The so-called "Year of Luigi" continues this June with the release of New Super Mario Bros. U's downloadable expansion, New Super Luigi U. The massive bit of content completely revamps the core game with all-new levels and playable characters, and a sharp increase in difficulty. New Super Luigi U is basically an entirely new game for a fraction of the price, and will definitely test your mettle every step of the way. Fortunately, it's still a lot of fun to play, which goes a long way in easing tensions caused by frustration.
Mushroom Kingdom. Kidnapped princess. Evil Bowser family. Mustachioed hero.
It's a story you should be familiar with by now, even with just a passing knowledge of how a Mario Bros. game works. New Super Luigi U doesn't do much to change the narrative, save for swapping out one dashing plumber for another. Formerly relegated to second fiddle, this downloadable content gives players a chance to see what the Mushroom Kingdom is like in another pair of overalls. Luigi jumps higher and farther, and has a problem putting the brakes on after running. He may not be Mario, but he's certainly got a particular set of skills. Those skills will help him rescue the princess, but will also take some getting used to in the more challenging worlds of New Super Luigi U.
All the worlds you played through before in New Super Mario Bros. U have been drastically redesigned for this DLC. The individual levels are much shorter, but they're also laden with more traps, obstacles and perilous jumps than before. You'll also be faced with a strict 100-second time limit (save for boss battles), which pushes you even harder than before. The lack of time makes you rush, taking away from observing some of the new pitfalls that await off-screen, and keeping you focused on merely completing your objective. With the regular game, you have time to enjoy the thought and effort that went into each individual area. Here though, you don't have time to take in scenery.
That's not to say the increased difficulty isn't welcome. In fact, this new harder, faster game is quite enjoyable. Sure, it will test your patience at times, but there's a lot of good feelings to be shared when you complete a particularly agonizing segment. Taking on the tough task of saving the princess isn't something you'll have to do alone either, as up to three other friends can join in on the action, with a fourth pal able to use the GamePad for assists if you want. The GamePad comes in handy quite a bit if you happen to be playing with friends, and making sure everyone is able to complete a world with as few lost lives as possible will test your reflexes almost as much as the core game.
That said, adding multiple players to the mix definitely causes more chaos than normal. It's often more of an uphill climb to complete a level with limited platform space, and more than two characters fighting to stick that tough landing. Bubbling up is a crucial tactic this time around, and it will definitely help you save lives and time. It can be very frustrating to have to worry about every other player's timing and reflexes when up against the clock, and there will be plenty of accidental deaths. There will be almost as many equally miraculous saves, too, but New Super Luigi U isn't fun with other players in the same way New Super Mario Bros. U was. In the core game, horsing around was part of the excitement. Here, there's much more focus on teamwork, and while the rewarding feeling is stronger, the frustrations in not getting the job done escalate quicker, too.
While getting to play as Luigi is the main draw, additional players have the option of playing as frequent thief Nabbit. The antagonistic character from the original game is invincible against enemies, but environmental hazards can still end his day. Nabbit is a bit broken in that regard, but could definitely help less experienced players still enjoy the game with friends. Unfortunately, when playing with three other people, someone will always have to be Nabbit (Mario is not playable at all in NSLU), which can be a bit of a drag. However, having someone invincible around when everyone else is dying off at a rapid pace could come in handy at times.
Luigi doesn't get as much love as Mario when it comes to solo games, but Nintendo's plans to rectify that situation in 2013 have us excited to see what else the company and character have to offer. New Super Luigi U is just what the character needed to remind everyone Luigi has just as much star power as his sibling. While New Super Luigi U could be viewed as merely more of the same, when the quality of the content is this high, and there's so much packed into the game, it's tough to complain. The DLC may turn off more casual fans with its challenging difficulty, but longtime fans will find the new levels a worthy adversary, particularly when playing with a few friends.
This review is based on a digital retail copy of New Super Luigi U, available now. The disc version will be available on Aug. 25.