OverviewPlatform: Wii U
The fiscal Year of Luigi rages on as the other Mario brother opens his own puzzling practise.
For years I lived life with a Tetris-shaped chip on my shoulder. I tried many puzzle games but deemed all of them to be inferior to Alexey Pajitnov’s master-work and thus never fully gave them the time of day. As a result, I was not ensnared by Dr. Mario during a brief stint with one of its older incarnations.
Now that I’m older, wiser and have fully accepted that no puzzle game can ever surpass Russia’s gift to gaming, I’ve finally learned to enjoy the wider genre. I’ve also come to love this new Luigi-themed version of Dr. Mario despite it not being the be-all-end-all definitive edition that fans might have hoped for.
If you’re unfamiliar with the basics of the vintage medical-themed puzzler here’s the lowdown. The player has to clear out three different types of virus from a bottle-shaped grid by dropping in pills from above. Lining up four or more viruses or pill segments of the same colour either horizontally and vertically will clear them away.
This tried and true Dr. Mario format boasts all the hallmarks of a classic colour-match puzzle game, being easy to play yet difficult to master and requiring both forward planning and swift reflexes. Having finally put in a decent amount of time into this with Dr. Luigi, I now fully appreciate how addictive and oh-so-satisfying clearing those pesky viruses can be.
On top of this standard Dr. Mario game play, Dr. Luigi adds two additional modes which are equally as habit-forming.
Operation-L replaces the usual dual-segmented pills with two combined in an L-shape. At first appearing like a shallow and silly nod to Luigi, this mode presents a faster, initially easier experience that forces you into a different way of playing. Amping up the risk/reward balance due to their larger size, the L-shapes have a higher potential for both easier matches and bigger mistakes.
Germ Buster also initially looks to be a weak and tacked-on idea, appearing to take the traditional Dr. Mario format and forcing you to play with touch screen controls. However, within seconds it just clicks. While it does return to the classic dual-segmented pills it adds new twists like a wider grid top, the potential for three pills to descend at once and the ability to juggle multiple objects. There’s also something neat about having the ability to hold the GamePad vertically and have the whole playing field fill the entire screen. Most importantly, the dragging and rotating of pills via the stylus ends up feeling more satisfying and responsive than it has any right to be.
Ultimately, both new modes offer enough new wrinkles and strategies to make them serious contenders for your time.
If you’re a Wii U owner then you already know how surprisingly useful the console’s Off-TV Play feature is. It’s a big feather in Dr. Luigi‘s green cap as every aspect of the game can be played solely on the GamePad, even the two player modes.
Speaking of multiplayer, the game has been criticised by some for omitting the four person play included in some past versions of Dr. Mario but personally I can’t see this being a deal-breaker for most. The vast majority of players will probably be more than happy with the two player, CPU head to head modes and the robust online options.
Besides that, there’s not a lot you could genuinely call the game out on. A bit more structure would’ve been welcome, perhaps through unlockables or achievement-like goals. But with that single four player omission and wishful thinking aside this is a thoroughly well-made, feature-rich version of Dr. Mario.
However, given its hefty price tag of £13.49 I can’t quite give it a glowing recommendation. Nintendo’s approach to pricing its digital content has been ill-advised and this continues this trend, expecting eShoppers to pony up big time for what will likely be perceived as a simple update of a game that’s been knocking around for twenty four years now. For half that price this would have been a must-buy for just about any one, four player mode or otherwise. Still, if you love your puzzle games and aren’t tapped out on the basic Dr. Mario formula you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your money here.