Giant Bomb Review

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New Super Mario Bros. U Review

3

This is both a perfectly fine Wii U launch game, and a little too much "new" Super Mario a little too soon.

The flying squirrel suit is the first new thing you'll notice.

New Super Mario Bros. U is the fourth platformer to come along since Nintendo brought back the original 2D style of Mario action a few years ago on the DS, and as such, it isn't all that "new" anymore. But it fits nicely in the role of a sturdy, well-made Mario nostalgia piece to go along with your freshly purchased launch Wii U. There are some inventive new touches scattered here and there in some of the game's individual levels, and the whole package serves as a wonderfully promising early example of what Nintendo's artists will be able to do with high-definition graphics at their disposal. At the same time, the game sticks a little too closely to the precise formula employed by its three predecessors, which makes it a shame Nintendo didn't see fit to get a little more creative here.

To put it bluntly, your interest in NSMBU will hinge on how much of the previous three games you played, and how recently you played them. There are eight worlds here, among them a green world, an ocean world, an ice world, and a desert world (and yes, the desert world is the second one). Every level has three star coins to find if you want more to do than simply run to the right till you jump onto the flag pole. There are koopa kids zooming around in airships, but I'll leave it to you to guess how many times you have to jump on their heads to beat them. The same weird save-game quirks are still in here that keep you from making a hard save until you beat a boss. If you've played any of the other New Super Mario games (or heck, any 2D Mario ever, really), you'll be intimately familiar with the basics of this game before you even dig into it.

That's not to say there's nothing new about NSMBU. The most immediate addition is the flying squirrel suit that you encounter in the very first level, which lets you glide slowly after a jump, get a single altitude boost while in midair by doing your spin move, and cling to walls for a few seconds (though I found myself inadvertently sticking to walls at times I didn't want to as often as times I did). There's been an obvious effort to spruce up the overworld map, which now contains a bunch of timing-based elements like miniature enemies that cross your path and, if you run into them, spawn short little action levels in between the preset stages. That kind of stuff does change up the flow a bit, as do a handful of new enemy types. And it's awfully nice to ride around on Yoshi again, even if he only pops up in a surprisingly small handful of places. But the ins and outs of the individual levels don't play around with the conventions of 2D Mario action nearly as much as I would have liked, and while a few levels do get a little creative with elements like light and darkness, you won't find anywhere near the level of invention that you saw in the best recent Mario games, like Galaxy and 3D Land.

MIIS DO NOT BELONG IN MARIO GAMES.

Aside from playing it too safe, Nintendo's gravest miscalculation with this game is releasing it a mere three months after New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS. That will only matter if you're the sort of person who keeps up with all of Nintendo's first-party games when they're new, but if you are that sort of person (as I am), NSMBU is just going to feel like too much, too soon. Of course, if it's been years since you played one of these games, this one will feel a lot more invigorating, and hell, if you've never played a New Super Mario game before, U is practically a must-have. But coming almost directly off of the 3DS game, you can't help feeling like Nintendo is pouring the dancing turtles and wah-wahs on a little thick right now. It doesn't help that specific musical cues and voice samples like "It's Mario time!" are lifted straight out of that last portable game.

Like the Wii game, NSMBU turns into a very different experience when you add more players into the mix. But that experience is exactly the same sort of barely-controlled four-player chaos as you saw in the Wii game: fun in short bursts if you have company over, but don't expect to make any serious progress or grab every single item. The addition of an assistive fifth player on the gamepad who can draw in makeshift platforms for the four characters onscreen is a nice twist. But it's absolutely ludicrous that you can't use the gamepad to control Mario in a multiplayer game, where only players with Wii remotes can play as actual characters. That, and the fact you can't play the game at all with the new Nintendo-made Pro controller, are just inexcusable. Overall, the multiplayer mode can get a little too manic for my tastes, so luckily the handful of peripheral modes in here will do a better job of testing your Mario mettle without some jerk jumping on your head every five seconds. There's a neat, diverse set of challenges that want you to do specific things like dodge fireballs for as long as you can, or glide with the flying squirrel suit across an entire level without touching the ground. And the boost rush mode gets pretty silly, since it scrolls the level faster the more coins you pick up. But since you'll notice levels from the main game popping up in here pretty quickly, the side challenges feel more like a novelty than something to spend serious time on.

