I’m not a huge fan of Mario. I’ve played quite a bit of Super Mario World (SNES) but I found it too hard. I bought a Wii to play Super Mario Galaxy but I bounced off it quite hard. On the Switch I’ve finished Super Mario Odyssey, three times as I’ve helped both my kids getting through.
This game I got mostly for my family as they love Super Mario World, but I couldn’t help playing it a fair bit myself.
First of all, it is a very polished game. I like that. It has tons of secrets and mechanics that take ages to find by yourself. This really increases replayability in a way that is unmatched by other 2D platformers.
The game looks good and the difficulty is just right. It feels very balanced and the levels are very well designed. Even if there are over 160 levels they all feel unique and have their own theme. That is incredible.
What I really love about this game is that it wants you to succeed. It has all the constraints of any other Mario game, bottomless pits, timer that runs out. But in those bottomless pits you can jump on walls to get back out. The timer clearly indicates when there’s only 100 seconds to go.
You can select from different characters where Toadette represents an easier difficulty. The rabbit represents even easier so I can play with my youngest son. I played the game with Mario as I wanted to play it the way it’s meant to be played.
Some levels I got stuck in, dying 20-30 times. After a set number of deaths you get the option to trigger a Luigi. He will show you how to play the level. After Luigi has played the level for you, you have the option to skip that level. I never used this option but my son did, and I think it is a great way to allow progression even after you get stuck.
Instead I went back to 1-1 Acorn Fields and farmed extra lives after I spent them all. This is also a way the game wants you to succeed by allowing you to go back to easier levels. I’m not a fan of farming but I prefer it to using Luigi to play the game for me. It is great that the game gives me this choice.
The last thing the game does to help me succeed is to provide a quicksave. You can save and quit everywhere. You don’t have to beat the next boss anymore. This is a huge improvement for me compared to the old SNES games.
What I don’t like about this game is the mechanics. I don’t like the way it feels to play at all. I am used to play precision platformers like Celeste, Axiom Verge, Shovel Knight where the game only does exactly what you tell it to through the controller. The feedback is so instantaneous that you become one with the character on the screen. This is not the case with New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe.
There is a ramp up speed from the instant when you tell Mario to move and when he is on the move. There is also a stopping distance from where you tell Mario to move until he stands still. If the surface is leaning one way or another this distance will vary. It causes erratic behavior where you start running in the opposite direction to get Mario to stop. It is also the cause of so many deaths. This acceleration and deceleration makes it hard to jump on things from above, because it becomes hard to aim and account for all the peculiarities. This is a problem I don’t have in other games.
I hate wall jumping in this game. It doesn’t take into account what way your analogue stick is pointing. Let’s say you jump to a ledge and you miss it. Mario will grab the ledge like a wall. Your instincts tells you the you can jump up onto the ledge but a soon you you jump, Mario will jump away from the wall, quite often to his death.
At other times when you need wall jump, it is hard to do because the mechanics of it feels all wrong. You need to get Mario to latch on to a wall before jumping away from it. It is very unintuitive, and here I thought that wall jumping was a solved problem.
The bad mechanics really hits you when the game wants you to do precision jumping between flying bugs. The jump mechanic is just not up to the task and it makes the game feel unfair.
The game does everything great within its own constraints, but sometimes it’s those constraints that makes it bad. The bosses are repetitive and dumb. They try to reinvent the old formula of bosses coming back but powered up, but there is just so much you can do when the constraint is that you’re supposed to jump on the boss’s head three times. They are dull and repetitive. The only thing making it challenging is the bad mechanics stated above.
Another bad constraint is the instant death by falling down a bottomless pit or getting squeezed between moving blocks. It just isn’t fun and it isn’t fair.
I didn’t finish this game. I was almost at the end when my save file decided to delete itself. I must have pressed the wrong buttons while starting the game, the screen flashed “Deleting” and swoosh it was gone. I do not enjoy the game enough to start all over. Maybe I finish it later in coop with my son.