Nintendo had been pushing quite a few Wii U launch titles at its New York Comic Con booth this year, and one of them was a demo of their latest big Mario game: New Super Mario Bros. U. I got to play it briefly using Boost Mode, so let me give some short impressions on the product.
At the show, the Boost Rush Mode demo put up to four players into a collection of stages to race through and get a high score, not unlike New Super Mario Bros. 2's Coin Rush Mode. In Boost Rush Mode, players are given a time limit to complete the set of stages based on a particular theme. Unlike normal stages, however, the screen continues to slowly advance forward, and as more coins are collected, the speed of the scroll can accelerate greatly. To make things more complicated, the whole team shares lives, so one player constantly dying can result in the whole group's failure before reaching the end. It is quite a bit more difficult than playing through the normal game, so it will take teamwork and pure skill to survive the trek.
Now, I mentioned four players, but there is technically room for a fifth with the Wii U GamePad. This fifth person plays in Boost Mode, a mode of play in which the GamePad user can assist the characters by creating blocks on-screen. Tapping onto the GamePad's touch screen generates a block which can be used to prevent a hero from falling to his death or to help someone make it to higher places in the level. Boost Mode also allows the GamePad user to tap at enemies to freeze them in place, helping the others dodge or attack where necessary.
In the end, what mattered in the level was that our efforts would work together to persevere through the snow-covered landscape and the twirling star platforms before us, but our team effort would prove ineffective at best. Most of the time, the players' interactions with each other, combined with my own interference, caused plenty of chaos and ended the lives of many. People can still interact with each other in-game, so a number of deaths erupted from those shenanigans. There were times when I put down a block for someone to jump on, only to have them hit it from underneath and plummet to their doom. Nintendo has said that using Boost Mode can be cool for speedruns, but I suspect it will be much more difficult to get speedruns coordinated between two different people in a game such as NSMBU.
Graphically, NSMBU looks like a High-Definition version of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and there are a number of graphical improvements here and there. However, when looking for the Wii U's graphical showcase, NSMBU is not the game that fits that description. Still, it works for what it does, and at least it is not as sterile-looking as the original Wii release.
New Super Mario Bros. U releases with the launch of the Wii U: November 18th, 2012. Get some friends together and be prepared to lose them from this game!