As we all know Nintendo dubbed 2013 “The Year of Luigi”, promising a year filled with great Luigi centric games. They made good on this promise with fantastic titles such as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, New Super Luigi U., and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Everything seemed to be going great for Luigi after his supporting role in Super Mario 3D World, but his confidence got the best of him when he decided to take over his brother’s medical practice and release one last game. Dr. Luigi is the latest installment in Nintendo’s semi-classic puzzle series, and the puzzle action hasn’t changed much since the first installment in 1990. Luigi does bring with him some new game modes, but they aren’t enough to bring new life to this struggling series.
If you have played any of the seven previous entries in the Dr. Mario series you will know exactly what to expect from Dr. Luigi. Armed with colorful pills, you are tasked with defeating viruses who have taken up residence in a pill bottle shaped arena. How the viruses got into the pill bottle we may never know, but victory can only be obtained once they are fully eradicated. The randomly generated pills (consisting of mixed or solid colors) fall from the top and you must use them to create lines of the same color four or longer. To destroy a virus you must attach it to one of these lines and it will be cleared along with the pill pieces. Your goal is to defeat the viruses as quickly as possible and rack up a high score doing so. While there is no formal single player mode there are difficulties ranging from 1-20 and three speeds to ramp up the challenge. Other variations include Flash mode, which requires you to clear only specific viruses from a large group.
But that’s just the Retro Remedy mode, one of the three gameplay modes available in the game. In Operation L the normal pills are replaced by L blocks (actually just two pills connected in an L shape). Every L piece is an automatic three in a row making this mode much easier and likely more appealing to beginners, but other than that offers nothing different from Retro Remedy. Finally there is Virus Buster, a slowed down version of Retro Remedy that uses only touch screen controls. I found this to be to be the most fun, giving me plenty of time to figure out the optimal matches. It was also surprisingly relaxing thanks to slowed down remixes of Fever and Chill. Operation L features all of the same variations and multiplayer options as Retro Remedy, but sadly Virus Buster can only be played solo due to its reliance on the Wii U GamePad. Extra modes are always appreciated, but these two aren’t varied enough to carry an entire game. Some kind of single player challenge mode could have added some much needed longevity to this game, but as is you can see everything it has to offer in about 30 minutes.
The game opens with a wonderfully animated sequence showing Dr. Luigi in his office, but there isn’t much else it the game that impressed me graphically. I get that they didn’t want to stray too far from the series’ classic look, but a little spice here and there would go a long way to making this game feel modern. Where the game does succeed is music, featuring catchy menu jingles and gameplay tracks including Fever, one of the most mesmerizing gaming tunes ever created.
Dr. Luigi is a sour end to an otherwise great “Year of Luigi”. Your $15 gets you a classic game with a few twists and online capabilities. Not even the most diehard Dr. Mario fan would feel like they got their money’s worth with this game, and if that person is you believe me when I say that any of the previous entries are just as good. If you absolutely need a puzzle game on your Wii U Dr. Luigi can fill your prescription, but remember that all he has to offer are Mario’s hand me downs.
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Dr. Luigi does everything his brother does, but sadly not much more. The new modes do nothing to spice up this aging series' formula, and I really doubt they will be enough to justify a purchase for even the most diehard fan.
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