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'New Super Mario Bros. U' another worthy entry in the franchise

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new Nintendo console can only mean one thing: a new "Super Mario Bros." game. Like the numerous titles before it, "New Super Mario Bros. U," for the Wii U, is a superb platformer. But after so many years of jumping on Goombas and rescuing Peach (does she come with insurance?), has Mario begun to show his age?

Absolutely not. "NSMBU" feels as fresh as ever, even if it does tread familiar ground. Sure, you have your desert world, your ice world, your water world and the other standard platformer tropes, but the game design stops players from feeling bored in the habitual environments.

Take, for example, one of the new gameplay features: Baby Yoshis. While these little critters have appeared in the past, they are major game mechanics in "NSMBU." There are the Bubble Baby Yoshis, who spit out bubbles that turn enemies into coins or power-ups; the Balloon Baby Yoshis, who can inflate to provide you with a vertical lift; and the Glowing Baby Yoshis, who light up dark areas and stun enemies.

There's also a new power-up, the Super Acorn. Picking it up equips you with the Flying Squirrel Suit, which acts much like the Cape power-up in "Super Mario World." It allows you to glide and stick to walls.

Both the Baby Yoshis and the Flying Squirrel Suit are essential to finding Star Coins, which first appeared in "New Super Mario Bros." Hidden throughout the levels are three Star Coins, and collecting them all will provide you with a secret I can't reveal. However, I will say it's absolutely worth your while to make sure you snag them.

The game includes multiplayer, allowing you and up to three of your friends to play alongside each other and work to save Princess Peach from Bowser's clutches. Personally, I never liked playing a platforming game with cooperative multiplayer as I find it too chaotic, but if it's up your alley or you just want a game the whole family can enjoy, the multiplayer is available.

"NSMBU" also makes use of the Wii U's Off-TV Play feature. If someone wants to watch the television while you want to get your gaming on, the game can be played entirely from the Wii U Gamepad, thanks to its nifty touchscreen. If the sound is too loud, or you don't want to hear the TV, you can plug some headphones into the Gamepad itself. It's a very cool feature.

So yes, while it is starting to get a little tiresome to play a new "Mario" game every year, Nintendo is still doing a great job of keeping the games from feeling stale. "New Super Mario Bros. U" is certainly not a triumph, but it's a fantastic game nonetheless. "New Super Mario Bros. U," $60, is rated E.


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