For the first time in sixteen years Nintendo has solved its console launch line-up problem by employing the familiar expertise of its steadfast portly plumber. You have to cast your mind all the way back to Super Mario 64’s glorious third-dimension Nintendo 64 debut for the last instance, and now it falls to New Super Mario Bros U to instigate the arrival of Nintendo’s latest piece of hardware. But rather than a revolutionary successor to Mario’s 3D heyday (or the Galaxy series, for that matter), New Super Mario Bros U is a safe return visit to the auxiliary 2D sidescrolling series.
In fairness to Nintendo, the developer has yet to exhaust the tried-and-tested formula, continuing to discover inventive means of which to expand the central concept. Chief among these is the implementation of the Wii U GamePad – the console’s bespoke controller with the unfortunate look and daintiness of a Fisher Price iPad. Wielded by a second player the GamePad’s LCD touch-screen is utilised to place floating platforms around the environment, offering other players a helpful boost to inaccessible areas. Admittedly the usefulness of this mechanic is limited, and its only exploring supplementary modes(such as Challenge and Boost Rush) that a vigour and depth to the functionality absent from multiplayer story mode is revealed.
Despite Nintendo’s hesitant controller gambit, New Super Mario Bros U further refines the 2D platformer template it so masterfully established decades earlier. Continuing from the 3DS entry released earlier in the year, gold coins consume every inch of the screen, placing a very un-Nintendo emphasis on stratospheric high scores, and Star Coin placement is Nintendo design at its most joyously fiendish.
The vibrancy of the Mushroom Kingdom also comes to the fore in HD, effortlessly breathing new life into the timeless charm, while inviting some of the most inspired backdrops Mario has ever sprinted across. It’s by far the best that Mario has ever looked, yet the fundamental formula beneath this newly-discovered high-def gloss is starting to creak. It’s a reliably entertaining package, but Mario’s Wii U debut lacks the impact or importance of its predecessors.