Plenty has been said about Nintendo’s recent troubles after drastic cuts in the Kyoto firm’s sales forecasts for the coming year. And while some predict gloom and doom, the counter argument has always come in the publisher’s software, which – at its best – is completely untouchable.
Dr. Luigi, though, is probably the most galling indictment of Nintendo’s current plight. It’s a well-made game, a remake of Dr. Mario with a few new ideas and a bit of a graphical respray (not much, mind), but it’s selling for an eye-watering £13.49. When most block-puzzle games are free and almost none cost more than a couple of quid, you have to ask just what the hell Nintendo is thinking.
Not that it’s a bad game, of course. The colour-matching gameplay of Dr. Mario returns, with bi-coloured capsules needing to meet three other ‘squares’ of the same shade to connect then disappear. Match three coloured squares to a bug of the same colour, and you’ll clear it out. Eliminate all the bugs to win. Simple, effective, enjoyable.
The Luigi twist comes in the form of L-shaped capsules, which at first look like they should break apart like Lumines squares but only do so when half of a capsule disappears in a completed line. It’s a trickier, more thoughtful mode that the old-fashioned small-capsule game (still present and correct), but hardly worth firing up the Wii U for.
There are multiplayer modes and a tricky effort that forces you to use the touchscreen to drag capsules around, but this is hardly groundbreaking stuff. That mode is actually too fiddly anyway, with the gamepad requiring a tap to shift trajectory and a drag to move. All too often you’ll end up tapping when you wanted to drag, and vice versa.
Dr. Luigi almost feels like something Nintendo should have given away for free as a thank you to those who have sided with its much-maligned new console. Asking for a premium indie-game price is just madness.
Talking about pricing is often counter-productive in games criticism, but here it’s different. The value perception is created by Nintendo itself as it insists on recycling its own ideas, and even in the vaunted Year Of Luigi, it’s hard to justify such a ludicrous price tag.
So if you’re feeling particularly flush and have some yearning to play another block puzzler, Dr. Luigi does a fine job of sitting somewhere in the middle of this well-worn genre. Hardly a glowing endorsement, and a pretty sad way to end Luigi’s very own year. Let’s hope 2014 is the year of Link, or Samus, or even someone new. Otherwise 2015 might be the year of no more Wii U.