Publisher: Nintendo of America
Developer: Nintendo SPD / Arika
Remember when every puzzle game wanted to be Tetris? That’s the era that Dr. Mario spawned from, and Dr. Luigi does a pretty great job of emulating the NES classic. But this isn’t just a re-skin of the original, as Dr. Luigi introduces a handful of new elements, including new music to accompany the classic Fever and Chill tracks, along with new L-shaped pills that add a bit more difficulty to the formula, and finally online play for vs. multiplayer.
If you’ve never played Dr. Mario, the concept is simple enough. You’re given a space filled with red, blue, and yellow colored viruses placed at random spots on the screen. You can choose your starting difficulty, which will dictate how many viruses are present to clear. You can also choose your pill falling speed between three settings, slow, standard, and fast. The object is to match pill colors up with the corresponding virus, with four matching colors automatically clearing from the stage when matched. One pill will often contain two colors, one for each half, so placing them strategically against like-colored viruses is often a good idea.
There’s no accompanying story or campaign to worry about, Dr. Luigi is strictly an old-school style arcade game focused on score and little else. It mirrors the original Dr. Mario in this regard. The addition of L-shaped pills offers up a sizeable challenge compared to the standard experience, which is still an option in Dr. Luigi. You’ll find the L-shaped pills are far harder to squeeze into tight spots, and the dual-colored pills will often throw you for a loop with unexpected separations that toss your entire plan into the trash more often than not. I enjoyed this though, as the original Dr. Mario was sort of a low-stress experience even on higher difficulties, and while this change is relatively minor, it really does mix up the gameplay in an interesting fashion.
Within the Operation L and Retro Remedy modes, you can play against the CPU or against an actual player locally on the same Wii U. There’s also a separate online mode which works surprisingly well, and I had no trouble finding other players in either Retro Remedy or Operation L games. I was also happy to see options for both random matchmaking in ranked mode, and the option to play with just friends by joining or hosting games in unranked matches.
There’s another mode called Virus Buster, which make use of the touch screen for controls, and puts the action directly on the GamePad. You can play with or without a TV for any mode in the game, but Virus Buster is the only mode that focuses strictly on touch controls. It works well enough, featuring larger graphics for the smaller screen in an effort to make it easier to see. You can even opt to rotate the display on the GamePad, allowing the play space to fill the screen when flipped vertically, plus it includes options for left handed players. Oddly enough there’s no option for an Operation L mode though, only Retro Remedy is available.
All in all, I think Dr. Luigi is fun call back to an NES classic, with just enough spin put on the original formula to make it feel fresh again. The addition of online play is really a big plus for me, and I also enjoyed the added difficulty presented with the L-shaped pills in Operation L. This isn’t something I’d label as an incredible, must-have eShop title, but it is something that’s worth the asking price if you have some love for the original Dr. Mario.