The sprawling realm of the Mushroom Kingdom proves resplendent in this, Mario’s high definition debut.
Abruptly thrown from Princess Peach’s Castle by a giant mechanical hand, Mario, Luigi, Blue Toad and Yellow Toad tumble into the Acorn Plains. The Princess isn’t kidnapped this time around, instead finding herself besieged by the menacing rogue Bowser and his airship fleet.
New Super Mario Bros. U delivers a joyous experience that very much kick starts Nintendo’s Wii U ambition.
Fans will enjoy throwbacks to Super Mario Land and Super Mario Bros. 3, providing inspiration for the expansive World Map that intertwines the entire adventure. Mario finds himself bounding along roads, sliding down hills, dodging enemies and hopping atop giant mushrooms, allowing the Mushroom Kingdom to come alive.
Toad Houses reward you with extra lives or items that may be used before entering courses, whilst Koopa Kid castles are sporadically dotted across the map.
As a further demonstration of just how the touchscreen controller opens up possibilities for asymmetrical gameplay, the Wii U GamePad enables up to five players to get in on the riotous action. As players each armed with a Wii Remote continue their progression on the TV screen, whoever is left using the Wii U GamePad is able to place platforms to either aid or hinder their efforts.
Tactfully labelled as the ‘Boost Mode,’ such player is only ever able to create four platforms at any one time, individually coloured and marked by differing cards suits (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades).
Whilst designed to be helpful toward participating players, such input can also result in mischievous outcomes: blocking a player from collecting a Fire Flower; defending enemies from inbound shells, or just being a general nuisance. I couldn’t help but smirk at the grumbled response from the other players, but there’s never been a greater chance to play the villain!
Power-up favourites return such as the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, Super Star and Mini Mushroom, with the additional inclusion of the Super Acorn and Ice Flower. The Super Acorn provides you with a flying squirrel costume, allowing you to swoop through levels, cling to walls and fly upwards as you seek secret areas.
Whereas the Ice Flower, as its name suggests, sees you throw ice balls that encase enemies in frozen blocks of ice once hit. These may then be picked up and hurled, sliding into further enemies and removing them from your path.
Yoshi also makes a welcome appearance, alongside three Baby Yoshi types that each grant their own unique abilities: Balloon Baby Yoshi fills with hot air that lifts you off the ground; Bubble Baby Yoshi belches bubbles everywhere that trap enemies; whilst Glowing Baby Yoshi emits a sparkly glow once shaken that brightens dark caverns.
Throughout your adventure, pesky new character Nabbit will also appear. He regularly steals supplies from Toad, and will visibly hide within a specific course. An optional diversion, it is then down to the player whether they give chase, pursuing Nabbit across the course before he escapes again and, if successful, being rewarded with an item for your efforts.
Once you’ve rescued Princess Peach, further modes will easily sap your attention for weeks on end. Challenges will most prominently achieve this, which are categorised between Time Attack, Coin Collection, 1-Up Rally, Special and Boost Mode. You’ll aim for Gold as you speed through courses, grab coins, stomp Goombrats and more. It’s fun, addictive and a notable addition to the game.
There are further modes alongside this as well, with Boost Rush challenging you to play sped-up versions of courses and besting the fastest completion time, whereas Coin Battle sees you compete against friends to see who can gather the most coins.
There’s also hidden content to contend with once you’ve completed the game, and with the lure of downloadable content on the horizon, you’ll most certainly get a lot from this Mario outing.
Neat touches demonstrate the level of polish that we’ve come to expect from Nintendo, enemies skipping and hopping their way along to the music, whilst Miiverse, the Wii U’s social service, is also integrated. With this, players are invited to share their successes or courses in which they struggled. Once posted, these will then appear on the World Map in other players’ games.
I had my initial doubts regarding New Super Mario Bros. U, finding myself in the category of players that had expected more from the portly plumber’s first appearance on Wii U. In wanting to ensure a successful launch, I can at least see sense from Nintendo’s perspective. Side-scrolling predecessor New Super Mario Bros. Wii has achieved worldwide sales surpassing 26 million units, compared to that of Super Mario Galaxy which sits just beyond 10 million unit sales. Expanding the Wii U install base will initially prove vital, and delivering such a charmed and accessible game at launch will surely aid driving the consumer base.