I hate band wagons, and any one reading this review must know this well in advance. I’m not one to jump on the whole “Nintendo suck” routine that many commentators are acting out. I love the Wii U and think it has great potential, and anybody slating Nintendo’s new console need only look back at the way the N64, Gamecube and Wii were received to see that Nintendo have a track record in proving people wrong.
Nintendo haven’t lost their touch, but Mario certainly has. Between the unambitious New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS and the original Super Mario Bros. U, the plumbers’ 2D formula hasn’t seen any major changes since the SNES days. Nintendo are treading old ground then with Super Luigi U but, as their first major expansion to a game, it has its own patches of originality. That said, these are ultimately sidelined by a series of increasingly questionable design decisions.
Available as both an eShop download and a disc-based solo add-on, Super Luigi U sees the lesser of the Mario brothers wading through all the stages of the original Mario Bros. U. Indeed, much of the game is the same, with the identical opening sequence and world map making Luigi’s debut something of a misfire.
Once you start getting into the levels though, you see where the changes have been made. Most of the stages retain their general layout and feel, but the majority of the enemies, traps and hazards have been remixed to create a tougher Mario experience. This is initially exhilarating, catering for a dedicated audience that haven’t been at the fore of Nintendo’s considerations for years now.
For the most part this new challenge is welcome, with countless deaths all adding up without you ever feeling like the game is cheating you. It’s only after so many retries that some of the other gameplay tweaks stop making sense completely. Rather than being a re-skin of Mario as in the multiplayer of Mario Bros. Wii and U, Luigi controls much more like his Mario Bros. 2 counterpart this time around. He carries a heavy center of gravity over his brother, causing him to slip and slide around the stages.
This is off-set by a higher jump and the ability to float by fervently kicking his legs in the air. It appeals from a historical point of view, and having Luigi as a stand alone character alters the level design in a way that is initially engaging. That said, it doesn’t make sense for how challenging some of the later levels are. It constantly feels like these trickier stages could do with the more controlled and measured handling of Mario, as navigating them with the floating and imprecise Luigi is often a demoralising experience.
There’s also the time limit, an ever present concern in Luigi U now that it has been reduced to a mere hundred seconds. The time limit has only ever really been present in a Mario game to prevent people from really mucking about and, whilst the vastly reduced time adds yet another layer of challenge and skill to the Luigi U formula, it also prevents you from feeling like you can really explore and enjoy the levels.
It does mean the levels are a touch shorter, a change that can often change the game for the better. As levels seldom last over a minute, the game gains a “one more go” feel and deaths become much less bothersome.
The more compact nature of many of the levels does make multiplayer largely unplayable though. The original Mario Bros. Wii and U managed to straddle the fine line between fun and frustration, with the many players bumping into and impeding each other at specific moments.
In Luigi U it feels like you and your companions are just constantly tripping over each other. It’s a surprisingly quick way to lose your patience friends in one go.
As if to alleviate this problem with the multiplayer, the computer controlled Nabbit from the vanilla Mario Bros. U has been reintroduced as a playable character in multiplayer. Nabbit differs from the other players vastly in how he is virtually invulnerable.
Falling down pits can still finish him, but no enemy can touch him, allowing the Nabbit player to steam-roll ahead of the other players. I’m sure you could say this is a clever way of making the new difficulty of Luigi U more palatable, but it just feels confused in practice. In a game that is intent on stretching and testing the limits of even the most dedicated of Mario veterans, including a cheat character like Nabbit just feels conflicted with the expansion’s purpose.
Nintendo’s foray into the expansion world will hopefully give them enough feedback to make the right decision next time, as the decision to price Luigi U at £18 is a bit steep. This price is also significantly higher if you purchase the disc-based stand alone version (it’s currently £30 on Amazon).
The new 80+ stages represent a fairly decent amount of content, but the broken multiplayer and lack of new levels in the awesome challenge mode makes the value of this expansion questionable.
I don’t mean to kick Nintendo when they’re down, as they aren’t having the smoothest of runs with the Wii U at the moment. That said, I can’t turn a blind eye to a mediocre game. If Nintendo want to silence the critics, they need to start releasing more stand-out system sellers for the Wii U and, whilst Super Luigi U is an interesting experiment, it is by no means a credit to the Wii U’s software library. If you loved the Lost Levels, the challenge may appeal to you, but others would be advised to steer clear until the price is reduced.
This game was reviewed on Wii U.