The Dr. Mario series is a Nintendo staple. From its NES beginnings, the formula has largely remained unchanged. Players help Mario, in the role of a doctor, defeat viruses by dropping color-coded pills on top of them to irradicate the infection. While the original NES, Game Boy, and N64 installments remained the same, the recent Arika developed titles, like Dr. Mario Express and Dr. Mario Online RX have implemented online multiplayer and touch or Wii Remote-enabled matching. Now, with Dr. Luigi, Arika has provided another small step forward in the worlds of modern medical matching.
Paging the doctor. The “other” doctor.
The core Dr. Mario mechanics remain unchanged in Dr. Luigi. Yellow, blue, and red viruses appear in a medical vial onscreen, and Luigi tosses multicolored pills in to eliminate them. Three blocks of color must fall on top of a virus to eliminate it, and a level is completed when all viruses are gone. It looks gorgeous, with bright and colorful visuals that pop. Not to mention, it also cements my belief that “Fever” is the most infectious of the Dr. Mario tunes, while “Chill” is the most panic-inducing.
It’s the little changes that set Dr. Luigi apart from earlier installments. The Retro Remedy mode is the tried and true Dr. Mario we’ve been playing for years, only with Luigi doling out medication. Online battle offers the online multiplayer experience Dr. Mario Online RX has trained us to expect. The only really new additions are the Operation L and a tweaked version of Virus Buster, which made its appearance in the Wii installment.
Preparing for Operation L and Virus Buster-ing
Operation L is a Luigi-themed version of Retro Remedy. When Luigi tosses pills, he doesn’t toss just one. He tosses two in the shape of an L. Aside from making each level slightly more challenging, since players are managing two awkwardly shaped pills instead of one, it doesn’t really do much to alter the feel of the game. That isn’t to say it isn’t satisfying. Operation L allows for some truly strategic Dr. Luigi moments and is a good option for people who feel they’ve mastered Retro Remedy. It just comes across as a bit of an anticlimactic addition.
Dr. Luigi‘s Virus Buster is far more satisfying. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a take on previous incarnations and allows players to arrange and place capsules using the GamePad’s touchscreen. I loved it, and Virus Buster is the reason I would recommend Dr. Luigi to friends. As medicine appears onscreen, players can drag and tap to rotate and move it around the field. Even halves that remain after part of the capsule has been eliminated can be shifted around to land on the appropriate virus.
I also enjoyed Virus Buster’s scaling difficulty. As a level wears on, multiple capsules can be tossed onto the field at once, meaning someone has to try and arrange two perfectly before they completely drop and land somewhere that mucks everything up. I was heartbroken to see a multiplayer option wasn’t available, because this mode made Dr. Luigi for me. Instead, only Retro Remedy and Operation L can be played with one other person either online or locally.
Doctors are expensive.
The only real problem with Dr. Luigi is the price. It’s essentially a Wii U version of Dr. Mario Online RX, only with Virus Buster mode tweaked to rely on the GamePad as opposed to the Wii Remote and the underwhelming Operation Luigi thrown into the mix. The previous title was $10 and, while that was a little expensive, it was acceptable because it had been so long since a console Dr. Mario was released and it offered online multiplayer.
Given the nature of the game and the content, it’s hard to justify the $14.99 price point for Dr. Luigi. Especially if someone also has a 3DS and just wants the core Dr. Mario experience. Someone like that could easily pick up the $4.99 Dr. Mario Express and be more than satisfied. It’s really Virus Buster that makes the game, and the rest feels rather ordinary.
Those diseases don’t stand a chance.
As with any trip to the doctor, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is, Dr. Luigi successfully preserves and expands on the legacy of the Dr. Mario series. It’s fun to play, quite addictive, and, most importantly, gives us a reason to turn on our Wii Us again. The only problem is, these doctor’s fees are going to hit you hard. Dr. Luigi offers an interesting take on a classic puzzler, and the new modes and online multiplayer are appreciated, but the premiums are a bit high for what players are getting. If you have extra money to throw around, don’t have a 3DS, and really need a match-3 fix, Dr. Luigi is your remedy. If you already own Dr. Mario Online RX, then take a pass.