New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe
Nintendo Switch ★★★☆☆
Recent Mario games have been wild and freewheeling, taking the little red plumber on galaxy-spanning trips and global tours. But New Super Mario Bros is more like the simpler Mario adventures remembered from an early-90s childhood.
It has straightforward left-to-right levels set in castles, underwater, on top of giant mushrooms, in the clouds. A loopy overworld connects them all, offering a couple of different routes through each themed world. You run, you jump, you try not to die. And in multiplayer, where four of you can leap around dementedly, you help each other out.
But though the running, jumping and coin-collecting is fun, and the madcap landscapes are endearingly weird, the magic that animates Mario’s best adventures is missing. The music doesn’t stick around in your head, and, though it looks colourful, it’s oddly flat. Perhaps overfamiliarity is the problem; this is a rerelease of a six-year-old game, after all.
It can be intensely frustrating, perhaps too much so for very young players. Death comes quickly, and with only one checkpoint in each level, it takes persistence as well as platform-hopping prowess to triumph. The difficulty is about right for Mario veterans, especially when you’re playing on your own and there’s nobody to rescue you, but it’s not as welcoming to less experienced players.
The further you delve into New Super Mario Bros U, the more rewarding it becomes. But, though it’s typically well-made and enjoyable, it’s hard to summon the motivation to devote much time to it.