I like how some levels look like they're inspired by the Yoshi's Island graphical technique - sketchy!
Platform game fans are in for a real treat this year for the king of all things pipes, triple jumps and enlarging mushrooms is back on the scene for two new games. Autumn 2012 is Mario time, with the cheerful hero making his 2D platform debut on both the Nintendo 3DS, in New Super Mario Bros. 2, and Wii U, in New Super Mario Bros. U. During Nintendo's post-E3 event in London, the Cubed3 team got to sample the delights of both new Super Mario Bros. titles. Classic, pinpoint mechanics in place, but just how do the games differ? Is there enough variety to justify purchasing both Mario titles? Cubed3 uncovers exactly what is so appealing about the Wii U edition in this hands-on preview with three of the game's opening stages.
As with the title's predecessor, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, players once again take on the role of either Mario or Luigi, as well as a choice of Yellow or Blue Toad characters, leaping their way through a series of themed levels -- from searing deserts to vast forestry -- to arrive at a trap-filled castle to face off an eenie-meanie boss critter. Play solo, or co-operatively with friends, but try not to lose those ever-important lives!
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" thoroughly applies to the franchise's core mechanics and this is true with New Super Mario Bros. U right from the start. Nip through intricate levels, overcoming the likes of fire-breathing piranha plants, quicksand and ever-cheerful Koopa Troopa in a bid to save poor Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. I was initially reluctant to give this one a go early on in the preview session simply because of that approach -- feeling that this new game could not be tackled after the likes of the engaging Pikmin 3, Game & Wario or Nintendo Land. There was this perception that New Super Mario Bros. U would be more of the same, and yet how wrong I was, since the rich, high definition finish dragged me into this vibrant new world that instantly felt new and strangely refreshing. Granted, at heart the gameplay involved the same tight-knit addictive formula that simply worked in the past, but the smaller refinements and co-operative tablet feature helped to spice things up somewhat.
The levels sampled started with a fairly standard Mushroom Kingdom-inspired course, littered with classic enemies and platform elements. Pipes, hidden passages -- the lot. It served as a solid starter for the next two -- a tilting mushroom course above the skies and a mystical starry session, inspired by the likes of Super Mario Galaxy. The neat, intricately designed setup was still present, requiring a good sense of spatial awareness and careful timing, yet not being overbearingly difficult in the sample stages.
Mario was greeted by two new power-ups right from the beginning -- the first being dubbed "flying squirrel," where a waggle of the Wii Remote (or GamePad) was required, or merely the press of one of the shoulder buttons, launched a player to the skies, casually gliding towards the ground. The same could be said about the adorable new inflatable Yoshi that acted almost like a dinosaur who had accidentally gobbled a balloon. These new additions were all a tad zany, but they did well to get Mario and friends to these hidden areas and secret coins.
Players could also work together with up to four going at it with Wii Remotes, like in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but where did it leave the GamePad user? Using the touch screen, player number five essentially became an assist/helper, akin to in Rayman Legends. Simply tapping the touch screen spawned useful little blocks -- either helping, or hindering, fellow players. This proved useful, and was enjoyable as both the main or support player, adding a small, yet substantial new feature to the already flawless setup.
- Jorge Baoh, Managing Director.
Having not been a huge fan of Nintendo’s reworked New Super Mario Bros. series, despite the games being good enough platform side-scrollers in their own right, I still went into playing the Wii U launch title, New Super Mario Bros. U, with an open mind. I came away having had, surprisingly, a very fun experience, owed almost entirely due to the multiplayer aspect. As with the previous Wii iteration, up to four players could join in the action in a frantic co-operative affair. A fifth person could act as an ‘assist player’ using the GamePad, where they see the exact same view of the TV screen on their touch screen. The assist player could tap the touch screen to place rectangular blocks that emulate stepping stones for the other players to jump on, making access to hidden areas and secrets possible.
I dabbled firstly in the traditional one-player affair, opting to play with the GamePad instead of the sideways Wii Remote, which felt much more comfortable. The action appeared on both the TV screen and touch screen, where it was easy to notice just how sharp and clear everything looked on the controller. In fact, with the smaller screen, it might not be out of the question to suggest the game actually looked better on the GamePad. After quickly running through the three levels on offer, and sadly not being able to get a view at the world map and any potential similarities to Super Mario World’s wonderful map design, I got a multiplayer session going.
With three other players running through the levels with the Wii Remotes, I used the GamePad to act as the assist player, tapping on empty spaces on the screen to place blocks to help them out. Where one player needed to jump over a piranha plant, I placed a couple of the coloured blocks to create ‘steps’ and help them make it to safety. I did the same to let the group reach the clouds and grab a whole bunch of coins hiding above the screen. The blocks don’t stay in the same spot forever, though, and disappear after a few seconds. This means the assist player has to keep an eye on those stepping on the soon-to-disappear blocks. Since the action can get hectic with multiple players and enemies on the same screen, it’s inevitable that team members will fall into the many pits below. This is the assist player’s time to shine, as they can attempt to save them by quickly putting a block just below them as they drop. Then it’s a case of helping make platforms to guide the player to safety. However, things got even tenser as I had to try to keep my eye on the other players that may be in need of help in an opposite corner of the screen. With only four blocks to place at a time, and with them vanishing after not too long, it became incredibly difficult, yet very exciting, trying to save those in danger, which was more often than not everyone at the same time, all in different places of the field.
