Mario Bros U is fun — but is that enough?

GAMES
NEW SUPER MARIO BROS U
From £42, amazon.co.uk
***

THAT THE Italian plumber is the flagship launch title for Nintendo’s make-or-break console isn’t much of a surprise. The decision to make New Super Mario Bros U the most retro imagining of the franchise in years, though, is a bold choice, given that Nintendo has a window of only a year in which it can boast the most advanced hardware on the market.

Mario Bros U returns to the familiar old 2D side-scrolling format that has been largely eclipsed since Super Mario 64 heralded the arrival of 3D back in 1996. The first few levels, in fact, feel so familiar that I had to check it wasn’t a re-working of one of the earlier titles. After spending some time with it, though, its idiosyncrasies shine through. New additions include a new freeze flower that allows you to encase enemies in a block of ice and Yoshi makes a welcome return. There are also new baby Yoshis you can inflate and use as makeshift hot air balloons.

If someone were to describe the gameplay without revealing the franchise, you would be forgiven for assuming it was an iPhone title you could pick up for £2.99 on the App Store. But you’re paying for the richness of legendary games designer Shigeru Miyamoto’s imagination. There is something about the flower munching Italian and his mushroom headed friends that transcends the game itself. It also benefits from having had 30 years to hone the game mechanics. Every jump, every little skid-stop at the edge of a cliff feels reassuringly familiar. For older players who grew up on Super Mario Land, the franchise is like a comfort blanket – albeit one that is sometimes so frustrating you will be subject to bouts of uncontrollable rage.

It isn’t without its drawbacks – the solo mode makes next to no use of the GamePad screen, which is an almost unforgivable ommission for a launch title, although the multi-player co-op is a nice touch.

As a standalone adventure, Mario Bros U is a worthy addition to the canon. As the flagship title for a new platform, though, it’s a signal that dual screen console gaming could take some time for developers to fully master.

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