New Super Mario Bros. U works perfectly well as a single player game, but youíre clearly expected to give it a go in multiplayer. This is easy enough, as up to three more players can drop in and out of your game no problem.
If youíve an extra pair of hands available the Gamepad becomes considerably more useful. An observer can use the touch screen to create floating blocks to help the main players as well as stun enemies.
By working together well, with the player landing on successive blocks quickly enough, the gamepad builds up a star meter that then reveals hidden coins for the main player when filled. Itís a similar idea to Mario Galaxyís use of a second Wiimote to gather star pieces for the main player, but more useful.
Following the tradition of the series, New Super Mario Bros. U can be a very challenging and frustrating game at times but Nintendo has gone out of its way to provide as much help as it can to ensure everyone can progress and enjoy it. The sheer number of extra lives thrown at you alone should help keep you on top of things. You may (and probably will if my experience was any indication) die quite frequently, but you may never see the game-over screen.
One feature that is particularly friendly to new players is the Super Guide introduced in the previous New Super Mario Bros game. Dying too many times in one level prompts the offer of a visual guide that will show you a perfect run through of the remainder of the level.
Slightly condescending as it may be, itís definitely helpful to casual or inexperienced gamers. The Super Guide even gives you the option of completely skipping the level once itís finished showing you how itís done, so even gamers of limited skill and patience will never get completely stuck if they donít mind giving in to the temptation of a free ride. And even if youíre dedicated enough to not completely skip any levels each map tends to offer alternate routes to avoid particularly troublesome levels.
New Super Mario Bros. U might not be the killer app that some gamers hoped for, but itís a sensible family-friendly and risk-free choice for Nintendo to include in the new console's launch line up. Nintendo has done everything it can to ensure anyone can pick this up and give it a go, and so many features seem tailor-made for parents to help their children win.
The lack of any real change or innovation might lead a cynic to call New Super Mario Bros. U unremarkable, but itís hard to be cynical when youíre playing a Mario game and if Nintendo knows how to do anything itís how to deliver a top notch platforming experience.
+ Old-school Mario action.
+ Looks great.
+ Family-friendly multiplayer.
- Doesnít really innovate.
- Makes little use of the new hardware.
SPOnG score: 8/10
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