As improved as the Wii U’s eShop is over its predecessor’s Wiiware platform for digital distribution, there are still some causes for concern. For a start, there aren’t enough genuinely exciting releases coming out for download on a regular basis, and when there are new games to buy, the pricing structure is a little on the ridiculous side. Case in point: Nintendo’s latest Year of Luigi tie-in, Dr. Luigi, a green-hued retread of their pale imitation of Tetris, the Game Boy and NES’s Dr. Mario.
As a puzzle game, it was never a terrible one. Taking its cues from the phenomenally successful Tetris, players would drop dual-coloured capsules into a test tube play area, in an attempt to align four capsule halves in a row to make them disappear. The complication is that a number of coloured creatures representing viruses are in each level, the idea being that players must include these bacterial baddies in their row of four in order to eradicate them all and finish the level.
While the beauty of Tetris is its basis on organisation and neatness, Dr. Mario/Luigi contains neither. While in Tetris, players will aim to neatly make rows for those line-clearing Tetrises, games of Dr. Mario always began and ended with absolute clutter as you placed useless capsules everywhere you could to keep them clear from viruses. For this reason, it was always the inferior puzzler of choice. Two decades later, and it still is; the inclusion of a couple of newish modes does little to hide the game’s mechanical misfires.
The original game has been recycled several times over the years, as a double-pack with Tetris on the SNES, and once more on the Wii. Dr. Luigi keeps the original pill-popping gameplay, renaming it Retro Remedy, but it adds a new Operation L mode, which replaces the single dual-coloured pills that fall with two pills arranged in an “L” configuration. It’s a change that makes for a quicker game, but the base mechanics are exactly the same as before.
Meanwhile, a Virus Buster mode allows players to use the Gamepad touchscreen to drag pills instead of manipulating them using buttons. First impressions would indicate that this is a more relaxing method of playing, but after a little while, multiple pills fall at once, which can make for quite a bit of multitasking. What’s worse is that tapping a pill will rotate it, and it’s incredibly easy to rotate pills by accident or rotate them too much.
Finally, there are multiplayer options. You can play against a friend locally to clear all the viruses before your opponent, while dropping bits of pill over to their screen by racking up combos. But if you have no friends (or no friends that want to play Dr. Luigi with you), then you are able to challenge the world through online multiplayer. Admittedly, there aren’t that many people playing this game online, and the ones that are have clearly been playing it all their waking hours, as every game I played ended with a very swift defeat. Unless you’re really confident of your skills (or you’re playing with those on your Friends list), you might want to give online a miss.
Honestly, that’s all there is to Dr. Luigi, which is a bit worrying considering the game currently retails on the eShop at nearly £14. Maybe we’ve been spoilt by cheap/free indie and mobile games, but considering I can pick up the original Game Boy version on the 3DS Virtual Console for £2.70, it’s hard to see why this is so pricey. The graphics are standard and have barely been improved over the past two decades, while the soundtrack contains the original game’s popular two themes, with another two added for good measure. You could pick up a cheap copy of the NES/SNES/Game Boy version and feel like you got your money’s worth, or the Wiiware version of Dr. Mario (with online play) for less than a tenner.
VERDICT: Other than the new Operation L and Virus Buster modes, there is little in the way of new content that makes this a better deal than the previous (and cheaper) versions. For up to £5, Dr. Luigi would have been an OK puzzler, but at almost half the cost of a retail Wii U game, the person who decided the price for this retread probably needs some medical observation themselves.
POOR. Games tagged 4/10 will be playable, perhaps even enjoyable, but will be let down by a slew of negative elements that undermine their quality and value. Best avoided by any but hardcore genre fans.
Review code provided by publisher.