Considering the small number of buttons required to play the game the Wiimote works just as well, most of the pad's unneeded buttons are simply assigned to the same actions. But if you do want to use the Gamepad, at least everything works well. The controls were fine and responsive whether using the analogue stick or d-pad to move and I never died blaming the game for not responding.
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.
Things can get a bit chaotic with multiple players bouncing around at once but itís all in good fun. Playing multiplayer with any number of players actually requires everyone to use a Wiimote, however, so if youíve been using the Gamepad while flying solo itís a good idea to get used to the slightly different control scheme before jumping into a difficult level.
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.
When used well these abilities make things much easier for the main player. Itís perfect for helping younger or less skilled gamers through some of the trickier areas of the game. Of course even more skilled players can benefit from the extra help, but you might struggle to find someone willing to mostly watch you play the game, especially when they could just join in themselves.
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.
Unless, of course, you absolutely suck and then youíll know first-hand what the game-over screen looks like, but also that such a failure merely returns you to the last castle level you conquered. Any other levels beaten since then will need replaying, though. Itís not a lot more than a slap on the wrist, but when it comes to the later, more difficult stages of the game you might develop a bit more incentive to not have to repeat any cleared levels.
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.
Before the more hardcore, serious gamers get up in arms over all this casual-friendly help, it is worth pointing out that it is all completely optional. If you want to keep the game as old-school feeling as possible you donít need to let anyone use the Gamepad to help, and itís easy to ignore the Super Guide whenever it rears its ugly head. And while many of us will be happy just to survive to the end, completists have the added challenge of three hidden star coins to grab in each level. Some of these are fairly easy to pick up even on your first pass, but others may tax your reflexes and timing somewhat more.
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