How come more of the game can't look like this?

One thing New Super Mario Bros. U does so very right is its graphics, at least from the standpoint of technical execution. The game's visual presentation is a master class of polished, shiny perfection, looking about as good in high definition as you would expect a Nintendo game to look. Though, aside from a dramatically increased pixel count, the aesthetics of this 2D Mario game are barely distinguishable from those of the other 2D Mario games of the last few years, and while I can appreciate a simple increase in fidelity applied to the sort of work that's already been established, I really wish the Wii U's hardware had been harnessed to send Mario through some worlds we really haven't seen before. Why does every game need a desert world and an ice world? There's a single standout instance in this game that basically amounts to Van Gogh's Starry Night rendered in the form of a Mario level, but beyond that, it's all too familiar. Why?

It's worth noting that buying NSMBU will currently also net you a pretty darn good handheld game, since you get the exact same thing on the gamepad's controller screen that you see on your TV (aside from a slight but noticeable decrease in resolution). I suspect that novelty will wear off as the Wii U becomes commonplace and more games offer the ability to simply turn off your TV and go lie in your bed while continuing your game. But for now, the seamlessness with which you can transition between big and small screens, without fiddling with syncing another device or downloading some companion app or whatever--just hit pause and go in the other room and you're done--is still mighty impressive.

Everything about New Super Mario Bros. U is pretty exciting, except the game itself. Is it possible that this is the best game in the "New" series to date--not to mention one of the best exclusive Wii U games on the market, by default--and at the same time kind of flatly uninteresting? Apparently so. The game is perfectly well made for what it is, and I had plenty of fun playing it in short bursts here and there, but at this point the series' by-the-numbers design philosophy is starting to lend the name "New Super Mario Bros." a degree of unintentional irony.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
75 Comments
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Posted by Video_Game_King

How much "U" does this game have?

Posted by zombie2011

Just played the 3DS one, so i have no need for another one so soon.

Posted by JoeyRavn

This game is sooo wah wah.

Posted by JamesKond

Shouldn't it say WII-U release?

Posted by Milkman

Wah Wah...

Online
Edited by Enigma777
@Video_Game_King: 13 grams, but I know a guy that knows a guy that can get you a whole kilo if you've got the money.
Posted by Demonsoul

3 stars = 60 out of 100 
 
This game sucks.
Posted by Cyrisaurus

Damn

Posted by csl316

Aww, I thought the Van Gogh thing would be the first new background of many.  I know it's somewhat superficial, but jesus christ please change the art/music next time.  At least they're on the right track going back to some of the World concepts.
 
With so many awesome 2D games out there these days, I'll pass for now.  Though once I'm actually inspired to buy a Wii U I'm sure I'll pick it up (part of the problem, here).

Online
Posted by Little_Socrates

So unfortunate they decided to release NSMB2 so soon before this. Considering that game was even more par for the course than this one, I wish it hadn't come out at all.

Honestly, I think time will be generous to NSMBU. Yes, there are four of these, and they definitely have problems and are frustrating in succession. But I haven't really played NSMB since the DS iteration, as I mostly decided to skip NSMB Wii after about an hour. And, ten years from now, when all these NSMB games just exist, it'll burn less that there haven't been new releases in other major franchises while we wait.

Posted by Ravelle

@Demonsoul said:

3 stars = 60 out of 100 This game sucks.

60 is decent and good enough when playing with a bunch of friends on parties, like Brad said in small portions from time to time.

Posted by xMEGADETHxSLY

Wii U 2

Posted by Atwa

Expected a higher score from the quick look, but very fair score. I am a bit tired of these New Super Mario games as well. 

Posted by liako21

i still think its pretty damn cool how u can play the game entirely on the tablet.

Posted by Zekhariah

On the off chance that Brad reads this:

How did you feel about the controls in the portable and Wii versions of the game?

