The very first game that I had a chance to test run at the Wii U Preview Event starred none other than Nintendo’s flagship character Mario, once again running through the Mushroom Kingdom in New Super Mario Bros. U. As a lifelong fan of the Super Mario franchise, I was eager to see what kind of innovations and deviations the Wii U incorporated into this launch window title, and surprisingly didn’t walk away disappointed. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of New Super Mario Bros. U form some odd reason other than an over the shoulder shot of the Gamepad in action (which isn’t so clear), but here’s the skinny on the two very different ways I was able to play this demo:
Boost Rush Mode was the mode on tap at the event, which enables two players with a Wiimote to play through the game as they normally would, with a third player utilizing the Gamepad for a myriad of actions. The Gamepad player can create blocks for players to jump onto, which helped the other players traverse through the areas in a number of different ways. Higher elevation could be obtained, leading to hard to reach pipes that could lead to countless coins, or the low road could be paved with created platforms above pits to ensure the safety of each player passes safely. One of the major gimmicks involves the speed of the screen scrolling actually increasing as more coins are amassed. This can cause frantic pandemonium if too many coins are hoarded while the Gamepad player is trying to literally bridge gaps between platforms!
On top of that, the Gamepad player can tap the stylus on enemies, which will stun them momentarily, as well as slow their progress towards a player. For example, I had to create blocks above everyone’s heads when a Thwomp was crashing down. This enabled safe passage through their areas, but the larger Thwomps can and will break through created blocks. The Gamepad player must either tap the giant Thwomp with their stylus to slow their descent, or else they will create a horrific mess of the other players below them.
Playing as Mario, Luigi or as a Mii provides the same thrills and excitement found in previous current-gen Mario titles like New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The Flying Squirrel Mario power up is a new addition to the franchise, which mixes together elements from the Raccoon Mario and Cape Mario powers from games gone by. The same antics and gameplay are involved even in co-op – bouncing off a teammates head can get that player a bit more height, along with the platforms created by the third player. If you’ve played any of the recent Mario 2D games within the last six years, you know exactly what to expect thus far.
New Super Mario Bros. U banks off its Gamepad innovations to deliver something brand new to the franchise, and it’s ever apparent the more time you spend with the title. My only concern at this point is whether or not the core game will slide back to those dangerous waters of nearly limitless 1-ups with little to challenge players outside this mode. At this stage, I can see New Super Mario Bros. U being one of the more enjoyable two player romps this fall, with one player focusing on platforming, while the other focuses on creating those ever-so-helpful platforms. Expect Mario’s Wii U debut to take place during the console’s launch on November 18th in the US.