When we mention Nintendo games, pretty much everything starts and ends with franchises. No franchise, however, is more prevalent than Mario and his pals in all of their various incarnations, one of which involves hard drugs. I bet you’re curious as to which game I could be talking about, considering, you know, all the mushrooms. The game I’m talking about took some inspiration from another old classic, Tetris. If you haven’t guessed yet, we’re talking about pill-popping Dr. Mario. These days, Mario has given his brother a bit more of a starring role, which has made it the opportune time to bring back the 23 year old classic, now starring the newly qualified Dr. Luigi!
Upon staring at the main menu screen and reading the game modes, I realized that this was going to be a bit of a strange experience. I guess the creators realized that there were going to be issues if they tried to include touchscreen controls, but couldn’t help themselves and added them in anyway. It’s pretty clear they needed to separate these into either different modes or some other method of control; you just can’t mix the two. A VS. game would be a total disaster – using the touchscreen is just too slow. All in all, the controls are simple, just like the old NES game you know and love. Together the touchscreen, slower pace, and addition of two or three new pills keeps things interesting.
The biggest improvements, since the game plays as tightly as you’d expect, are the new modes that come with the new technology. By this I mean the “Operation L” mode, where your pills are all L-shaped. Getting immediate virus destruction via L-shaped pills is almost as good as getting that four line combo with that toothpick shape in Tetris, except you get to feel that satisfaction pretty much every time a pill comes down (sweet sugar-coated-placebo Jesus!). There’s also a Flash mode where you just need to get rid of the highlighted viruses, but that’s not so big a change and is still pretty similar gameplay-wise. I have a bit of an issue with the fact they don’t let you get L-shaped pills in this mode. I feel like that interaction would really add another level of difficulty and depth to the game. Its omission is really disappointing.
The best part really is the online mode. Let’s face it; if you’re having friends over, you’ve already practiced for the last week just so you can take all of them down and show off your skills. The least you can do is have your ass handed to you by someone pulling the same stunt on you online. Some of the stages versus the CPU are quite easy anyway, which can get a little boring. Something else is also missing here – three or four player local or online is completely gone.
And that’s it.
It’s a 15 dollar game; what did you expect? Story mode? (Yeah kinda, actually.)
As much as they’ve tried to add, the game still feels a bit empty. If you’re not playing online, there isn’t much to do unless you’ve got other people in your house, and you can only play with two players max anyway. In any case, it feels like you could be playing something much more exciting or enthralling. A story mode, to me, would make this experience really, really solid. But without it, something is missing, and it almost cheapens the deal. Even Mario Party: Island Tour had a story mode, and that was actually the best part of the game. Here, things are so simple that they can’t become more than the sum of their parts.
Without a story, how much is there to keep you entertained? They freshened up the catchy and heart-racing ditties, but that was hardly more than expected. It’s pretty in a Luigi kind of way, but nothing special. Animations are tight and all, but it’s not like there is much going on. Again, we are given this empty sensation of “why isn’t there that good ol’ Mario ‘cool’ feeling?” My fellow readers, I fear that, just like your favourite FPS, Mario is becoming that overplayed tune that we’re slowly growing tired of hearing. You can’t just tack on a face and expect things to work out, especially when everything to do with Mario (and Nintendo) is usually about creativity. If it’s hidden in here, I’m not seeing it. They used a lot of the old sound bites, and there aren’t any new presentation things to be said other than that the menu is nice. When’s the last time THAT was the best you could say about presentation in a Mario game?
How much will you love Dr. Luigi ? That’s what the value here is all about. Are you going to play online matches in your downtime? No? Then it’s not really a good buy. The only thing the franchise is doing here is putting a new face on an old, simple classic. There’s also no real incentive to buy the game – would you pay decent money for a new online chess game when there are free apps available? Same difference. This game just doesn’t do enough to warrant a $15 price tag. If it were $10, I’d be less inclined to bash in some areas. $5 would be a fair price. Harsh, but I am growing tired of “new” this and “new” that when it’s all just the universe re-experiencing itself once again.
By all means, this is NOT a bad game. I’m just…. a little disappointed that a Mario (Luigi) game didn’t “wow” me as they so often do. This is also the second time I feel they’ve exploited the name and the franchise to some degree in recent months. I hope that the trend of mediocrity will not continue.
This review is based on Dr. Luigi downloaded from the e-Shop on the Wii U.