Reviews: New Super Mario Bros U

A minor evolution of 2D Mario, but still a great game

I wasn't expecting too much from New Super Mario Bros U other than a 2D Mario game in HD, with multiplayer. And that's what I got. But what caught me by surprise was just how good the game is.

If you've played the recent New Mario series, you know what to expect. The multiplayer works the same way as well, with the ability to hide in a bubble at any time to catch up to players who have separated from you. Newly added is an immediate drop-in feature so that players may join mid-level, and the Boost Mode. Boost Mode is the ability to tap the GamePad touchscreen to make blocks appear on the same spot on the TV, for players to jump on. It's glorified cheating, but I admit to having resorted to it at a few times during my first playthrough to reach out-of-the-way areas.

That's an interesting aspect of this game's level design, actually: the levels are designed in such a way that if you're playing single-player and not using Boost Mode, it's still possible to find all the secrets and have a fair challenge. In multiplayer, you can simply do the "bounce off each other's heads" trick to reach tricky places, and Boost Mode lets you just create the blocks and jump on them. Even so, the game still puts up a sizeable, appropriate challenge whether single- or multiplayer.

The level design is easily among the best in the whole series. The level design is creative, well balanced regardless of number of players (a big complaint I had with NSMBW, whose levels were clearly designed for multiplayer), there are numerous hidden exits and secret levels, and the world map is open and connected. They even brought back the SMB3-style enemy fights on the map.

Even while classic enemies such as Boom Boom Koopa and Sumo Koopa have returned, new power-ups have been added to mix things up and make the game not a total retread. The Flying Squirrel Suit is IMO one of the more fun Mario flight power-ups, and the multi-colored Baby Yoshis that can be carried and used are another nice addition.

Ultimately, this game feels like a logical extension of previous 2D Mario games, sort of like what would have been made if the 2D Marios hadn't gone on hiatus for so long. There's no overhauls of the game mechanics, just tweaks, additions, and surprisingly excellent level design.