Passionate Nintendo fans have pleaded for a new Mario game at the Wii U launch and it appears the big N will satisfy its loyal community with New Super Mario Bros. U, a 2D side-scrolling adventure that builds off New Super Mario Bros. Wii with familiar gameplay mechanics, four-person co-op, and the tried and true conventions normally associated with any Mario title. We had a chance to play this highly anticipated game, and while it felt instantly familiar, a handful of new additions make it stand on its own, starting with high definition graphics.


To be fair, we’ve seen some beautiful Mario games over the years, from Super Mario Sunshine’s tropical paradise to Super Mario Galaxy’s heavenly planetoids. New Super Mario Bros. U cannot compete with those efforts when it comes to 3D, but has a leg up in terms of visual clarity. Little things, like the tiny bricks that comprise blocks, fluffy white clouds and shiny gold coins look more defined It’s the sort of thing that makes us excited for Mario games to come.


Beyond that, we enjoyed the new Assist Play function that works in tandem with the Wii U controller. Basically, player one uses the Wii remote (held horizontally) to control Mario throughout the game while the player holding the tablet-style GamePad can give his or her buddy a helping hand by tapping the screen to add platforms (a must for surviving long jumps or grabbing hard-to-reach Star Coins), or attacking Koopa Troopas to make them disappear beneath their shells. From there, they can leave them be or continue tapping to send them plummeting into pits.


Of course, if players prefer a less asymmetric experience, there’s four-person co-op and it works in similar fashion to New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Two players control Mario and Luigi and the other two guide two nameless Toads through the Mushroom Kingdom. As expected, gamers have two options: work together as a team and share the spoils or sabotage their friends while hoarding all the suits and gold coins.


Beyond that, players can tackle levels with new Mario abilities, including a Flying Squirrel Suit that lets them temporarily hover in the air by shaking the Wii remote. In addition, a tiny dinosaur (very Yoshi-like) allows them to float, again by shaking the remote. We discovered this is a great way to collect tons of gold coins suspended high above the ground!


Aside from those new features, the game feels like the Mario we all know and love, with Fire Flowers, Goombas, the aforementioned Star Coins (those are always a challenge to find) and mushrooms aplenty. At the same time, much of New Super Mario Bros. U remains a mystery; Nintendo has kept things mostly under wraps. In particular, the story (let us guess…Princess Peach gets kidnapped), new suits, and number of worlds. With Wii U launch details slated to hit this September, we have a feeling Mario’s newest outing will take center stage in the near future. For now, rest assured that the developers are on the right track to creating something special.