Sure-footedness and dexterity aren’t necessarily attributes one would readily assign to the Mario brother garbed in green, but New Super Luigi U, an abbreviated spin-off of last year’s New Super Mario Bros. U, requires the player to control Luigi with a very specific kind of deftness in order to prevail. Unlike 2013’s other Luigi-starring vehicle, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, which more or less allowed for protracted, careful exploration sessions of its many haunted courtyards and hidden passageways, New Super Luigi U allots the pea-hued plumber a mere 100 seconds to clear each platform-heavy transition. As if reaching each goal post in the given time limit wasn’t enough to stress about, there’s also the sub-agenda of locating every precious Star Coin and secret exit before the clock reaches zero. Thus, laying out a precise course of action before heading into each new area is a must, and, most likely, your initial visits will result in incomplete objectives. Never before has controlling Luigi called for such methodical pre-planning of your repeat attempts at success, and though New Super Luigi U can occasionally feel like a cheapish cash-in for Nintendo in their self-described Year of Luigi, the speedy, tactical gameplay mechanics warrant a purchase for those who still cherish the Wii U’s best launch title, and wouldn’t mind tackling its high degree of platforming mastery from a different angle.
Luigi’s slippery movements are as finicky as ever; expect multiple rounds of trial and error in the game’s later stages. Whether it be his grease-coated shoes, his gravity-defying floaty jumps, or the way he has the tendency to abruptly switch trajectories halfway through a vault, fully comprehending the peculiarities of the blundering bro is simultaneously what makes the game such a frustrating and, strangely enough, addictively challenging endeavor. Thankfully, for gamers who never quite gelled with the Wii U’s gamepad as the primary remote for New Super Mario Bros. U, a should-have-arrived-earlier update comes along with New Super Luigi U that allows for the use of the much more intuitive Classic Controller. Either way you decide to navigate Luigi to his final flagpoles, once the proverbial hang of his unstable mannerisms is achieved, using these idiosyncrasies to your advantage becomes second nature. Exploiting the comically lengthy distance of Luigi’s upsprings can often seem like a hacking mechanism. In situations where Mario would have surely plummeted to his death, Luigi breezily flutters across previously formidable gaps. There’s a certain kinetic tempo at play in New Super Luigi U that wasn’t present in its predecessor, commonly making the overall experience take on the air of a rhythm platformer akin to Game Freak’s fluently cadenced HarmoKnight.
While it’s true that many of the graphical and sound designs are recycled from New Super Mario Bros. U, the multiplayer mode could have used a bit more tinkering (I would have axed the essentially invincible Nabbit character, for starters), and the respective price tags of $20 for an eShop download or $30 for a retail copy could be viewed as rather excessive for the amount of premium content at hand, New Super Luigi U nonetheless offers a surprisingly unique way to undertake the traditional side-scrolling Super Mario adventure. In this case, downsized levels and curtailed countdowns hardly equate to a lessening of comprehensive value. Luigi in the hero role, especially with his irregular locomotion, may still take some getting used to, but in the case of New Super Luigi U, the irritations are well worth the rewards.