Image Source: Nintendo
Nintendo continues to bolster its Switch game library with new triple-A titles, many smaller-scale games, a huge range of indie creations, and games initially made for the Wii U but are now given new life on the innovative console.
Many people missed the initial 2012 release of Super Mario Bros U and the follow-up DLC Super Luigi U, but now they get to experience it all in one with the Japanese gaming giants combining them to make the 2019 release of Super Mario Bros U Deluxe. Better still, the deluxe game is sold at a reduced price to the standby amount for the majority of the Switch’s triple-A releases, only costing £42.99.
While this reviewer hasn’t played a Mario platformer since the legendary Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 on the GameBoy Advance, Super Mario Bros U Deluxe looked very appealing due to the sheer amount of content and the lovable graphics. After clicking in the cartridge, the game was immediately ready to go, setting in motion a brutally frustrating yet wildly enjoyable gaming experience.
Sheer brutality wrapped in sweet animation
With its 3+ rating, bright colour schemes, chiming soundtrack, and adorable little characters, Super Mario Bros U Deluxe lulls you into a false sense of security. The objective is simple, get to the other side, but if you fancy it, and want to complete the full challenge of the game, collect the three giant coins along the way.
It sounds simple enough, but then you have to deal with sharp ledges, wandering enemies, flying enemies, swimming enemies, enemies that launch weapons at you, all of which can end your run with a single touch if you’re not buffed by a mushroom or a special ability. Here lies the challenge, as any slightly miss-timed jump or stretch for a coin can result in you going all the way back to the start.
As if the drops and enemies weren’t enough, every level has a ticking timer, meaning that sometimes, you do have to ditch that final giant coin and come back another time. You’ll learn early on that this is not a game for perfectionists: those who try to get every coin and vanquish every foe will either find themselves touch-killed or defeated by the timer.
Just as you get used to an area, its enemies, the special moves that you can pick up, and the general lay of the land, you’ll be vaulted into a completely different zone, featuring new enemies, new environments, new characters to befriend and utilise, and new elements to contend with as you attempt to get from the start to the finish.
As an added bonus to your struggles, you’re also limited by a lives count which follows you from stage to stage. While you can add more through coin collecting, the 1-Up huts, secret drops, and jumping to the top of the finishing flag pole, your selected character only starts with five lives. Once you’ve exhausted these, you get a strike against your name in the form of the continued counter to get a reboot of lives.
Playing Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is a process of learning how all the elements, environments, enemies, buddies, and special abilities work and how to use them to solve the puzzle of each stage. Reaching the finishing flag with all three giant coins is incredibly satisfying, but the journey there can be Switch-snappingly frustrating, especially if you get caught out by a part you had previously breezed past.
Optional assistance, customisation and strategic play
As unforgiving as the gameplay can be, Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is made to be very inclusive to all levels of expertise and skill. At any point during the game, you can change your character from Mario, Luigi, or Toad – all of whom play at the set difficulty – to Toadette, who makes the difficulty step down to easy, or you can pick the very easy mode with Nabbit.
Lives are also just as easy to come by as they are cruelly stripped away in the platformer, as you can go back on yourself to revisit places on the map, such as Toad’s 1-Up huts, to restock your lives count. The relative ease with which you can stack lives is welcomed in a game which can be so very brutal.
Another very nice touch which allows for play customisation and strategic planning is the ability to apply stored special abilities to your character before the start of the stage. For example, if you can’t quite suss how to reach the high-flying golden coin, you can enter the stage in the squirrel suit if you have the special item banked. But, of course, if you take a hit or pick up another special ability en route to the area that you’d like to utilise a specific special ability, you’ll lose it.
Acquiring the special abilities outside of a stage helps to break up the increasingly difficult stages with mini-games and speed missions, coming in the form of Toad’s hut or chasing down the thief Nabbit in a previously completed stage.
There is further help for those having a tough time, with videos and help accessible from the main menu as well as a convenient, if not slightly patronising, hint box which appears when you respawn after many consecutive fails.
Bringing gaming back to the sofa
Very few top-class games have local co-op modes, and even fewer have co-op modes in which the second player or ‘guest’ get all of the same gaming playability as player one without hindrance. Although many top games on the Switch boast two-player modes, they’re often hindered, as is the case with the short-range tethering in Starlink: Battle for Atlas and the uselessness of player two when roaming in Pokemon: Let’s Go. But with Super Mario Bros U Deluxe, Nintendo’s hit the nail on the head.
Playing in co-op – from two to four players – in the main game brings many benefits, such as the ability to jump higher by jumping off of the other’s head as well as effectively having a bonus life; if one player falls, the other merely has to wait around for a few seconds to pop them back into the game.
However, the game is just as frustrating, if not more so, when you’re accompanied by another. You can jump around, help each other out, but at one point, you’ll both go to jump over the same pit or the same enemy, and one will end up blocking the other, leading to rage. The game is maddening enough as it is, let alone when you have someone else to blame for your shortcomings.
Nevertheless, playing with a friend certainly enhances the experience as you develop your communication and tactics while trying to defeat your common enemy, even if that communication is laced with sarcasm.
More than just a story mode
Along with the main storyline, you also get to try your hand at Super Luigi U, but it’s difficult to say if the former DLC was included as a way to expand the game or as a taunt to those who thought they had mastered the Super Mario Bros. With bigger jumps and slippery stops, Super Luigi U is more frustrating than the main game, made even more difficult when trying to adjust your timing and skill set from the Mario game into the Luigi game.
You can also team up for a different form of couch co-op action in the Coin Battle mode, which delivers a welcomed break of competing against one another rather than trying to work together through the game’s many toils. Coupled with Coin Battle is Coin Edit, in which you can change the Coin Battle courses to create a custom battlefield.
If you’re looking to hone your Super Mario Bros U Deluxe skill or just play the game in a different way, you can take on the Challenges. Here, you could sink hours into the Time Attacks, Coin Collection, 1-Up Rallies, and Specials courses vying for the gold medals.
RealSport Rating: 8.9/10
Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is a great way to continue the legendary gaming franchise, despite being a remake of a game released seven-odd years ago. In 2019, the 2D platformer got the reception that it deserved on a far superior console. This allowed fans to enjoy a massive Super Mario Bros experience which features a long story packed with features and varied gameplay, many other game modes, and plenty of assistance to those who want some help in this deceptively difficult Nintendo creation.
Along with uncovering secrets, utilising the skills of the various Yoshis, and genuine challenge presented by the courses, one of the finest elements of Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is the local multiplayer, which delivers a true co-op experience in all of its glory.
Never has this reviewer loved and thoroughly hated a game in such equal measure, with the brutally challenging gameplay coupled with the blissful mini-game breaks feeding the addiction for this superb addition to the legendary franchise.