This past weekend I was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with New Super Mario Bros. U at rAge. I had recently played through the slightly underwhelming New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS so I was hoping that going hands on with this Wii U launch title would reignite my passion for the series. Also, the thought of playing the very first Super Mario title rendered in HD was enough to get me over to the game’s stand as soon as the opportunity presented itself!
The New Super Mario Bros. U demo at rAge consisted of three levels that could be played by up to five players. Just like in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, up to four players can take control of Mario, Luigi, and two Toads (coloured blue and yellow) by holding the Wii Remote horizontally and using it like a NES gamepad. What differentiates this game from its predecessor as far as controls go is that an additional player can influence the action on-screen using the Wii U GamePad. This asymmetric multiplayer experience sees the GamePad-wielding player drawing platforms for his or her cohorts and making life easier for them by tapping any enemies that appear in their path, thereby rendering them helpless for a short time. This mechanic makes co-op play a lot of fun because the person with the GamePad can choose to help or ignore certain players depending on their relationship with them. For instance, at one point I was playing the demo with my wife and two strangers, and I was purposely drawing platforms to help her reach Star Coins and to bridge difficult jumps (she didn’t take kindly to this favouritism). The platforms you draw disappear after a short time so you really do need to decide who you want to assist when there are multiple players on-screen.
There weren’t too many power-ups in the three levels on display but I did get a chance to try out the new Flying Squirrel suit that allows your character to glide over long distances, slowly descend down vertical paths or cling to the sides of walls. This power-up was tons of fun to use and I foresee it playing a vital role in collecting Star Coins and finding secret exits in the full game.
New Super Mario Bros. U has the same pinpoint controls and excellent platformer physics that have made its predecessors such a success over the past few decades. The game is an absolute blast to play thanks to its tight controls and inspired level design, with one of the demo levels taking place in a beautiful snowy setting that featured revolving star-shaped platforms to complement the star-studded sky. The backgrounds in New Super Mario Bros. U are far more impressive to behold than they are in New Super Mario Bros. Wii or New Super Mario Bros. 2, and this level of detail is present in the foregrounds and character/enemy design as well. The Super Mario games have always had a unique and vibrant visual design but the HD graphics in New Super Mario Bros. U represent some of the most crisp and colourful seen in the 2D platformer genre. Super Mario fans are sure to be blown away by the visual fidelity of this game!
Thankfully we don’t have to wait much longer to play the full version of New Super Mario Bros. U as it will launch alongside the Wii U on November 18th in North America and November 30th in European territories. With HD visuals, responsive controls, brilliant level design and the abundant charm of past Super Mario titles well and truly intact, New Super Mario Bros. U looks set to be the definitive 2D platformer of this generation.