Nintendo has dabbled with downloadable content before in the form of additional stages for New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Fire Emblem Awakening, but New Super Luigi U is its first proper DLC expansion. As first attempts go it's decent, but far from outstanding.
After you download the add-on from the Wii U eShop (it'll set you back £17.99 and requires 732MB of disk space, with a standalone disc version coming next month), New Super Luigi U adds an extra option to the New Super Mario Bros. U menu, transforming Story Mode into an alternative version starring... Luigi.
The result is an odd remix of the original game in which the world map remains identical but each of the 82 stages have been changed. Some are completely different - one level featuring the return of the Penguin Suit from New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a highlight - whereas others are merely tweaked versions of NSMBU levels, designed to make use of the gameplay changes introduced in the DLC.
One of these changes is the way in which Luigi handles. It should come as no surprise to long-time Mario fans that for the umpteenth time in the series' 28-year history Luigi has been gifted with a higher jump and a slidier run.
The high jump has at least been redesigned to look and feel much more like Luigi's jump in vintage NES gem Super Mario Bros. 2, complete with a comical animation as he kicks his legs in mid-air. In terms of feel, it's somewhere in between Mario's standard jump and Yoshi's longer flutter jump. His slippedy-slidey feet, meanwhile, aren't quite as annoying as they have been in previous games. As a result, while Luigi is still harder to control than Mario, navigating sections with smaller platforms isn't quite as vein-poppingly infuriating as it has been in the past.
While Luigi's new physics should be no huge surprise to Mario veterans, then, an interesting change to the game's timer may require more adjustment. Each of New Super Luigi U's 82 stages begins with 99 seconds on the clock, opening with the 'hurry up' sting that usually plays when you've been messing around on a level for too long. This makes things more frantic, constantly moving you forward, not bothering with time-consuming distractions like multiple coin blocks.
To account for the tighter time limit, each stage is more condensed than a typical Mario level and if you're legging it non-stop it's not uncommon to finish a level in as little as 40 seconds. Enemies appear more frequently, platforms are shortened and Star Coins are closer together (though some are just as difficult to find as before).
But despite some arenas being a little cluttered, Nintendo's mastery of level design eventually shines through: while undoubtedly more challenging than the standard NSMBU levels, levels are, for the most part, well balanced - and, when you do die, you'll never feel anything other than solely responsible for your failure.
This emphasis on urgency and challenge means New Super Luigi U is definitely more suited to expert gamers. It's not quite the absurd level of difficulty The Lost Levels provided back in the '80s, but it's about as difficult as you can expect a Mario game to be in this day and age. The tricky rotating gears in NSMBU's first fortress level, for example, now shoot flames too, just to make it that much more infuriating, and 1-Ups are far less prevalent
One downside is a far less satisfying co-op experience, which Nintendo attempts to remedy - unsuccessfully - with introduction of Nabbit, the chubby purple thief character from New Super Mario Bros. U, as a playable character. Nabbit is invulnerable and can plough through enemies like a mauve-tinged Terminator. He can still be crushed or fall into pits, however, and ultimately doesn't solve the problem of characters frequently bumping in to each other as they attempt to navigate NSLU's harsh and tightly-packed courses.
Fans of the difficult Challenge Mode from New Super Mario Bros. U will also be disappointed to see that this DLC doesn't add any new challenges - a missed opportunity given the extra skill needed to handle Luigi's more slippery controls.
Ultimately, 'more of the same, but harder' is the mantra that New Super Luigi U lives by. But while there are some standout moments - and its slippier character physics and ultra-tight speed runs are, in and of themselves, fair enough additions - when everything comes together, this proves to be a very ordinary add-on for veterans of Mario platforming.
Some standout moments, but otherwise an unspectacular collection of 82 short stages.
- Doubles the size of New Super Mario Bros. U
- A great challenge for veterans
- Nothing new added to Challenge Mode
- Multiplayer far less playable than before