That being said, the assist player doesn’t have to be Mr. Nice Guy. As I took control of the Wii Remote to play as a character in another session, the assistant demonstrating the game decided to play dirty and use the blocks to hinder my team’s progress. In the same way that the players controlling the brothers Mario and coloured Toads don’t have to work together and can jump on and throw each other to their deaths, the assist player can also be an annoyance. When trying to jump over objects or collect coins, our ‘assistor’ placed blocks to hinder our progress, causing a few frustrating, yet laughable, moments.
Even in this brief period of playing the same three levels over, I managed to get very different experiences by playing on my own, as the assist player and in multiplayer with an assistor helping us. The assistor brings in a rather enjoyable new co-operative format, whereby players end up communicating and planning the odd bit of platforming to reach various areas of a level. There was an awful lot of fun to be had when five players were playing all at once, and it will most likely be where much of New Super Mario Bros. U’s appeal lies. There is the potential for some unique levels that can only be completed in co-operative mode with an assist player, but it remains to be seen if Nintendo capitalise on that idea.
- Aaron Elias, Previews Editor.
Anyone reading Cubed3 over the years will see that I perhaps over-rated the original New Super Mario Bros. on DS ever so slightly, and looking back it certainly seems that I was sucked into the whirlwind of hype that surrounded its release. However, the rating for the Wii successor (yes, no longer can it be called a sequel with an actual New Super Mario Bros. 2 due in August 2012!) is still justified in the eyes of this writer. The beauty of old school platform adventures, though, was never about multiplayer antics, and it was something shied away from even when tackling the Wii outing that flaunted its family-gathering abilities to the maximum.
Imagine my chagrin, then, when I found there was no time to delve into the solo player mode of New Super Mario Bros. U. After witnessing how frustrating New Super Mario Bros. Wii was in early play-tests with three incapable people joining in, decidedly horrific memories came flooding back as I was paired with some IGN UK bods. On top of this, we were being filmed…Well, the filming did not start straight away, since there was an introduction to be done, and a wait of a few minutes as former Cubed3’er from years gone past, Keza Macdonald (now IGN’s UK Games Editor!), fluffed her lines several times (nothing like being put on the spot, right?). After putting her teeth back in and massaging her tongue, the camera was swung our way and subsequent instant death occurred. See what I mean about being on the spot? All my gaming ability dissipated and I was the one causing problems for the group. Delightful. Whether the footage will eventually appear on IGN UK or not, I am unsure, but my pride is hoping it fades away…
The second play session was once more a group encounter, and a much more productive one, this time with the lovely duo of Emily Woolliscroft and Jo Bartlett of Nintendo UK on either side of me. This is where I was left floored, since it proved to be a great laugh, and highly competitive until we all started failing miserably and decided it might be more productive to work as a unit, rather than constantly bouncing on each other and falling into the abyss, desperately waiting for someone to resurrect us by popping the little regenerative bubble the fallen characters appear in. What the woman on the GamePad was doing, I seriously have no idea, but blocks were appearing and disappearing randomly all over the place -- honestly no logical pattern at all; neither help nor hindrance. Becoming a large Toad with fiery balls (!!) was a highlight, leading to much bravado and boastfulness…before hitting a Piranha Plant and dropping to my demise shortly afterwards. Another key point was that the inflatable Yoshis lose their air slightly over time, meaning that constantly shaking the Wii Remote does not allow for the early Kirby flaw of being able to fly safely to the end of a stage. However, the truly important aspect to take away, on a personal note, was that my eyes were finally opened to how impressive the multiplayer element was. Hopes are definitely high for New Super Mario Bros. U, but I still hanker for a meaty solo mode and pray my wishes come true.
- Adam Riley, Operations Director.
Nintendo has stated that New Super Mario Bros. U falls into that intriguing category of ‘launch window’ titles, meaning it could arrive up to four months after the console hits the streets. However, chances are the Kyoto Company will be eager to get the console off to a flying start, so will likely have this flagship game available on Day One. Currently it looks like the ideal game to encourage family and friends to get together for bouts of pure enjoyment, now complete with the option to play as a personal Mii character. Following on from the stellar success on Nintendo DS and Wii, this new home console edition is most certainly Nintendo’s ticket to pushing high numbers straight out of the gate. The quality is there on the multiplayer side, but the jury is still out on the depth of the solo experience.
I like how some levels look like they're inspired by the Yoshi's Island graphical technique - sketchy!