New Super Mario Bros. U preview

By Jeff Mattas, Jun 06, 2012 10:00am PDT

QUICKTAKE: This holiday, Nintendo is bringing 2D Mario platforming back to the Wii U in the not-so-cleverly named New Super Mario Brothers U. The red-overalled plumber brings success for Nintendo wherever he goes, and based on the E3 playable demo, this maiden Wii U Mario outing will entertain, even if it doesn't surprise.

THE DEMO: The ten minute playable demo of New Super Mario Bros. U came in two flavors: single player, and five-player co-op. In co-op, one player can use the tablet instead of controlling a character, and can use the touchscreen to create temporary platforms or stun enemies for the other players. Other than the light tablet functionality, a couple of new power-ups, and higher-resolution graphics, this is the same, great variety of 2D Mario platforming that last hit the Wii.

DETAILS:New Super Mario Bros. U feels a bit like New Super Mario Bros. Wii 1.5. The "improvements" afforded by the new Wii U console--and the tablet in particular--feel underutilized, almost as though the game were conceived as an original Wii title, and then quickly adapted to fill the holiday launch window for the new system. The tablet use is a prime example of this, and while using it to save other players from doom during a 5-player co-op match can be fun for a minute, running and jumping with the other players soon seems far more appealing.

Graphically, the game looks very sharp, colorful, and crisp, but due to the simple art style, it's not exactly the best game to show off Wii U's graphical capabilities over the original Wii.

The level design exhibited the same clever playfulness of past Mario titles, and the controls are as tight and responsive as ever. Mario also gets a new Squirrel Suit power-up, which allows him to flap and glide. Like Mario's other suits, it's fun to use. The other new power-up in NSMBU is Tiny Balloon Yoshi. He's a mini-lizard that Mario carries around. Like his full-grown Yoshi brethren, he can eat all kinds of stuff (including enemies), but he can also be inflated to carry Mario for significant distances.

Based on the demo, I have the strong feeling that New Super Mario Bros. U is probably going to satisfy platforming fans (including me) with another great dose of fun times, but it doesn't feel like a game that needs (or uses) many of the bells and whistles that differentiate the Wii U from the Wii. Underdeveloped tablet integration is a bit disappointing, and though it looks great, I wish Nintendo would have been more inclined to push the presentational style of the game to differentiate it some more.

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