The Year of Luigi took center stage again last week with the release of New Super Luigi U, a campaign-sized chunk of DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U. With the absence of older brother Mario, Luigi suddenly had a spot open for his four-person team. Enter Nabbit, the plundering purple rabbit that boasted an immunity to enemies. His inclusion promised to prove friendlier to casual players, so I decided to put that idea to the test.
I recruited my casual gamer girlfriend, Laura Zamora, for the task of playing with Nabbit. We previously played through the entirety of New Super Mario Bros. U together and she was not good, to say the least. She ran through over 30 continues during the course of our playthrough and struggled through many of the Mushroom Kingdom's most daunting obstacles. With that in mind, she decided to give Nabbit a go.
The difference was noticeable almost immediately. Laura bumped into several enemies with Nabbit and had no harm come to her. The trade-off appeared to be that power-ups wouldn't affect her. Instead, Nabbit turns any item collected into extra lives at the end of a stage.
"I like it!" Laura exclaimed, after a few levels. "It makes me feel like I can do more. He jumps a lot farther, though, so it's harder to gauge jumps."
Once she had a few levels under her belt, Laura started to feel much bolder than she used to. She started sprinting ahead and boldly jumping into enemies. She also came to the realization that she was completely invincible during boss fights. Boom Boom couldn't hurt Nabbit at all, nor could any of the Koopa Kids. Once I, myself, realized this, I simply stood back and let Laura handle the bulk of the boss battles.
As an experienced Mario player that couldn't quite collect everything, I also saw Nabbit as an asset for grabbing coins. There was a water level in World 3 that saw us being chased around by a sea dragon. Laura, as Nabbit, lured the dragon towards a large blowfish that was blocking a pipe. The dragon cleared out the blowfish and opened the path for us without anyone getting hurt, a task that proved much easier with the nigh-invulnerable Nabbit.
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Don't think that Nabbit's advantages make Super Luigi U an easy experience, however. The platforming is much more difficult, because of the aforementioned jumping quirks. But also, the level design is among the most devious I've seen in a Mario game. Castles, in particular, prove very difficult, even for Nabbit. Enemies may not be able to take him out, but he's still vulnerable to crushing platforms or boiling lava.
Nabbit delivers all the simplicity and accessibility that the character's inclusion promised. At the end of our playthrough, in which we cleared the first three worlds, not only did Laura manage to avoid using a single continue, but she wound up having more lives than I did. It was definitely an unexpected result and something that made her consider using Nabbit more in the future. "I like how Nabbit gives me a fighting chance," she concluded. "It's kind of easy, though, but I don't mind, because I feel like I could keep up."