Nintendo celebrated Luigi's 30th anniversary last year by dedicating all of 2013 to his clumsy shenanigans. Dr. Luigi is the last title in the “Year of Luigi” saga, and was released on December 31st here in North America. This downloadable game has Luigi taking over Mario's responsibilities as Mushroom Kingdom's doctor. Of course, we still haven't seen his diploma, so we'll have to evaluate whether his latest title can cure the chills of a January game drought, or if we should expect to see him in the next Phoenix Wright game for malpractice.
Those who have experience with the Dr. Mario franchise will know what to expect from this puzzle game. For those who haven't, the basic concept is simple. Luigi must eliminate some nasty viruses, of possible extraterrestrial origin, by matching their colors to corresponding “megavitamins”. Lining up four of the same color will cause the viruses or vitamins to disappear, making room for more capsules. While the franchise has taken some obvious nods from Tetris, the added element of having to eliminate floating viruses has added a lot to the core gameplay.
Of course, Nintendo had to do something to shake up the premise this time around. In addition to the standard Dr. Mario gameplay, this time referred to as Retro Remedies, Dr. Luigi features the new 'Operation L' mode, which features L-shaped double capsules. At first, these special capsules seem like nothing more than a cheap gimmick, an accusation that we wouldn't call entirely unfair. Still, this added element will have seasoned players changing up their strategies, as each simple mistake now becomes that much more dangerous. On the other hand, these blocks contain three of the same color in a row, giving players a chance to eliminate viruses instantaneously. We would have liked to see Nintendo do more to make this mode stand out among the crowd. Even the ability to play with both L-shaped and standard capsules would have made Operation L more interesting.
Virus Buster makes its return from Dr. Mario Rx, released on the Wii in 2008. Whereas that game had players moving capsules with the Wii remote, Dr. Luigi utilizes the gamepad's touchscreen. Like in its first appearance, Virus Buster offers a more relaxed approach to puzzle solving, with slower moving capsules and soothing remixes of the game's main tracks. Dragging each capsule into place allows players to quickly adjust their speed and position, and feels much more natural than this mode's Wii equivalent. Although, even its slower pace doesn't prevent it from becoming a bit more frantic, as up to three capsules will begin falling at a time. Individual pieces that break off from capsules can also be manipulated as they fall, offering another level of strategy to the gameplay. This is a great mode to try for honing your focus, as there will soon be several pieces to pay attention to at once.
One of Dr. Luigi's strengths is its ability to be played by those of varying skill. Players are able to adjust the speed in which capsules fall, as well as the virus difficulty. Experimenting with these settings will allow virtually anyone to enjoy this game. Those who are playing alone can also try Retro Remedy and Operation L with computer controlled opponents, whose difficulty is just as adjustable as the game's.
These two modes also offer local and online multiplayer for up to two players. Unfortunately, this game doesn't allow you to play as your Miis, though that's a small nitpick in what amounts to some great multiplayer. We never had a problem trying to find a match online, and lag was nonexistent during frantic matches. We're glad to see Nintendo focusing more on their online features, and the leaderboards were a nice addition.
Overall, Dr. Luigi has all of the frantic puzzle action fans could hope for, while also offering some fun new modes of play. However, the $14.99 price tag may be a bit more than some are willing to pay for this prescription. There's not a lot of content, and we wonder how much lasting power this game will have for anyone who isn't a die hard fan.
The views expressed in this review were gathered from a download of 'Dr. Luigi' received from Nintendo.