feel as festive as a Coca Cola ad.

In terms of gameplay, if you've played any of the New Super Mario Bros. games in recent years then you should know exactly what to expect. Levels are extremely well designed and are brimming with coins, enemies, shortcuts and secrets.


Castles and airships conclude with a boss fight, while enjoyable bonus stages see players try to regain stolen loot and guide baby Yoshis to safety. Power-ups such as the Squirrel suit are a helpful addition, even if they are a little too similar to Tanooki suits, while it's great to see the return of the Penguin suit and the aforementioned Yoshis.

It all takes place on a gorgeous world map, which also sports its fair share of secrets and surprises, and is definitely one of the more challenging Mario games of the past few years, although still not a patch on old-school releases.

However, while there can be no denying that the game is a joy to play, compared to the likes of the hugely innovative Super Mario Galaxy or Nintendo Land, the developers could be accused of playing it safe by once again revisiting the New Super Mario Bros. series.

'New Super Mario Bros. U' screenshot
When playing the game's single-player campaign on a big-screen TV, for example, the Wii U GamePad doesn't serve much purpose. Despite its size and weight, it's comfortable to hold and works well as a traditional controller, while the touchscreen can be used to navigate menus and equip items. It does, however, serve one major function, in that it enables users to continue playing when somebody else is watching the TV.

While the game loses a little graphical fidelity in the switch to the small screen, the transition is seamless and the gameplay equally as smooth. In the spirit of family gaming, it means that the Wii U can stay in the living room without having to sacrifice a gaming session for the latest episode of Eastenders.

However, the Wii U GamePad really comes into its own during multiplayer sessions, particularly in Boost Rush. Taking place in a selection of scrolling levels, Boost Rush sees players attempt to survive and make it to the goal without losing all of their lives. Up to four players use the Wii Remotes, while one player uses the GamePad to insert platforms, either aiding or foiling companions in their quest to make it to the finish line.


Initial concerns that Boost Rush would prove a little gimmicky are quashed within seconds. With levels speeding up and slowing down at will, the person with the GamePad has a tough task keeping up with even a couple of characters, attempting to save one, while the other falls to their doom.

The chaotic gameplay is incredibly enjoyable and provides a real challenge, perfectly showcasing the Wii U's asymmetric gameplay potential.

Boost levels also factor into the Challenge mode, only this time courses are designed as puzzles, with players having to work together to reach a goal and avoid traps. With one misplaced platform spelling the end of the run, it encourages communication and teamwork.

Individual challenges, meanwhile, include staying afloat in the Squirrel suit, avoiding all enemies and coins - something which is far easier said than done - and collecting all power-ups while whizzing through the ice in a Penguin suit. There are also time trials, which are addictive as ever, and a handy replay mode for players in need of tips for a particularly challenging high score.

'New Super Mario Bros. U' screenshot
With a single-player campaign that isn't likely to take more than ten hours to best, Challenge mode has more than enough content to keep players coming back for more. Though we were unable to sample Wii Chat and online - features that won't come online until the system launches later this month - the improved service finally ensures that users have a global platform to challenge for the best scores, something which always adds life to a title.

Coin Battle, which sees players compete for the most coins, all the while trying to debilitate opponents with power-ups, also incorporates the GamePad, although it's much more fun actually competing with the Wii Remote.

GamePad users have the ability to edit stages by placing up to 300 coins anywhere they please, inserting them in fiendishly difficult locations, or creating new patterns. It's not the best use of the GamePad, but adds a little extra value to what is an already enjoyable multiplayer mode.

Outside of multiplayer, New Super Mario Bros. U offers little in the way of innovation, focusing instead on delivering tightly-designed levels, which look superb and can be played when the television is in use.

With friends, though, it offers a glimpse of the system's potential for asymmetrical gameplay, providing plenty of enjoyment once Princess Peach is safely back in the arms of Mario.

> Read our review of fellow Wii U launch title Nintendo Land

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