My experience had been such that this release ends up being the first "new" one that I've played. But I was curious how someone who plays all of them feels about moving between input methods on these.

Posted by big_jon

Glad Brad told it like it is, Nintendo is screwing the pooch here.

Posted by FreakAche

How are the online "Miiverse" features?

Posted by Hef

@Demonsoul: No that's an average score. A shitty/pretty broken game would be 2 or lower. People need to stop doing that. It's like when people gave patrick shit for giving skyward sword a "bad" 4/5 stars. People are crazy.

Online
Posted by Jechtshot78

This launch has been such a disaster.

Posted by armodillo17

I'm curious as to what makes you believe Brad is telling it like it is. People often applaud a reviewer for "telling it like it is" when they have a negative view of something, whether or not it is justified. But maybe you've played the game too and agree with his assessment--I have no idea. Care to elaborate?

Posted by TripMasterMunky

Whenever I see screenshots, gameplay, or boxart from these NSMB games, they look so fun and like a must-own. But then I remember when I bought the 3DS one and how boring it was.

I'll just play Super Mario World I guess.

Posted by MattyD

Well if Iwata keeps his word and they only release one of these games per system, we shouldn't be seeing another one of these for at least 3/4 years.

Posted by McGhee

could have sworn this thing said 4 stars when it first went up . . .

Posted by shades846

people complain on here but the sale figures for the 2D mario games are sadly much bigger than the 3D ones like gallaxy and 3D land. This may change soon but still you can see why they keep putting these out.

Posted by trolipo

hardcore gamers like brad give games like these bad stars just bzucuz their mad that Wii 1 didnt give them core games they like TRUTH

Posted by upwarDBound

It really looks like they mailed this one in.

Edited by TheKing

Giantbomb review scale according to some the comments.

5- Great

4- Good

3 or below- Terrible

Posted by MoonwalkSA

@Demonsoul said:

3 stars = 60 out of 100 This game sucks.

3 stars = 3 stars.

Metacritic might be terrible about converting everything to a 100 scale but that shouldn't really reflect on Giantbomb's completely different scoring system.

Posted by ripelivejam

still looks like fun, damn...

Posted by iAmJohn

Man that Starry Night level looks fucking awesome.

@ripelivejam said:

still looks like fun, damn...

Three stars is a good score and it really upsets me that I have to explain this.

Edited by VindictivePotato

Based off the gameplay I watched earlier on one of the videos, it just looked like another Mario game in a long line of Mario games. I guess its a good thing for the Mario fanbase.

One thing that irked me though was how hectic the game looked with 3+ players.

Posted by Peanut

I agree that they've buried this branding, mostly because the core elements of these games have changed so little since they brought it back, but the first NSMB game came out in 2006. That's not exactly "a few years ago"

Posted by mrcraggle

The thing about the original NSMB was that it was taking design concepts from years past, adding some new content and an updated look and it was awesome but by the end of the game I felt I got all I needed to out of the game yet it made so much money, Nintendo have now spun that out into what is now 4 "new" SMB games with this and the last one (3DS) only seperated by 3 months at the most.

Posted by Shaanyboi

@Demonsoul said:

3 stars = 60 out of 100 This game sucks.

/doesn't understand how giantbomb review scores work....

Posted by big_jon

@armodillo17 said:

I'm curious as to what makes you believe Brad is telling it like it is. People often applaud a reviewer for "telling it like it is" when they have a negative view of something, whether or not it is justified. But maybe you've played the game too and agree with his assessment--I have no idea. Care to elaborate?

Game looks like another dull rehash for the most part, I like aspects of its looks, and I would also like to play it, but it is too much more of the same, and too soon.

Posted by CrossTheAtlantic

I just wish they could use a more distinctive art style.

Edited by Wampa1

@VindictivePotato: CO-OP platformers tend to be that way, the Wii one had it and Ratchet and Clank suffered from it to. I think with all the power ups, and the need for good timing things just get too hectic too fast for platformers to work in Co-op. At least with more than 2 players. That being said, it being totally hectic can be great fun at parties.

