Review

Dr. Luigi Review

  • Game release: December 31, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • WIIU

Mediocre medicine.

I have had an interesting relationship with Dr. Mario since its birth on the NES more than two decades ago. It was one of a very, very few games everyone in our humble Midwestern house was keen to play: my mom, my sister, me, and even my dad, who has barely picked up a controller in his life. There was something magical about the game among the Kemps family, but as years passed and new games and consoles came into the house, less and less time was spent with visits to the good doctor.

Dr. Mario has made reappearances on consoles since, of course, and I went back and played these incarnations, remembering the good times I had both alone and with my kin. But something had changed. I'd played games like Puyo Pop, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, and Magical Drop in the meantime--games designed to make you both think and move quickly in a competitive environment. When I would return to Dr. Mario, something was off. It felt slow-paced and sluggish, with more tension coming from a heavily virus-filled playfield than from trying to outwit and react to your opponents and their setups. I wondered if, perhaps, Dr. Mario had lost some of its luster due to the genre's evolution. After having played Dr. Luigi, I'm now pretty confident that this is the case.

Togetherness is the best medicine.

Dr. Luigi is essentially an upgrade of 2008's Dr. Mario Online RX; it's made by the same developer, Arika, and reuses many of its graphical and sound assets. Mario has bequeathed his practice to his younger brother, Luigi, who seems to have his hands full with a new batch of alien-virus creatures to systematically eliminate. The basic gameplay is the same; two-colored pills fall onto a playing field littered with viruses, and you must line up four or more of the same colors vertically or horizontally to eliminate both pill pieces and viruses in the stack. Set up chains that eliminate several viruses at once to either earn a score boost or cause a headache for your opponent. Kill all the viruses, and it's on to the next stage (or match, if you're playing versus).

But since a straight rerelease of Dr. Mario with some altered visuals and sound wouldn't cut it in today's market, Dr. Luigi offers some variants on the formula. Some of these have appeared before: Virus Buster, first seen in Brain Age 2 and reintroduced in Dr. Mario Online RX, gives you a smaller playfield where you use the stylus and the Wii U GamePad to place pills. It's a nice improvement from the clumsy Wii Remote controls the previous game used, and the ability to play in vertical or horizontal gamepad orientation is a plus. Another semi-new mode is a versus variant called Flash, again from Online RX. The goal in Flash isn't to eliminate all the viruses in the bottle before your opponent, but rather to off a few specific flashing viruses. Online mode is just that: the ability to play Dr. Mario against anyone on earth minus that pesky restriction of needing to be in the same room.

Given his predilection for writing prescriptions without a full case evaluation, Luigi may not, in fact, be an accredited physician.

Unique to Dr. Luigi is Operation L mode. Instead of the megavitamins every Dr. Mario player is familiar with, you get two such pills frankensteined together in an L shape. It sounds mildly interesting on paper, but in practice, Operation L is a disappointment. Skilled Dr. Mario play involves your ability to carefully maneuver pills into hard-to-reach places. The big, clunky L pills are so large and unwieldy that advanced placement becomes impossible. When you're aiming to eliminate all the viruses on the field in single or versus play, which is already pretty slow going, Operation L limits your options instead of adding depth or complexity.

Beyond the selection of different play types--Operation L, Virus Buster, and so forth--there are a handful of settings you can adjust: starting stage, speed, and music. If you were hoping for things like precrafted puzzle challenges to test your pill-placing prowess or a story mode, features popularized by many modern puzzle games, you'll be disappointed to find that there isn't much beyond the options offered 24 years ago.

When you're aiming to eliminate all the viruses on the field in single or versus play, which is already pretty slow going, Operation L limits your options instead of adding depth or complexity.

Versus mode options are basic as well, which makes the tendency for games to turn into drawn-out, slow-speed races to kill every virus on your screen all the more aggravating. Forget the momentum-shifting opponent punishments of games like Puyo Pop and Puzzle Fighter; your reward for setting up impressive combos in Dr. Luigi is a few piddly pill bits dropping in. (In Operation L mode, you change your opponent's next piece into something else--usually a color jumble that's near impossible to place--which is infuriating to the recipient but lacks the smug satisfaction of a screen full of slop piling down on your foe.) Flash is considerably more fun, challenging you to find the fastest way possible to eliminate specific viruses before your foe does, a process that involves some clever thinking and careful movements.

In case of overdose, take more pills.

Online play, meanwhile, is functional but extremely bare-bones. Dr. Luigi features basic two-player lobbies and a ranked mode, which rarely puts you up against equally skilled opponents. Want to change the type of game you're playing? You need to step out, re-create the room, and hope your buddy rejoins. Don't expect anything like tournament modes or even the best-three-out-of-five battles the original NES version offered, either; after one round, you're kicked back to the continue-or-quit screen.

