Mario’s presence on Switch is pretty strong already. We’ve had various sports-based entries like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Mario Tennis Aces. There’s the more tactical Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Super Mario Party offers a more sociable style of gameplay for the moustachioed hero. Our favorite plumber turns up in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate too. The Switch even already has one of the best entries in the core platforming franchise, Super Mario Odyssey. Now Nintendo is bringing the latest 2D version of Mario to their hybrid system with New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. This is another port of a Wii U game, but as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze proved, that’s not always a bad thing. So, how does this latest port hold up?
As ever, Mario is tasked with rescuing Princess Peach from Bowser. You will have to traverse eight worlds (though it is possible to bypass one) to get back to Peach’s Castle and deal with your oversized foe. Each world has anything from 7-12 levels. Some of these require you to exit levels through secret tunnels, though most can’t be missed. I actually found a secret exit in one of the Ghost Houses without realizing it and completely missed the Rock Candy Mines world. It wasn’t until I reached Peach’s Castle that I figured I must have gone wrong somewhere.
Each world has its own distinctive visual style, whether that be icy surroundings like Frosted Glacier or the pools of lava in Peach’s Castle. While this does change up the surroundings, after the magnificent Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, it feels a little dull on the visuals front. There just isn’t the level of detail and imagination that is abundant in Tropical Freeze. Don’t get me wrong — New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is not a bad-looking game; I just feel they could have done more. The animation of the characters is super smooth, and the art design has that classic Mario feel. The screen just feels a little bland without much happening on screen. Whether this was a design choice to help you focus on the challenging platforming, I don’t know, but I would have loved for something more in the background or even the foreground.
Speaking of platforming, this is, of course, one of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe’s strong points. Controls are tight and simple. You only use two buttons and the thumbstick, but I never felt restricted by Mario’s move set. More advanced techniques are context sensitive. For example, if you are in the air, carrying something, or wearing a particular outfit. It can take a while to learn quite how each character and power-up operates, as well as the level of friction that each surface has. All of this is even more important when you are racing through the level for one of the challenges, chasing Nabbit, or in the New Super Luigi U mode.
Despite having tight controls, I have to confess that I died, a lot. The game’s difficulty is somewhat challenging. I never got close to running out of lives, but there were numerous levels that I had to try over and over again. It’s not that the game is unfair. Every time I died, it was because I had made a mistake or been too rash. Some jumps had to be almost pixel perfect, so those were really tough. I also found some of the Ghost House levels to be frustrating because they required using doors in a specific order or finding them hidden behind walls. Despite the time limit for a level being generous, I ran out of time on Ghost Houses on several occasions.
As you can probably guess from the “U” in the (rather clunky) title, this is a port of a Wii U game. This “Deluxe” edition collates the core game with the New Super Luigi U DLC and also adds some new playable characters. Nabbit and Toadette provide an easier way to play through the game. Nabbit is unaffected by enemies. The only way he can die is by falling into a pit. Toadette, meanwhile, reacts a lot quicker to your controls. She stops instantly with no sliding. Pick up a Super Crown and Toadette becomes Peachette. This is essentially a variation on the Squirrel Suit (though looking like Peach) and allows you to gently float down as well as boost up. There are also some new game modes added like Coin Battle, Boost Rush, and Challenges.
I have to say, overall, I found New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe to be a bit of a disappointment. It isn’t that it’s a bad game, far from it in fact. However, it is one of the weaker Mario games. There’s a lot of fun to be had, but not much by way of wow factor. The visuals are bright and appealing but lack depth and interest. The music is great, but it’s nearly all stuff that we have heard before. Of course, the platforming is spot on, but again, it doesn’t add anything new. If you can only afford to pick up one Nintendo 2D platformer, then you should get Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. However, if you want even more Mario in your life, then New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is still worth your time.
A review code was provided by the publisher.