Developer: Arika | Publisher: Nintendo | Played On: Wii U | Price: $14.99 | ESRB: Everyone
It’s common knowledge that Luigi has always been overshadowed by big brother Mario in every facet: Mario saves the Princess, drives the go-karts, and excels in every sport. This time Luigi is trying to strike back by getting his PhD and becoming Dr. Luigi! What better way to cap off the “Year of Luigi” than with jump starting the little brother’s professional future in Dr. Luigi for the Wii U.
Dr. Luigi follows the same principle as Mario’s puzzle outing: match three falling pills of the same color with a similarly colored virus and they disappear. If you let your pills get too high on the board it’s game over. The concept is incredibly simple to grasp yet deceptively challenging and addictive.
The major difference between Dr. Mario and Dr. Luigi are the available game modes. Dr. Luigi has several modes to play through, including Retro Remedy, a faithful adaptation of classic Dr. Mario gameplay. Virus Buster plays almost identical to Retro Remedy, but has you holding the GamePad vertically and using the touch screen to move and rotate the pills.
Operation L is the main mode. In it the pills you use to eradicate the viruses are L-shaped; though it seems like a minor difference, Operation L drastically changes the way to play the game. Strategies that used to work in Dr. Mario (or Retro Remedy) won’t work in Operation L because your pill size is different. As someone that played my fair share of Dr. Mario over the years, this was a wonderful reimagining of the series and added just enough new gameplay to make the experience fresh.
Operation L and Retro Remedy have single player and two-player support, both offline and online (though I had a difficult time finding anyone to play with online). These games can be played in classic mode, where you have to outlast your opponent or be the first to eliminate all your viruses, or in flash mode where you’re racing to be the first to remove the glowing viruses from the board.
Playing with a friend is fun. Matches are quick and offer plenty of replayability, which is most definitely a good thing. Regardless of which mode you play, the game only supports two player multiplayer. This is a missed opportunity for some truly crazy four-person multiplayer matches, which would have made the overall package much more enticing. Though these modes aren’t all that different from one another, they do offer a slightly altered gameplay experience that extends the life of the game a short bit.
The key to any great puzzle game are solid controls, and Dr. Luigi has the prescription for that, too. Guiding, rotating, and placing each pill is simple. My only gripe is that there is no guide to show you where your piece will land while it is falling. In other puzzle games, like newer versions of Tetris, there’s an outline of your current position showing where your piece will land on its current course. Its omission isn’t so detrimental that the game suffers, but it would have been a nice addition nonetheless. The touch controls in Virus Buster are also tight and intuitive.
An abundance of charm and detail make Dr. Luigi visually impressive. Everything is brightly colored. The viruses have adorable faces that make you feel kind of guilty when you cure them. Luigi enthusiastically swings his arm nonstop as you’re guiding your pills downward. I especially like the attention to minor details within the game, like how the area you play in is shaped like a pill bottle, and the depiction of the viruses on the left of the screen are sitting in Petri dishes.
The most memorable aspect of the original Dr. Mario outside of the gameplay had to be the music. The theme song is so catchy it just makes you want to play again and again! Although the music in Dr. Luigi isn’t as masterful as its predecessor, the melodic offerings are still catchy and fit the fast-paced nature of the gameplay.
Dr. Luigi does an excellent job capturing the addictive gameplay that made Dr. Mario so memorable and fun. A handful of game modes, including the new Operation L, make Luigi’s practice more robust than his portly brother’s. While the game doesn’t do much to entice gamers who weren’t initially impressed, fans of the series will enjoy the wonderful visuals and familiar gameplay. Perhaps a degree was all Luigi needed to separate himself from his over-achieving brother after all.