New Super Luigi U Review
New Super Luigi U looks like more of the same. It's got the same cheery and bright visual style that all New Super Mario Bros. games have had, granted with the HD flourish brought by New Super Mario Bros. U. Koopas still dance to the music, there's still three Star Coins to collect in each level, and the Princess is still waiting for you at the end of the game.
Nintendo's developers have honed their craft; they know how to make reasonably paced levels. Each one is a series of platforming segments, all varying and building on one central idea unique to that level. Maybe it's an enemy, maybe it's a type of platform, or maybe it's a combination of elements.
Each level in New Super Mario Bros. U had its own idea, and those ideas hold here. The ghost ship level is still the ghost ship level, the Van Gogh level is still the Van Gogh level, and you still have to bonk Sumo Bros. from below in that one tower level. There's no copy and paste level design, but levels in New Super Luigi U retain their assets from New Super Mario Bros. U.
But New Super Luigi U exaggerates those
ideas. Instead of finding a ginger introduction to each level's
theme, I was instantly thrown into a fray every time. One level began
with enemies hurling spiked balls at me as I leaped over quicksand
pits, and the next level started with a Luigi-sized boulder rolling
after me as I scrambled to collect powerups. Bear in mind, these were
just the initial segments for those levels; from there, the remaining
portion of each level took those ideas and only expanded them,
resulting in segments of escalating chaos.
In fact, “chaos” sums up the gameplay in one word. Rather than structuring stages deviously to require analysis and memorization, New Super Luigi U simply hurled a number of elements my way, from fire-tossing enemies to rapidly fading water platforms. There was always a way out of each situation; it's just that I had to find it before Luigi careened into some obstacle or into a bottomless pit.
Speaking of careening, Luigi's controls take on exaggerations just like the level designs do. He jumps farther, and once he gets going in one direction, he's slower to turn around. As a result, his movements have the potential to carry him farther, but they also require greater care, since he can't stop on a dime. These controls lend themselves well to chaotic gameplay.
Couple chaotic gameplay with shorter stages—you have only 100 seconds to clear most of them—and you have a recipe for something like an addiction. Each stage created a new brand of chaos just long enough to either kill me or send me laughing through the exit. Not having had my fill of that stage's high, I would play the next stage, only to find a brand new high courtesy of the level's unique theme. So it went, flying through levels by the seat of my pants and never tarrying long enough to get my fill of anything. It's not the most wholesome level design, but it sure is a thrill; hardly more of the same.
+ Exciting gameplay
+ Will provide a challenge for even grizzled Mario players
- If you've played New Super Mario Bros. U, there's no new enemies to face against or powerups to gain
- Whitewashed, cheery music and graphics
New Super Luigi U isn't a mainline New Super Mario Bros. title, and it takes advantage of that to create crazy gameplay scenarios that might not be readily approachable by all players. New Super Luigi U makes a great example of how platformers don't need new assets to be different; the arrangement of those assets as level design is just as key.