Thursday, 21 February 2013

Review: New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

New Super Mario Bros. U made me realize that for the kids playing this game presently, it will be the Mario game they’ll remember forever. Twenty years from now, they’ll look for emulated versions of it, classic collections, anything so they can attempt to recapture that feeling of youth and the utter lack of cynicism and analysis that such a state offers.

As a kid, games weren’t good or bad, they either appealed to you or they didn’t. If it didn't appeal, it wasn't marked with a 1-star review on Amazon and a hate-filled diatribe; you just found something else to do; something else to play. Or, hell, a few of us even ventured outside to play tag or street hockey or basketball.

It's difficult now to turn off the part of my brain that is only out to judge if this is worthy so that I can just sit back and enjoy a game or just switch it off with a, “No hard feelings, pal” if I'm not enjoying it.

The raging, cynical adult part of my brain has really managed to push that child-like sense of wonder to the bottom of a well somewhere and playing New Super Mario Bros. U brings up all sorts of negativity for me.

“I’ve played this game a million times.”

“Oh look, same enemies. Same worlds, again.”

“How cute. Mario and Luigi stomping koopas.”

“I got a fire flower, whoopee...”

Then I let me 4-year old play it. Watching him is the only thing I need to tell me that Mario, the sidescrolling aspect of the games, will always appeal to me on some basic level for short periods of time because of that hit of nostalgia, but I've moved on. The enthusiasm and gusto and mastery that a 4-year old exhibits while playing the game, is enough to blunt my cynicism but also make me realize I’ll never be able to truly view things through a lens of child-like wonder. While I blithely go through the motions of exploring the 2D worlds, overcoming those parts of the game that proved too much for a 4-year old, he's figuring things out from top to bottom.

Pressing down on the directional pad mid-jump (butt stomp) has been a Mario staple since Super Mario 64, but it's something that a 4-year old stumbles on accidentally and somehow begins to view each level very differently; weighing the advantages that such a move imbues to exploration and overall combat.

The (max) 5 person multiplayer game mixes things up considerably, especially with the GamePad acting as the “God Device.” That player can alternately help and hinder progress by producing platforms the other players can use at the touch of the screen. It does extend the life of game and solves the problem I usually run into with games at my house where 4 kids all want to play at the same time. Everyone gets a chance to play and interact and have fun.

Really, that’s what Nintendo excels at, getting everyone involved and allowing childish enthusiasm to file down the sharp corners of the vexation of adulthood and life experience. New Super Mario Bros. U does that very thing.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Up to five players at once? Perfect!
- Looks extremely good
- Easy for the younger set to get into
- All Mario tropes are accounted for

The Bad:
- It’ll never be your first time again no matter how badly you want it
- May cause introspective baloney

Score: 9.0 / 10