In the end, Dr. Luigi feels like Dr. Mario Online RX all over again, with a few spruced-up elements and a not-well-thought-out extra mode. That alone would be enough to make you wary of dropping the full $14.99 asking price on this. But in the end, the most disappointing part of Dr. Luigi is that it doesn't give the Dr. Mario formula that shot in the arm it needs to feel magical again. Arika is the mind behind the amazing Tetris: The Grand Master series of arcade games, and I'm disappointed that it can't bring a similar thrill and exhilaration to this classic series. But it could well be that Dr. Mario's pacing and mechanics are relics of its era that would be difficult to bring up to modern standards. Dr. Luigi provides some shallow entertainment, but it's not exactly what the doctor ordered.

The Good
Challenging Virus Buster mode
Flash competitive mode is very fun
The Bad
Operation L mode doesn't improve on the formula
Slow-paced gameplay that drags in both single-player and competition
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Heidi is a longtime puzzle game player and fan of competitive gaming. Her favorite puzzle series is Magical Drop. She's rather sad that puzzle games don't have as much organized competition as other player-versus-player genres, which is why she is currently a strong advocate for promoting the Global Yoshi's Cookie League.

Discussion

24 comments
markranger
markranger

I loved this game over 20 years ago, but lack of of online features/modes is disappointing. This game should be tailor made for on-line competition. I still want it but not for 15 bucks. 

petermavreas
petermavreas

For what this game cost, its worth every penny, and is fun to play.


btw what is with all the Nintendo bashing I am seeing all the time now.


You all forget Xbox 360 33% failure rate, and PS3 really bad start with a bunch of crap games?


Funny how most of you people here don't own anything past your broken 360 or ps3.


Once you open your eyes, you will see it is better to have a nice PC and a Wii U.


XBOX1, and PS4 offer nothing new at all!  That is why I opted out of those 2 systems and picked up 2 gtx 780's, and play it and my Wii U for my video game entertainment. 

Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

I don't like Dr Mario and for me Tetris is possibly the most overrated game of all time. But these kinds of games have an audience and Nintendo supplies quality d pads.

Can't help feeling it's at least double the price they should be asking even factoring the premium cost you expect from a Nintendo game.

Azkotek
Azkotek

For my part, I liked Dr. Mario. I see it more of a remake than a new game so if you didn't really like Dr. Mario at the time, you won't like Dr. Luigi either. It's a simple fact. I'm having fun with the game and couldn't care less about Nintendo bashers. Stupid people with stupid arguments exist everywhere.

b74kd3th
b74kd3th

And they wonder why the Wii u is one of the worst systems of all time

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

Tetris Attack remains as one of the best puzzlers ever made, and that was on SNES.  Its got that speed and reaction flavor to it when you play the versus mode.  I don't know why they don't make another one.

uglypinkmoose
uglypinkmoose

kinda had a feeling...... they were totally just banking on people who liked DR Mario by adding a twist! Luigi 

sakaixx
sakaixx

oh snap a nintendo game got  5? some shit is wrong here !

samus_my_life
samus_my_life

Hey, for all those who says Nintendo " sucks or failure system " 

I am Great fan of nintendo and if you came here just to complain or badly comment about Nintendo how do they work !!

I say: IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS  

cuz i really enjoy playing OLD Stuff and if you dislike it then don't buy WII U for the new SSB ... Got it !!!!

mario-galaxys
mario-galaxys

It is too bad that the game is unlike Dr. Mario.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Good grief, Ninty's recycling old stuff again.

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

Another failure. That won't save your system Nintendo!

hadlee73
hadlee73

I wouldn't trust Luigi with my medication. In the screenshots he's staring at the player, and clearly not watching what he's doing, lol

baxwam
baxwam

*face palm*  to this game. 

Azkotek
Azkotek

@b74kd3th Said who? The console ambassadors in US or Canada? Oh wait.. I think it was you.

mariokarthero
mariokarthero

@Sideways8_4ever  You cannot say that because it's not like Microsoft and Sony didn't have a number of bad games on their consoles.

desert_thief
desert_thief

@Sideways8_4ever Hmm...you judge the whole company by a single game review that's based on someone's opinion? You're real professional, man. (sarcasm)

Dr. Luigi More Info

  • Coming Dec 31, 2014
    • Wii U
    Dr. Luigi is a new twist on the classic virus-popping puzzle game.
    0
    Average User RatingOut of 0 User Ratings
    Dr. Luigi has not been released yet!
    Developed by:
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genres:
    Matching/Stacking, Puzzle
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    All Platforms
    No Descriptors