Review: Dr. Luigi for Wii U

After 30 years, Luigi gets his doctorate… in fun!

The doctor… is out!

Dr. Mario, that is; in his stead, younger brother Luigi has apparently gotten his PhD and is ready to stand in for the older Mario brother when viruses are on the loose. However, as we’ve seen in many a game, Luigi has his own style and way of doing things, and dispensing medicine is no different.


At its core, Dr. Luigi is very much the same game as Dr. Mario (whichever iteration you prefer), but with a few unique twists of its own. In each of the game’s three main modes, you’ll have to contend with a bottle full of viruses who must be taken care of by lining up a row or column (no diagonals) of at least four viruses and pills of the same color. Doing so eliminates any of that color of virus caught in the string, making for at least one less obstacle to overcome as you work towards clearing the jar.

The game’s first mode, “Operation L,” is this title’s main attraction. It sets itself apart from previous Dr. Mario gameplay by arming you with two capsules at once, joined together in their foil-backed blister packs in the form of the mode’s titular “L” shape. At first, it doesn’t seem like a huge change, but difficulty level is everything. In Easy, all the pill parts tend to be the same color, making the elimination of viruses almost too simple, at least to start. However, the longer you go, the more complicated it becomes as leftover parts can get in the way of busting viruses of other colors.

Ramp up the difficulty, though, and you’ll see a bigger difference: The capsules will be a mix of different colors, thus amplifying the difficulty of dealing with leftover parts as you strive to bust these pests.


The second mode, “Virus Buster,” is a personal favorite. Using the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen and stylus, you’ll touch and drag the falling capsules into place among the viruses littering the screen in this variation of the Wii Remote-driven mode of the same name from Dr. Mario Online Rx. The same rules apply, but this mode is a little slower and a little more mellow, with the remixed music corresponding to the new pace and tone.

However, just because it’s slower doesn’t mean it’s easy; you’ll start with just one capsule at a time, but as you progress, you’ll have to manage more. And with more viruses being added in each subsequent level, dragging the pills where you need them to go can prove to be a unique challenge in its own right. Fortunately, the game is well-designed to take this new input method into account, including the way you can sometimes drag a capsule through other viruses to get it where you need it to go.


The final mode is “Retro Remedy.” This is vintage Dr. Mario, albeit with Luigi, of course. And really, there’s not much more to say: It’s a classic, and if you’re a fan of the original style of gameplay and don’t care for any of the other bells and whistles added by the other modes, or if you just want to go back to basics with a high definition finish, then this is the mode for you. Plus, this mode and Operation L both feature online leaderboards for comparing your best scores to other players around the world.

As a bonus retro treat, the game’s numerous options even allow you to swap out the new, more brightly colored viruses for the classic, bolder versions. The only downside here is that the developers at Nintendo got a little lazy and only swapped out the viruses inside the bottle; those shown off to the side remain as the new versions, which is a little bit weird and feels slightly off, given that only the yellow virus is the same color as its predecessor.


Another feature of this package is multiplayer modes, available for bother Operation L and Retro Remedy. You can play both locally and online, where you’ll compete against another player to clear your respective bottle of all viruses first.

The downside here is that multiplayer is strictly competitive. While this makes sense for online play (potential co-op modes aside), the downside is that you cannot just have two players (or three, with the GamePad) engage in their own solo games at the same time. This is something Tengen got right with their questionable version of Tetris on the Nintendo Entertainment System many years ago, but which Nintendo has seldom (if ever) been willing to match. At this point, it’s effectively par for the course with these games, but still a mild shame as well.


So, here’s the tough part: Is Dr. Luigi a solid investment? It’s difficult to say; the game is quality, of that there is no doubt. However, if all you end up wanting from it is the classic Dr. Mario experience, you can still get that on the Wii U for a third of the price. And if you’d like something a little fresher, WiiWare has Dr. Mario Online Rx for a third less than Dr. Luigi costs, and able to support twice as many players.

Of course, with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection soon meeting its end thanks to GameSpy pulling the plug, online is one less feature Dr. Mario Online Rx will have going forward.

In the end, choosing between the three Dr. games is like picking food off a menu: Dr. Mario is the a la carte option, while Dr. Luigi is the premium combo, with Dr. Mario Online Rx falling somewhere in the middle. With Dr. Luigi, the main benefits are high definition graphics, online leaderboards and functions, the added Operation L mode, and Off-TV play with the Wii U GamePad; it has the most features and options, but it also depends on how many of those you feel you’ll want to use.

Oh, and of course, it does star Luigi instead of Mario, in case that’s a selling point for you. In some modes, he does periodically bring his hapless charm to your screen in various little cutscenes and other moments, so that may be something to consider as well.

DrLuigi_TitleDr. Luigi was released for the Wii U on December 31st, 2013 at a price of $14.99 in the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.


About the author

David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at)