In 1986, Nintendo reworked Super Mario Bros into The Lost Levels (known in Japan as Super Mario Bros 2), a series of demanding obstacle courses designed to test the players who’d conquered the previous game and were looking for a fresh challenge. The reaction was mixed: some welcomed the increased difficulty, while others bemoaned the loss of the previous game’s immaculate tempo. 27 years on, and Nintendo has repeated the trick, with the results likely to be equally divisive.
Each of the parent game’s courses has been aggressively pruned, retooled into short, intense bursts of platforming, with no mid-stage checkpoint to soften the blow. Those who struggled with the later stages of NSMBU will find little comfort even in the early stages, though 1-Ups are easy to come by, with Luigi’s higher leaps usually finding the top of the flagpole. Being returned to the world map after every failure soon grates, however, while the quality of the level design is mixed: some stages feel claustrophobic yet others are surprisingly baggy, and few are considerate enough to accommodate four players. A sop to beginners comes in the form of Nabbit, who is impervious to projectiles and enemies, but that’s no help on the stages where solid ground is at a premium.
At its best, New Super Luigi U is an exhilarating test of skill, but on occasion it dangerously approximates a fan-made ROM hack, mistakenly believing that an increased enemy count equates to satisfying design. Some will undoubtedly find its challenge inviting, but others will rightly expect more ingenuity from Nintendo than this.
New Super Luigi U is out now on Wii U.