Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wii U Review: Dr. Luigi

Dr. Luigi is, for all intents and purposes, an HD update of the terrific WiiWare title Dr. Mario Online Rx.  Nearly all the same content that was in that game is still present here, and everything has been given an extra layer of polish and charm.  Graphics are more detailed, animations are more lively, and sound effects are clearer and crisper.  On top of that, everything has been given a Luigi-themed coat of paint and a few new features have been added to keep things interesting.

The headlining feature is "Operation L," a new mode that, while very similar to classic Dr. Mario, mixes things up by dishing out pills in L-shaped pairs instead of one at a time.  On one hand, this makes the gameplay easier, as having more pills in play makes it much simpler to clear viruses and rack up combos quickly.  On the other hand, it also makes the playing field much more cluttered, as garbage pieces tend to build up faster since the L-shaped nature of the pills nearly always leaves a few left-overs behind.  That said, "Operation L" definitely seems like a mode that would appeal to newcomers to the series, as its altered rules do offset the surprisingly steep learning curve that Dr. Mario normally has.  It is also fun for a series veteran like myself, as it requires longtime players to rewire their brains a bit and approach puzzles differently.

For purists, "Retro Remedy" mode offers up classic Dr. Mario gameplay identical to Online Rx.  Virus Buster also returns, with its slightly more laid back pace and strategy based gameplay.  Virus Buster is greatly enhanced by the Wii U Gamepad, as it is now played on the controller's touch screen instead of using the Wii Remote as a pointer.  You can even turn the controller vertical to have the field of play fill the entire screen, which makes it very easy to tap and drag pills right where you want them.  As Virus Buster originated in the Brain Age series on the DS, it was really designed for the touch screen, so having it playable on one again is a welcome change.

Multiplayer is also back, working more or less exactly the same as it did in Online RX.  Two players can go head to head, both locally and online, in either Retro Remedy mode or using the new Operation L rules.  Flash mode also returns, challenging players to clear specific flashing viruses amongst the regular ones.  A healthy amount of standard options are also included, such as the ability to toggle on and off certain features as well as the ability to switch between having the viruses use their new appearance or their classic appearance during gameplay.  Regrettably, Sneeze and Cough are once again absent for use as background music, having also been left out for Dr. Mario Express, but Operation L features two brand new tracks that fit the classic Dr. Mario aesthetic perfectly.

Ultimately, just like Online RX and Express before it, Dr. Luigi offers up another enjoyable helping of the classic gameplay that the series is known for, while also throwing in a handful of worthwhile new features.  It doesn't do too much that wasn't already done in Online RX, which might make the $15 price tag feel a little steep for those who already have the WiiWare title.  However, for those who never got to enjoy the infectious charm of Dr. Mario Online RX, or those who just want to enjoy it in glorious high definition, Dr. Luigi has the cure.

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