Nintendo ends the Year of Luigi with Dr. Luigi, a puzzler that feels more like a green, L-shaped re-skin of the Dr. Mario series than a true sequel, due to its identical gameplay, much of the same music, and simplistic visuals. Fortunately, Luigi proves to be just as good a doctor as his more experienced brother, and fans of falling block/match puzzlers will likely have a great time with the tried-and-true mechanics and familiar style. Iconic Nintendo designer Gunpei Yokoi created the Dr. Mario series for the NES and Game Boy, and it is to his credit that the "Dr." series is still as fun today as it was in 1990.
Puzzle fans will be instantly familiar with the gameplay, which can get chaotic and hectic as the capsules start to fall. Dr. Luigi casts players as Luigi as he tries to eliminate red, yellow and blue viruses from a giant medicine bottle by vertically dropping in pill capsules with matching colours; these capsules contain one or two colours and can be rotated in all four directions. The objective is to match four or more capsule halves/viruses of the same colour, and when all viruses are eliminated the player wins.
Similar to Tetris, filling up the screen to the top will result in Game Over. Dr. Luigi features a new mode, "Operation L," in which two capsules are combined together in an L shape and are dropped at a time — this is a good introduction to the game for newcomers, while "Retro Remedy" offers the classic game (with Luigi in the white coat, of course). In addition to Retro Remedy and Operation L there's "Virus Buster," where players use the GamePad to drag and drop the capsules. We found this mode to be a little too easy, with the touch screen play proving particularly forgiving; it's perhaps ideal for less confident players..
Local and online competitive multiplayer for the Operation L and Retro Remedy modes rounds out the experience, extending the title's shelf life considerably; each player can set their own difficulty and speed. With online play we found it easy to log on and find people to play with, and lag was non-existent. Playing this classic puzzler with a friend in local multiplayer is just as fun, and playing with the Wii Remote proved to be just as intuitive as the GamePad.
Aside from Luigi taking over for Mario, Dr. Luigi's presentation remains unchanged from its predecessors. This includes the music tracks, which are selectable at the beginning of each stage, as well as the clean, no-frills visuals; the viruses have the same cutesy personalities that fans of the series have gotten used to. The structure is the same, too, and every five levels players will get a "Congratulations!" screen. None of this is to say that Dr. Luigi is a bad experience — it's just more of the same.
Dr. Luigi is a fun, if overly familiar puzzle game that will satisfy anyone who knows what they're getting when they download it from the eShop. While we would have liked a little more variety and some more twists for Luigi's puzzle début on Wii U, Dr. Luigi is a good way to end the Year of the Tall Green Brother. It's a simple, clear experience with strong gameplay that reminds us why we love the Mario Bros. in the first place.