Next-Gen Gamers is a feature where I explore the world of gaming through the eyes of my kids – literally the next generation of gamers, raised in a house that promotes playing together and sharing our time! It’ll look at games that appeal to kids more than adults, as well as those that are great for both, either through cooperative play or controller sharing.
Welcome back to Next-Gen Gamers! For this episode, I actually asked my son what game I should focus on that he loves. After ratting off a couple of LEGO titles, he settled on New Super Luigi U (Wii U). This game, a DLC add-on for New Super Mario Bros. U (now also available as a standalone disc), was one he picked up for himself with birthday money and a gift card, along with some DS titles.
I was worried about him buying it, because early reviews online focused on increased difficulty, frantic pace, and generally tougher gameplay than the base title. He was insistent though (in no small part because of his already concrete preference for Luigi over his more famous brother), so we picked up a download card and brought it home.
After installation, we jumped immediately into co-op play. New Super Luigi U follows the same basic format of its parent game, including the map and much of the level design. The levels however – especially early on – are shorter, the time limit is reduced, and the cast moves Luigi to the coveted player one position, while player two is replaced with the thieving Nabbit, an enemy that appears occasionally in the prior title to be chased through certain levels for in-game items. The Nabbit quickly became the kid’s new favorite, because it boasts the benefit of practical invincibility against enemies – it can be knocked back, but not killed, by the treacherous denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom.
We played a few levels together for each of the next few nights, but I was often busy with other things, as well, so we’d jump around a lot as he made his way through the game independently while I was working, doing chores, or otherwise occupied. On the second day I helped with two or three levels in the desert area, and by the next, we were in the jungle. Just a few short days after purchase, I came home to find myself helping him through some particularly dangerous and difficult levels in the eighth and final world, slowly making our way towards Bowser’s castle. Then I dropped out to clean a load of dishes, and he went along his way.
As he kept on, there were occasional sounds of anguish or joy, a series of yells such as ”Yes!” and “I got it!” or “No, I pressed jump!” punctuated the house while I went on. Then, after a long streak of disappointed and upset sounds, I heard it. “I did it! I beat the game!” I turned around in the kitchen to see him beaming at the screen, showing the final frames of Bowser’s final defeat, and the rescue of Princess Peach. I was stunned. I’d helped here and there, sure, but this – the game I saw complaints online about for its difficulty, which I’d hesitated to buy – was a moment of pure, unadulterated victorious-gamer joy for my six year old, who’d struggled for hours in the analogous final battle back in New Super Mario Bros. U. He bounced gleefully around the room, without so much as a thought of secondary objectives, of levels unbeaten on paths not needed, basking in a purely solitary achievement.
He’s since picked up the game a few times, hunting down Star Coins (and even trying a few Star Road levels). Despite not investing enough to really care to collect everything, he enjoys playing – especially in co-op mode, as the Nabbit – and doing some of the “extra stuff”. His favorite thing here, if it wasn’t clear, is the Nabbit and his inability to be harmed by enemies. He’ll happily tell me to hold back as he clears areas for us, just as he’ll hold back while I complete some jumping puzzles and the like. He seems to prefer the shorter time and frantic pace it creates, thriving on the chaos of our desperate scramble to reach the end of a given level.
All in all, we have an add-on game that he likes more than the original, a long list of objectives to tackle together, and a pleasantly crazy, fun game to play together that’s easy to pick up for short bursts or for longer, dedicated gaming sessions.