E3 2012: New Super Mario Bros. U: Fifth wheel has its highs and lows

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New Super Mario Bros. U
Otherwise, it's just another Super Mario game. That's not necessarily a bad thing for fans of the man in red, but those hoping for a mind-blowing Mario experience with the launch of Wii U will probably be disappointed. New Super Mario Bros. U, touted here on the E3 2012 show floor, is much of the same that players gobbled up on the original Wii.

That said, its charms settle in as soon as a friend picks up the Wii U game pad, the tablet-style controller that comes with the machine. While four folks play as Mario, Luigi or one of two Toads simply romp around the world using the standard Wii remote, a fifth player can join in using the new game pad. Focusing on its six-inch screen, the fifth wheel taps the screen to cause floating blocks to appear in his friends' world.
New Super Mario Bros. U screens
With the ability to place four blocks at once nearly anywhere, any time, the game pad player holds quite a bit of power in his hands--the power to either help or hinder his friends' progress. Want to help your friends reach a giant golden coin way up high? Then build a floating stairway for your buddies. Want to be a little nuisance? Place a block above a player just as he jumps to reach that platform, sending her plummeting to her adorable death.

It's blast to wield that kind of power, but that's about the extent of your abilities: tapping the screen to create blocks. (Though, it's possible to create blocks in quick succession, creating a bridge of sorts for players to stroll across each world completely devoid of danger. But what's the fun in that?) Without much else to do as the fifth wheel, this charm fades quickly. Maybe a visible character for the fifth player to control would help with that.
New Super Mario Bros. U preview
Regardless, the charm of Mario's world is ever-present, even more so this time around with lush backgrounds and foregrounds, and two new tricks up the plumbers' sleeve: a flying squirrel suit. (Does it official name really matter?) With this, players can glide across levels and shake the Wii remote to soar up high with a burst of speed. The second is a baby Yoshi that can inflate itself to lift players up high in the sky, much like the propeller suit in the game previous.

There's no doubt that running and leaping around the Mushroom Kingdom will be a blast (and sell like hotcakes) as always when New Super Mario Bros. U launches this fall. And tapping around on the Wii U game pad--interacting with the same world your friends are in--is impressive. Unfortunately, the method isn't the game-changing experience you'd expect from Nintendo's flagship Mario game on its brand new platform. Perhaps that lies in the nifty social layer shown off this morning. Now wouldn't that be something.

Are you interested in New Super Mario Bros. U? Are you more excited about its multiplayer or social features? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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