The Doctor Is In
Dr. Mario may not be one of Nintendo’s best-known franchises, but the addictive falling block matching game has a healthy fan base. The Wii U’s version of the game has been twisted a bit, renamed Dr. Luigi and given a few new game modes, but at its heart it’s the same old Dr. Mario that fans know and love.
We suspect that Luigi received his PhD from Wossamotta U, but he appears enthusiastic and ready to bust some viruses. His main menu boasts four options: Retro Remedy, Operation L, Virus Buster, and Online Battle.
Retro Remedy features classic Dr. Mario gameplay. The game field is shaped like a beaker, in which various colored viruses reside. Dual-colored pills drop in from the top, challenging the player to match four items (any combination of viruses and pill halves) of the same color either horizontally or vertically. Making matches clears viruses, and clearing a beaker of viruses completes the level. If the beaker fills to the top, the player loses. As is traditional, the game’s speed and the number of viruses increases as the player completes levels. Just like Tetris, Dr. Luigi ‘s classic mode combines the need for speed and strategy for fun and addictive gameplay.
Operation L is exactly the same as Retro Remedy, but the pills that drop are L shaped, containing three vertical pill segments and one horizontal one. The L shaped pills require more planning and strategy than the traditional ones, but it doesn’t take long to get in the swing of this mode. I personally find that I prefer it to classic Dr. Mario because of the slight uptick in challenge level.
Retro Remedy and Operation L can both be played in versus mode locally, either against the CPU or another human player. A classic match requires one player to zap all viruses before the other. Making multi-match combos drops random pill bits into the other player’s beaker, so an alternate method of winning involves making enough combos that the other can’t keep up and loses with a full beaker. Flash mode works the same way, but is a frantic race to eliminate several specific flashing viruses.
Multiplayer is where Operation L really shines. Making a combo swaps around the colors of the next L piece that’s about to drop in the opponent’s beaker. This requires very quick thinking and strategy, making for exciting matches in which the tide can turn at any moment.
Thankfully, Nintendo included an anonymous online battle mode in Dr. Luigi as well, finally allowing players to battle it out with complete strangers and compete on global leaderboards. When I tried out this mode, I was quickly matched with another player and experienced smooth, lag-free gameplay.
The final game mode in Dr. Luigi is Virus Buster. This mode is played on the GamePad and requires the player to use the stylus to flip and drag pill capsules to viruses. The number of capsules that drop at a time increases over the course of a level. Virus Buster is fun, but moves considerably more slowly than its button-controlled counterparts. I found this made early levels too easy even when starting at level ten, requiring a bit of patience before getting to the fun part.
In terms of presentation, Dr. Luigi ‘s graphics do what they need to do. They’re crisp and clear, giving players a clear view of the board and working well both on the TV screen and the Wii U GamePad. Adorable Luigi animations play between rounds. One minor complaint is that the capsules in Operation L are surrounded by an unsightly white border for no apparent reason.
The game’s sound doesn’t fare as well. Nintendo has been recycling the same two background songs in its Dr. Mario games for ages. Some new options would have been greatly appreciated, and it doesn’t help that the sound quality is decidedly lo-fi. There’s a fine line between “retro” and “annoying” in terms of sound design, and Dr. Luigi falls on the wrong side of that line.
Overall, Dr. Luigi certainly scratches that virus-busting itch, and is especially fun with two players. Fans of the series and Tetris addicts shouldn’t hesitate to pick it up from the Wii U eShop. It’s the kind of game that doesn’t need to change a great deal between versions, and its designers have wisely stuck to the basics while adding some entertaining twists to the gameplay with Operation L.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Crisp and whimsical, they suit the game well. 4.0 Control
Smooth and responsive even when playing online. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
New music and less grating sound effects would have been appreciated. 3.5 Play Value
The new modes are fun, and Dr. Luigi is always good for a quick, casual gaming session. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best