Posted by ITSSEXYTIME

I think an important question is this: If in 5 years someone sat down to play this game, would they care that it's similar to NSMB? I'm torn whether the game should be reviewed on its own merits or if it's okay to take in other factors. (market saturation, very similar to recent games)

That said, it's not that review score matters all that much. It's just one of those things to think about I guess.

Posted by SpunkyHePanda

I'll take any excuse for more four-player Mario dumbness.

Posted by TheHBK

@Shaanyboi said:

@Demonsoul said:

3 stars = 60 out of 100 This game sucks.

/doesn't understand how giantbomb review scores work....

I dont look at scores. Just look at Brad's face. He thinks this game sucks.

Posted by Shaanyboi

@TheHBK said:

@Shaanyboi said:

@Demonsoul said:

3 stars = 60 out of 100 This game sucks.

/doesn't understand how giantbomb review scores work....

I dont look at scores. Just look at Brad's face. He thinks this game sucks.

which means you don't really know what's going on at Giantbomb since they have openly said that with the site redesign, they're getting rid of those portraits because it too often leads to misconceptions of how they're feeling about the game.

Posted by SleepyDoughnut

Thanks resident Wii U correspondent Brad Shoemaker

Posted by Dan_CiTi

Man it would be the best thing ever if Nintendo comes out with a New Super Mario World for the Wii U in a couple years and the graphics are all super fancy, 1080p, 60fps pixel art mixed with hand drawn art, none of the generic stuff like NSMB, and also bring back all of the Super Mario World mechanics, even throw in a lot of the stuff Mario has had added since as far as mechanics/suits. Maybe even bring back some SMB3 stuff. Also make the 4 player stuff have Mario/Luigi/Wario/Toad, and during 1 player let you switch between them, SMB2 US style. 

Posted by prestonhedges

@Shaanyboi said:

@TheHBK said:

@Shaanyboi said:

@Demonsoul said:

3 stars = 60 out of 100 This game sucks.

/doesn't understand how giantbomb review scores work....

I dont look at scores. Just look at Brad's face. He thinks this game sucks.

which means you don't really know what's going on at Giantbomb since they have openly said that with the site redesign, they're getting rid of those portraits because it too often leads to misconceptions of how they're feeling about the game.

Unlike the star ratings, which do no such thing...

Posted by Scotto

This score seems right on, from what I've seen of the game. The game's presentation is completely stale, and hasn't changed much since the first NSMB game six years ago. Throwing in a new suit doesn't make it fresh again.

And I'm with Jeff - enough with the fucking wah-wahing in the music, for the love of god.

Posted by Giefcookie

@ITSSEXYTIME: You absolutely can't review stuff in a vacuum like that. As long as the review is clear about why it feels like more of the same its completely fine to list that as a negative. Someone who hasn't played the newer 2D Mario can just look past that and figure out if this is worth getting.

Then again, I've already played the best 2D Mario game ever made so, fk this game.

Posted by dropabombonit

WAH! WAH!

Posted by AndrewB

The overworld map looks so much like World's, but then when you think about it, it's the first time the layout of the Mushroom Kingdom has been somewhat consistent.

It's not art design direction that gets me, it's exactly what Brad points out: too much of a formula. Why not, for example, have a "space world" that borrows mechanics from Galaxy? At least you're creating something different by applying that to a 2D Mario game.

Then again, I guess they tried something different with New Super Mario Bros 2. My problem is that I really didn't like the "get all the coins" thing with all of the suits focused on creating coins and making the enemies/platforming elements seem secondary. They could have actually given you some incentive to reach their crazy goal, too. A new title screen is a slap to the face. On top of that, the goal may have been altered, but the levels and art seemed very same-ish, at least from the footage I've seen.

Posted by hollitz

How many Yoshis had to die so that you could bring us this review? Boycott this man's blood words! You disgust me, Shoemaker.

Posted by Evan_Buchholz

So.... more like... More of the Same Mario Bros.?

Aehahah ok bye.

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