Control. Precise, responsive and unmitigated control over Mario is the fundamental ingredient which makes New Super Mario Bros U the best launch title on the Wii U and an excellent game in its own right. As you navigate the various worlds of the game and attempt to capture the perilously located star coins dotted about each stage, it is your ability as a player to shape Mario's movements exactly as you want - that is, as recklessly or as cautiously as you want, depending on your playstyle - which makes the game a breathtaking experience as you narrowly escape death due to a well timed running jump which if you had pulled off a millisecond later (or perhaps earlier) would have resulted in a game over screen. In this respect every success empowers you, knowing it has been fought for by your own skill and rapid reactions, whereas every failure compels you to pick yourself back up and try again knowing that your death was not because of cheap level design or unresponsive controls (two pitfalls which so many platformers fall into) but because you simply were not good enough or sharp enough on that particular occasion. But you will be, next time. In this respect the game's difficulty is perfectly pitched, challenging enough that you will certainly fail numerous times especially as you go after those pesky star coins, but not so difficult that you feel the task ahead is insurmountable. And thus, because of this finely tuned balance, New Super Mario Bros U keeps you coming back.
And the graphics. They are glorious. The game is by no means a technical marvel pushing an obscene number of polygons and shader effects in your face, but Nintendo's art design shines in HD as Mario, his adversaries and the varied backgrounds are rendered in a crispness and vividness that makes them shine and makes you smile. The colourful graphics are also a highly refreshing change from all the grey, brown and basically drab backdrops which have plagued modern videogames for what seems like an eternity. The music, mainly a rehash of previous titles is less impressive but nevertheless perfectly complements the visual spectacle on screen and never detracts from it.
None of this is to say that the game is not without its shortcomings. The boss fights, apart from the last few (and the final one is a real treat) are painfully generic affairs as bosses hop around the screen in extremely simplistic patterns usually resulting in their defeat in less than a minute. Their straightforwardness being an unfortunate aberration in a game which is generally challenging enough to keep things always interesting. And it is also disappointing that the singleplayer game makes practically no use of the unique selling point of the console, that is the gamepad, with the touchscreen being merely a mirror of the action on the big screen rather than helping create innovative platforming experiences as demonstrated in the Rayman Legends demo, for example. Still, in the overall scheme of things these are minor quibbles. New Super Mario Bros U contains that quintessential Nintendo magic, namely pitch-perfect level design which results in hours of unadulterated videogaming fun, that makes it an essential purchase for any Wii U early adopter and is a tantalising indicator of things to come with regards to future Nintendo titles on this interesting new console.