Do you like Mario? Do you like games with obnoxious names? Here you go, my friend. This game is one of the top-selling Switch titles, but plenty of people complain that the game isn’t innovative enough when it comes to platforming design. However, you don’t sell six million units by accident. There has to be a reason people are buying this, right? Can you find out for yourself if you’re visually impaired?
About me and my play style: I have albinism. My visual acuity fluctuates between 20/100 and 20/500 depending on if I’m wearing contacts and how tired I am. I have color vision, but no depth perception. I also deal with eye strain if I have to focus too precisely for too long. I am playing a lot more in docked mode because I am not commuting until such time as it’s safe to do that again.
Visual Characteristics 9/10
(Contrast, Lighting, Tracking, Clutter)
The New Super Mario Bros. style is, in my opinion, the best style of Mario visually. The contrast is excellent, though the saturation levels don’t add much dimension. The lighting is always excellent with the notable exception of underwater and restricted-visibility levels. Tracking is very good, and clutter is limited. Many of the more modern platformers have a ton of background clutter, which adds ambiance, but the more traditional Mario style is better for seeing things. The screen is also zoomed in more than some of the more modern platformers, too. Of course, the screen zooms out to accommodate multiplayer, so I recommend avoiding multiplayer if that is a concern for you.
To improve the score, I would like to see the background opacity be scalable. I’d like to be able to turn off the background if necessary. Personally, I would also do away with underwater and ghost house levels. I’m not taking off points for that, though, since it is a pretty established part of the Mario series by now and most people hate them, so I don’t think it affects us uniquely as visually impaired people.
Accessibility Features 6.5/10
There aren’t really any accessibility features to speak of, but I’m giving some points for the availability of “Bonus Videos” and “Hints” that essentially give you gameplay tips and let you read instructions whenever you would like.
I’m taking off points because there is no autosave feature. There is no reason we should have to play through to a boss level to save. There is a “quick save” feature, but you have to remember to do that instead of just quitting the game after playing a level. It’s silly that there isn’t a checkbox in the menu to automatically quick save.
Assist Modes 10/10
The assist modes are very helpful, and there are lots of options. You can play with different characters that make things easier, and you can also use the “Super Guide” if you fail a level too many times. Mario and Luigi play as standard characters. Playing as Toadette makes you less likely to skid and slip around, and you can turn into Peachette with a powerup. Peachette can use her umbrella to hover, which can really help with landing precisely since you have more time. Nabbit is a little purple bunny-looking fellow, and he is immune to most enemies. He can still fall in pits, but you don’t need to worry about goombas or koopas or other enemies. Nabbit cannot use powerups, but he gets extra lives at the end of each stage for the powerups he collects. Toadette and Nabbit also move differently underwater. They don’t sink like Mario and Luigi do, and they don’t really need to use the jump button to swim. They can be moved freely with the left joystick. In fact, they move really frustratingly when you use the swim button, so I recommend not doing that.
This makes the game MUCH easier, but it is a great way to play through a level and have a chance to see what you need to do. Additionally, Toadette and Nabbit are both given an additional hundred seconds to complete the level. Every time you start the game, you can select which character you’d like to play as and how many people are playing. Your file is not marked with anything in particular if you select one of the easier characters, though you will see the last character you used in the file selection screen.
The Super Guide goes very slowly, which makes it easy to follow. It also doesn’t use any mechanics that are terribly hard to pull of, generally. It tends to show you where to wait to let enemies pass, which is a helpful thing if you’re using it because you really need help. Once you’ve watched the Super Guide play the level, you can try it again yourself or skip it and move on.
As always, there are toad houses that give you extra lives and powerups. I’m pretty terrible at the games and normally don’t win anything, but they’re there.
Nonvisual Cues 8/10
The music and sound effects in Mario games have always been pretty good. The music doesn’t really help you, but the sound effects are distinctive. I’m taking off points because, while the sound effects and controller vibrations are helpful, they only tell you what just happened. They don’t warn you of anything. I think some well-placed rumble could help you know when enemies were approaching.
Decent Fonts 10/10
The fonts are bold, sans-serif, and they occupy the full size of the screen. They could be a smidge bigger, but they look large already, so it would probably start looking kind of silly if they took the fonts much bigger. No complaints from me on the fonts.
Necessity of Text 10/10
(The higher the rating, the less necessary the text is)
This is Mario. The text isn’t necessary except for the most basic menu functions. You can use the built-in zoom on the menus if you need to since you have all the time in the world to fiddle with the menus.
Handheld Play 10/10
No complaints about handheld play. It’s the exact same as playing on the TV.
Level of Precision Required with Nabbit 10/10
Nabbit is the most forgiving character. However, he is still good training. He fails the level if he falls in a pit or touches lava, which trains you to be extra careful to avoid that stuff, but be less worried about enemies. With Mario or Luigi, you should still be the most worried about pits or lava because you can survive an enemy if you have a powerup.
That said, the level of precision required with Mario or Luigi are quite high because the hit boxes are tiny. If Nabbit weren’t an option, I would have given this category a 3 or 4 out of 10.
Controls and Depth Perception 7/10
The controls are generally good. To me, they always feel a little… off… And I can’t quite describe why. I just can’t quite get the feel for how far I will travel. I think the slipperiness is a bit too high.
There’s also a rather glaring issue with the controls. If you want to jump higher off of an enemy, you push the jump button again. If you want to do a little twirl to get more air time, you also push the jump button. If the timing is even a little off, you’ll twirl when you want to jump or jump when you want to twirl. The choice baffles me, because they already mapped the twirl to the right trigger, and they could have just mapped it to ONLY the right trigger.
I love control options and flexibility, but this is not the way to do it. Don’t map multiple actions to one button to the point that you don’t know what the button will do.
Also, you can’t remap the controls.
This game has a variety of other modes, most of which I think aren’t that great for visually impaired folks because they mostly focus on doing things quickly. But you should know they are there. There is also New Super Luigi U, which was a separate game on the Wii U, but was included when the game was ported to Switch. Luigi U is harder, and I haven’t incorporated it into my review. However, if you are worried that this game might be too easy for you with all of the assist modes… don’t worry about that. Luigi U has you covered. This game gives you all of the tools to learn platforming mechanics and then progress to some really hard levels.
Because of the proximity of when this game came out and when Mario Maker 2 came out, I want to give a quick word on the differences in case you can only pick up one. Super Mario Bros. U (SMBU) has hard levels that are made easier by the assist features. Mario Maker 2 has community-created levels that range from very easy to very hard, but there are no assist modes. There are some assist functions in the single-player campaign, though. The level structure is also different. SMBU has very traditional Mario levels that are similar to what was on DS or Wii. Mario Maker 2 has some really wacky levels that are all over the place, and that’s the point. I plan to review Mario Maker 2 in more depth soon, but those are some of the major differences. If you’re worried you’ll get bored of the same-y content in SMBU, then go with Mario Maker. If you’re worried that you don’t have enough background in platforming or Mario and think Mario Maker won’t make sense, then go with SMBU. Mario Maker also includes levels from retro styles that look like the old games. This is a great nostalgia point, but I find some of those styles harder to see, so that’s another thing to consider.
Recommendation for visual skills needed for enjoyment
If you’re going to play as Nabbit, I’m going to guess you can enjoy this game with 20/1000 vision. If you’re playing with not-Nabbit, I’m going to say 20/600 or better. As always, that’s just my best guess to give you a frame of reference.
Overall, I recommend this game. This game gives you all of the tools you need to get better at platforming games. It doesn’t introduce many innovations in gameplay, but it does give you some well-designed levels and one of the most robust assist modes out there.
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