The worst bit about New Super Mario Bros U? The title. Specifically, the 'new' bit. All games are 'new', sticking it on the box makes it look like you've something to hide, as if the game can't convince of newness by quality alone. It's the kind of 'new' that gets wheeled out in toothpaste and washing up liquid adverts: all-new formula! Now with 23 per cent added jumping! Mario deserves better. He isn't a toothpaste or washing up liquid. For starters, the D-Pad leaves your fingers way more calloused than Fairy Liquid ever would.
New Super Mario Bros U certainly lures you in with the zesty whiff of novelty. Instead of the usual Peachnapping, Mario is thrown from the Princess's castle and has to trek back for the final encounter. Yes, after 27 years, the Princess isn't in another castle.
Problem is, the castle sits on the other side of a massive landmass, the kind last seen in Super Mario World. Zooming out gives glimpses of tantalising areas to come and evokes a complete package beyond the self-contained grassy/desert/ice world tropes of past New Super Mario Bros. games.
Despite the echo of World, the launching point is still very much Super Mario Bros. 3. Influences are felt in the Toad Houses, Koopa Kid castles, Battleships and enemies dotted around the map.
Bumping into patrolling goons dumps Mario in an arena deathmatch. Instead of grabbing Toad tokens (as on Wii) Mario bashes enemies to win bonus items, which are then stored and can be triggered before a level run of your choice. So far, so New Super Mario Bros Wii.
Look deeper and the map's newness proves deceptive. Exotically named levels disguise the same World X-X we've played since 1985. Acorn Plains is your typical grassy opener and its second stage, 'Tilted Tunnels', reheats the shifting tunnels of Wii's World 1-2. Layer Cake Desert is just NSMBW's desert world superimposed on a desktop wallpaper of a massive cake. All of NSMBU's themed worlds exist in the background. Foregrounds - the bit you actually play - are achingly familiar.
Odd stretches are blow-by-blow retellings of its predecessor. The third stage of the second world is another trip through a dark Fire Snake-lit cavern. Weight-sensitive platforms bob through another bubbling purple swamp. When we found ourselves jumping over Brambells in another jungle and running under falling icicles in another snow cave, we ejected the disc to confirm it was the Wii U game in the slot.
If idea recycling seems stingy in the aftermath of Mario Galaxy's big bang of innovation, you can at least trust Nintendo to wring out the last drops of fun. We've climbed Para-Beetles before, but never around a barrage of screen-wide Bullet Bills. And weight-sensitive platforms and tilt-controlled elevators still tickle us with their rub-your-tummy/pat-your-head multitasking. Even the Ghost Houses get tasty renovations, thanks to befuddling P-Block antics.
Power-ups don't teach our old dog new tricks as much as show off old ones practised to perfection. Ice Flowers appear in vast volumes, encouraging Mario to engage his wildest Demolition Man fantasy as he goes on body-shattering rampages. Mini Mario's water-running routine ekes out racing lines invisible to normal sized eyes and even though the Penguin Suit gets a tiny airing, it again turns innocuous slopes into eyelid-flapping speed chutes.