By Spencer . November 15, 2012 . 10:48pm
With its unified map and the return of the Sumo Koopa Trooper, New Super Mario Bros. U draws from Super Mario World. There’s a tinge of nostalgia when you run through Acorn Plains and hop on Yoshi. Everything feels familiar until you suddenly run into a chomping Piranha Plant on the map. Each world has a few enemies on the field. With proper timing, you can avoid the hungry Piranha Plant or the penguin that slides on its belly in Frosted Glacier. Run into the penguin and the game takes Mario to a battle sequence where you have less than a minute to defeat all of the enemies.
Mario can also find stray Baby Yoshis on the map in each world. These little dinosaurs have a bottomless stomach and automatically eat anything in front of Mario. Essentially, they’re a voracious shield. Grab a blue Baby Yoshi to blow bubbles Mario can bounce on. Yellow Baby Yoshi lights up dark areas and can spooks ghosts with a blast of light. Pink Baby Yoshi turns into a balloon that lets Mario fly when you shake the remote. The Flying Squirrel suit is a new powerup for New Super Mario Bros. U that acts like the Propeller Suit from New Super Mario Bros. Wii and lets Mario glide as if he had a raccoon tail. Mario can also find Fire Flowers, Ice Flowers, and Mini Mushrooms in stages.
While players will see the same desert, ice, and water worlds, Nintendo created some brilliant stages. Here are some of my favorites from story mode:
– A desert level with rotating platforms and Lakitu throws Piranha Plant seeds. It’s kind of like having Piranha Plants on conveyer belts… everywhere.
– Sparkling Waters, the water world, has a ghost pirate ship.
– There’s a stage inspired inspired by Van Gogh’s "The Starry Night."
– You have to tilt the controller to move a platform through a narrow maze of electric Lil’ Sparkys in one of the castle levels.
– One underground cave level is illuminated by giant light blocks that turn on and off in sync with the music.
– In the cloud world, there is a stage where Mario and goombas bounce on cloud trampolines.
– The final world has a twist Mario fans will smile about.
New Super Mario Bros. U is packed with secrets too. Stages have false walls that hide star coins and invisible blocks with beanstalks. Each world has a secret level to discover and the map conceals which stage has a hidden route kind of like Top Secret Area from Super Mario World. Some of the secret levels are tough, but New Super Mario Bros. U’s main stages aren’t that difficult. The game has a Super Guide, so if you get stuck you can hit the green ? block of shame and let Luigi complete the level for you. Each world has a koopaling at the end of the level and Nintendo gave them new attack patterns. Kamek also gave Boom Boom, the tower guarding boss, a few tricks. Between castles, airships, and stages where you run away from falling fireballs New Super Mario Bros. U has a lot of variation.
Story mode should take less than eight hours to complete, but that’s if you run through the game. Collecting all of the star coins is the real challenge. After you complete a world, Mario can hop into a warp pipe and jump between areas like the Layer-Cake Desert and Soda Jungle. New Super Mario Bros. U also has Challenge Mode with speed run, coin collecting, and fireball dodging challenges. One neat challenge tests how good you are at gliding with Flying Squirrel Mario by seeing how many 1-ups you can grab by bouncing on enemies without touching the ground. Challenge Mode automatically saves replays so you can show all of your friends how fast you can run through Acorn Plains.
Boost Rush is a new kind of speed run where one player creates blocks with the Wii U gamepad for the other four players to jump on. If you can get the other players to jump on the boosting player’s blocks the level scrolls faster and faster until you have to run at full speed just to stay on the screen. You can also play with four players in story mode and just like New Super Mario Bros. Wii it’s chaotic fun with players fighting over powerups and bouncing on each other. If you want to be helpful one player can take the Wii U gamepad and create boost blocks in story mode. Co-op Mario is pretty fun especially when you help a player intimidated by later levels get through a stage. When you’re not using the Wii U gamepad’s screen for boost mode you can play New Super Mario Bros. U on it. I went through a whole world only using the gamepad and didn’t notice any slowdown.
I thought I might be tired of jumping on goombas and collecting Star Coins after completing New Super Mario Bros. 2, but New Super Mario Bros. U has fantastic level design that makes the tried-but-true formula feel fresh.