E3 2012 Hands-on Preview: New Super Mario Bros. U
Believe it or not, I actually played a Super Mario Bros. game willingly. Now here’s the kicker: I enjoyed it.
Wha???? I liked a platformer?
It’s true, but not in the traditional sense of a platformer. With New Super Mario Bros. U, players who wield the GamePad can become a game master of sorts and help or hinder the other players. While your compadre runs the gauntlet, the GamePad player can create new blocks to help the other player reach new heights or get out of trouble, like if he or she falls into a zone of Munchers and can’t escape without the sweet embrace of death. With the GamePad, you can also tap on enemies to knock them out or bump them out of the way if Mario gets in trouble. Of course, you don’t have to use this power for good. You can also use it to create evil by placing blocks right over Mario as he jumps to knock him down, or, if there are four other players, you can create coin blocks to build some competition between the players.
It seems relatively simple, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed in a hurry. The first time I played, it was with one other player, so we had a great rhythm going to get through the course. When two other people came on board, I couldn’t help anyone quickly enough. Forget trying to knock back Koopas and Lakitu; I couldn’t get players out of the Muncher nests fast enough. Or I was able to anticipate their jumps well enough, causing them to either miss the block entirely or bang their head on the block, which puts it out of commission.
Of course, the real game master–the Nintendo booth rep–wouldn’t let me play God forever and forced me to trade the GamePad for a regular controller. Keep in mind that I haven’t played a Mario game since Super Mario World, please. I was God-awful and I hated every second of it. I was definitely the worst player of the bunch, holding everyone back, falling into pits, and missing jumps entirely. At the very least, I didn’t die from getting hit by an enemy. At the same time, I had a lot of fun playing with so many people, because we were all laughing at the insanity of it all. The GamePad player was sweating, literally, and the guy who was playing as Toad really had it out for me. At one point, I did yell, “OH MY GOD TOAD WHY DO YOU HATE ME?” It brought on lots of laughter while I continued to grind my teeth and try to survive through my last life (spoiler: I didn’t).
Basically, New Super Mario Bros. U is another New Super Mario Bros. Wii, just now with a GamePad. They could have even named it New Super Mario Bros. Wii – Now with GamePad. The GamePad does add enough of an extra to make purchasing yet another Mario game worth it, I have to admit. However, I don’t believe that this game is enough on its own to entice people to buy a Wii U, but that’s not entirely fair, because that’s not NSMBU’s job.
All that said, I do not know if the game master GamePad functionality is available throughout the main “campaign” of the game. They only showed us three different courses we could run through, and they didn’t answer me when I asked. I could see it working for both sides of the game, and I could see it only working for set co-op portions that are extras to the main game.
New Super Mario Bros. U will release this holiday season.