Friday, 14 December 2012

New Super Mario Bros. U

Recreating the magic of playing with a brand new type of game is probably one of the hardest things for a video game developer to do. In Nintendo’s case it is an even more daunting task trying to give gamers the same amazing experience we had on the NES and SNES consoles. New Super Mario Bros. U continues Mario’s modern adventure but this time in HD on a brand new console. This instalment re-ignites some of the passion that was so clearly felt in Mario’s older titles and as a result shows off enough impressive technical development to make this a memorable Mario titles and one of his better outings in recent memory.

 New Super Mario Bros. U while not wholly changing the formula; moves in a direction ever so clearly inspired by Mario’s history. The first change comes in the form of making the over-world just that, a world. No longer does this feel as linear and simple as simply picking a stage, rather players can now traverse the over-world and explore its vast set of goodies and mysteries. This clearly brings the series back to Super Mario World roots, which is a more than welcome addition to Mario’s modern formula.

Of course the majority of your time spent with New Super Mario Bros. U will be platforming across a variety of brightly coloured and cleverly designed levels. Similar to Super Mario 3D Land the beginning of New Super Mario Bros. U is relatively simple in nature and offers little in real challenge. However, once the game begins introducing new enemies, areas, power-ups and secrets is when you really feel Bros. U’s modern charm intertwining with an glorious classic formula. You’ll be sprinting through levels like a pro in no time, while trying to find all the Star Coins scattered through the game, which is another challenge altogether.

Speaking of challenge, New Super Mario Bros. U new Challenge Mode puts a nifty flip on the Mario formula by offering a staggeringly fun and frustrating game modes that see players attempt to traverse entire levels while being bombarded by enemies, projectiles and a variety of obstacles. Challenge mode includes Time Attack, Coin Collection and a host of other game type offerings that potentially can change the way you view your Mario experience. This battle to survive is engaging and will give even the most hardcore Mario players a run for their money.

If you’re looking for a more social experience than New Super Mario Bros. U brings back the chaotic and occasionally frustrating multiplayer element found in previous New Super Mario Bros. titles. You can once again play with up to 4 players using Wiimotes while a 5th player can use the GamePad to act as either an ally or mischievous menace by adding blocks into the level that either help or hinder the team. Despite the limitations of having so many players on the screen simultaneously and the frantic gameplay as a result, there is something charming and enjoyable playing New Super Mario Bros. U with your friends and the GamePad adds a hilarious addition to the multiplayer present. There’s also Coin Battle mode that allows a group of players to compete to see who can collect the most coins on a level, if you fancy a little bit more competition in your multiplayer offering.

From a technical perspective New Super Mario Bros. U is a double-edged sword. In terms of technical presentation the game is almost flawless, as are all of Mario’s titles. Levels are expertly crafted, puzzles are challenging and the whole package is fun in its most natural form. Unfortunately from a graphical and audio perspective, things are certainly lacking. Let’s remind ourselves that this is Nintendo’s brand new HD console and Bros. U is the launching Mario game with the machine. I was expecting dazzling visuals, vibrant colours that exploded off the screen and a memorable soundtrack to boot. If we compare the artistic brilliance of Rayman: Origins and the up-and-coming Rayman: Legends, of which we have seen a demo ergo can compare visuals, Bros. U is quite disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, New Super Mario Bros. U is a pretty game but it’s not visually stunning, something that quite frankly I was expecting. The same applies to the audio where New Super Mario Bros. U doesn’t step out of the box, merely rehashes a relatively safe audio-experience.

Despite these issues New Super Mario Bros. U is certainly a step in the right direction for both Nintendo and the WiiU. While not necessarily innovating the GamePad’s capabilities here, there’s definitely scope to use the Pad in interesting and innovative ways in platforming titles and I have a very strong feeling that Rayman: Legends will be exactly that, a better and more fruitful offering to the WiiU. Regardless, New Super Mario Bros. U is another wonderful addition to a franchise that was beginning to frustrate gamers but the WiiU version resolves specific issues and enhances the gameplay to offer an engaging and wholeheartedly enjoyable adventure for Nintendo WiiU owners.

8.0 | Gameplay |
Well-crafted, imaginative and challenging level design makes this instalment of New Super Mario Bros. layered for players of every skill level. Story mode has lots of hidden goodies and Star Coins open new levels and sections to expand this adventure. Challenge mode also helps to give players a new Mario experience, one that is really difficult yet rewarding at the same time. There’s plenty to do and lots of fun to be had with New Super Mario Bros. U.

7.0 | Presentation |
New Super Mario Bros. U is pretty, colourful and full of life but on a brand-new console it’s fair to expect more. The WiiU is a powerful machine and New Super Mario Bros. U could have had the potential to completely explode off the screen. Instead it’s just ‘good’, which unfortunately is not good enough when games such as Rayman: Legends are setting such high artistic standards both visually and in the audio department.

9.0 | Replay Value |
This is where New Super Mario Bros. U truly shines. There’s so much to do and even more to unlock, collect and complete in this title. While the Challenge mode offers a hefty helping of extra content, the story itself is bubbling to the brim with content begging to be found and completed. I wish you luck collecting all the Star Coins because you’ll need it.

8.0 | Final Thoughts |
New Super Mario Bros. U is a good sequel to the Wii predecessor, but it doesn’t feel exceptional enough to be a wonderful launch title. If we look back to previous console launches there have been iconic games that have defined the launch window. Fortunately for Nintendo ZombiU has that covered but it’s very strange that a Nintendo-specific IP isn’t what’s taking all the headlines. New Super Mario Bros. U is a step in the right direction for Nintendo and Mario and a stellar addition to the WiiU’s launch gallery.

CeX recommends similar games: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Rayman: Origins, Sonic: Colors

Igor Kharin.

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