The most anticipated game revealed during Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference was Pikmin 3, but New Super Mario Bros. U was definitely up there too. I was fortunate enough to score a bit of play time with the Wii U's first Mario title, but will admit that I was initially sceptical about how well the GamePad would be implemented into the experience. I was pleased to discover that the tablet provided a unique option for New Super Mario Bros. U players, and a new way to play that's only possible on the Big N's next-gen console.
Mario's HD debut didn't look quite like gamers would expect it to, but that's not to say the game looked bad by any means. In lieu of putting the bulk of the new-found power of the Wii U into the cartoony characters or textures, the background has been given a lot more depth. The rolling hills, tress, clouds, and mountains found in the backdrop create a new and vibrant world for the pudgy plumber and his cohorts to run through. Plant life and clouds are no longer stationary either, and as players run through a level, their line of sight will shift based on where they're standing — causing scenery in the background to move.
New Super Mario Bros. U supports up to five players simultaneously. Four gamers can get in on the platforming action with a Wii Remote, while a fifth is able to pick up the Wii U GamePad and enjoy the software in another way. Whoever gets the tablet won't have a character to control on-screen, but will instead be able to use the touchscreen to add platforms that will either help or hinder the progress of the other four. This is where the game really shines, and introduces an entirely new way to play the most iconic side-scrolling franchise ever.
During my demo, I was given the GamePad, while Game Rant's John Jacques was thrown into the shoes of Mario. As the first level played out, I'd aid John's quest to reach the flagpole at the end of the area by laying down platforms whenever my long-time friend needed them. Helping out a pal felt rewarding, but it soon became obvious that there were much more sinister motives lurking underneath the implementation of the Wii U's unique controller. As John inched ever closer to the end of the level, I began to block off his path... hilarity ensued.
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Causing in-game deaths and frustrating friends to the point where expletives are murmured under their breath made for some of the most fun to be had playing a Super Mario Bros. game. It's easy to see how this option could be turned into a new favorite unofficial mode amongst fans, and with five players being able to participate simultaneously, this is a new party game that may very well find itself at the heart of living rooms in the years after its release.
Of course, there are plenty of new additions in New Super Mario Bros. U for those who'd rather solo the game. Everyone's favorite dinosaur from the Mushroom Kingdom, Yoshi, makes his triumphant return, and this time he's bringing the kids. After making his debut in Super Mario World, Baby Yoshi is finally returning to the platforming scene, and each color variant has a unique ability to help overcome even the bleakest of obstacles. Blue Yoshi infants spit bubbles that trap enemies, yellow ones can help illuminate a dark room, and pink ones act as a giant balloon that help slow the descent of any character grasping on to the reptile.
There's a lot of familiarity in New Super Mario Bros. U, but it manages to create a unique approach to gameplay that's only possible on the Wii U. If there's one criticism that can be given to the game it's that Baby Yoshi is hideous. The creature looks like an unwanted newborn bird, and it's no wonder that Baby Mario doesn't invite it to participate in any sporting events.
New Super Mario Bros. U is currently scheduled for a Holiday release on the Wii U.
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