Developer: Nintendo / Publisher: Nintendo / Release Date: November 18, 2012 / Platforms: Wii U / ESRB: Everyone
When we first took a look at Nintendo’s New Super Mario Bros. U at E3 earlier this year, we were checking out the regular, very familiar campaign mode that features one to five players running from left to right, dodging baddies and collecting coins and power-ups until they reach the end.
However, at Nintendo’s blowout of a Wii U-focused press conference this morning in New York City, I actually spent some sweet quality time with the newly announced ‘Boost Rush Mode’, which takes the traditional concept of dashing from one end of a level to the other, and adds a twist: the screen continuously scrolls – whether you’re ready to keep going or not. Even better is the fact that, the more coins you pick up along the way (and there are plenty), the faster the screen rolls along. You won’t die if you go off-screen accidentally, but your chances of falling into a nearby pit or getting attacked by an enemy are all the more likely (since you can’t see) – and with a limited pool of shared lives between you and your multiplayer mates, well, they really won’t like that too much. And lives aren’t the only problem you’ve got; your real objective is to set a speed record for the level, particularly surpassing the ones set by other players in your household (sorry, no online leaderboards).
With up to five players supported at once ( four on Wii remotes and one on the new gamepad), Boost Rush Mode is all about grabbing coins and breaking records – and doing it by losing as few lives as possible. While the game’s core mechanics are familiar to anyone who’s picked up a Mario title in the past few years, newly introduced creative gameplay twisters like the flying-squirrel suit and the baby Yoshi help to toss in a dash of fun amongst all the mayhem. If used intelligently and in a timely fashion, these power-ups can get you to the finish line faster than you ever thought possible – but it’s also just as possible to screw up, plummet to your death, and cost yourself some precious seconds. And in this mode, every moment counts.
So while you’re running, jumping, head-bouncing and power-upping, you’ll also be focused on collecting coins. While coins will still award you lives upon reaching a quantity of 100, they’ll also be used to fill up the speed meter, an ever-present top-center bar that fills as you collect Mario’s favorite Mushroom Kingdom currency. As you snag coins, the scrolling will pick up the pace until you reach the maximum speed, which has you dashing for the finish at a breakneck pace. I won’t lie – it’s not an easy mode to conquer, even on the first three levels we played. Even with a bunch of dudes that play video games for a living at my side, we still lost about 9 lives collectively – but hey, we hadn’t had lunch yet, so cut us some slack.
Boost Rush Mode is shaping up to be the other ‘Challenge Mode’ of New Super Mario Bros. U (since there’s already one included), with the regular mode falling closer to a story-focused ‘Relaxation Mode’ of sorts. While higher levels are, like games past, more difficult than most, Boost Rush Mode is where I see replay value skyrocketing for Mario and friends this time around.
So, is this mode innovative enough, or rather, is it fresh enough to invigorate those on the fence about purchasing another entry in the New Super Mario Bros. sub-genre? Perhaps.
More importantly, though, it’s fun, albeit pretty much the same fun you’ve been having for a good few years. Mario may not be changing up his style too much these days; heck, you may even claim he’s playing it way too close to the chest in terms of innovation in his own dang franchise – but hey, you still keep buying his games for some reason, don’t you?