It wouldn't feel like a proper Nintendo console launch without a little bit of Super Mario. The tubby plumber's the company's greatest mascot - and its most dependable hero.
For the Wii U, he's turned in a typically stellar performance, too. New Super Mario Bros. U may not be the most exciting name for a platforming adventure, but this is still a wonderful, generous, and endlessly surprising game. If you're picking up a Wii U on launch day, you won't be at all sorry if you grab this as well.
Map To The Stars
At its heart, Mario's latest adventure continues the trend laid down by other New Super Mario Bros titles by ditching 3D environments in favour of old-school two-dimensional left-to-right running and jumping. Its lengthy campaign is carved up into little courses, and this time each course is scattered across a massive world map - a map that hasn't been seen since the days of Super Mario World back in the 1990s.
The world map is littered with wonderful secrets to track down, and puzzly Toad Houses in which you can play mini-games to earn a few extra lives or power-ups as you move around. It's built for exploration, and it's also home to some of the best 2D Mario stages you'll have seen in years: levels where ledges float high in the sky, levels lurking deep under the ground in seismic multi-coloured caverns, and levels set in good old spooky haunted mansions where doorways melt away as you approach, and the floors and walls cannot be trusted.
It really is a massive campaign, and it finds plenty of room to introduce a few new tricks as it heads towards its conclusion - tricks like an all-new power-up called the Flying Squirrel suit. The Flying Squirrel allows Mario to float gently to the ground after a jump, and even cling to walls on his descent. He can also get a sudden blast of height, lofting him high into the sky to reach some of those trickiest of platforms.
That's not the only new element by a long shot, of course. The Wii U's a high definition console, meaning Mario and his friends will look lovely and crisp and sharp on an HD television. The added processing power of the new kit means there's an awful lot more action taking place on the screen, too, and it all looks gorgeous.
Saving The Boost 'Till Last
The Wii U's Game Pad also offers some brilliant innovations of its own, of course, allowing up to five players to enjoy the frantic platforming action at once. While four players will control Mario, Luigi, and a couple of extra Toad characters using the Wii's old Remote handsets, the player with the Game Pad can access Boost Mode. This means that, instead of playing through the game as a character, they can tap the pad's vibrant full-colour touchscreen to either stun enemies or place new platforms to help - and sometimes hinder - their friends.
Boost Mode works brilliantly when it comes to bringing new life to the main campaign, and it also shocks a series of clever side modes into action too. There are straight-up challenge stages, which encourage you to race through the game as fast as possible, or perhaps play while bouncing over enemies without touching the ground. Then there's Coin Battle, which sees players trying to collect more of Mario's famous gold coins than their friends before the level comes to an end. Finally - and best of all - there's Boost Rush, where levels auto-scroll and each collected coin makes the pace of the game increase. It's wild and bewildering stuff at first, but the controls throughout are as refined as you'd expect from a Nintendo title.
It's a lovely package, all things considered, and the perfect high-colour complement to a scarier game like ZombiU on launch day. Super Mario's back at his platforming best, then, and in his Wii U debut, he's helped create a game that shows the console - and its fabulous new Game Pad - off to the full. New Super Mario Bros. U is not to be missed!
- Brilliant HD visuals
- A massive campaign
- Great multiplayer
- No online multiplayer
- Where's Super Mario Galaxy 3?
- Why can't we play as Bowser?