I have a fever, and the only cure is more Luigi.
The original Dr. Mario released in 1990 and the strategic puzzler that combined elements of Tetris with match-4 was an instant hit. I was completely obsessed with it back in the day, playing for hours until I could finally beat level 20 on Hard and see the last surprise cut-scene. Now that 2013 was the Year of Luigi, the younger brother has completed his med-school education at the same fast track university Mario attended nearly 25 years ago (holy crap, am I really that old??), and he's ready to take on these viruses himself with his own patent-pending brand of medicine. Dr. Luigi offers a new school twist on the old school Dr. Mario game, but it relies on more nostalgia than anything else. Fans of the original Dr. Mario may be intrigued by Luigi's germ fighting, but it's hard to see anything about this that will be attractive to new, younger fans.
So what does Dr. Luigi offer the world of medicine? For starters, he provides more than just your typical endless and competitive modes. His trademark mode is Operation L mode, which features almost Tetris-like shapes of pills that the good doctor tosses at the viruses. And, you guessed it, the shapes of the pills are in L-shapes, requiring old-school players to learn a completely new way to try to rack up combos, prevent wrong-color pile-ups, and just flat-out not fail the stage. It's completely frustrating and has a very steep learning curve, even for self-proclaimed Dr. Mario professionals. I wish you could flip the pieces horizontally, but alas, you cannot make backward L's.
But there is good news: Dr. Luigi does more than just throw L-shaped capsules. He also has a Virus Buster mode that enables the Wii U GamePad's touchscreen controls. The capsules are regularly shaped, and you utilize the touchscreen to rotate the pills and drag them to their rightful spots. It sounds too easy, but it doesn't take long for the difficulty to ramp up. After a bit of time, two pills will drop at the same time, then three. When playing harder difficulties, up to four pills will drop at the same time and at shorter intervals. It suddenly becomes not so simple and easy; that said, it's the most addictive of the single-player modes available. What started out as outright boredom became a fast-paced and frantic panic attack as my lack of strategy backfired on me.
If you're in this just to relive Dr. Mario with a slight facelift and remastered music, then you'll spend most of your time with the aptly named Retro Remedy mode. Gameplay is exactly the same from the old days—no fancy L-shaped pills, no touch controls. The only difference is Dr. Luigi standing at the helm (well, that and the red virus is now a pink female virus).
All three modes offer versus modes against the CPU or against a friend in couch co-op. The versus modes are just like the versus modes from the old days—the object of the game is to clear your screen before the other player does. You can thwart their efforts by creating combos, which haphazardly drops randomly colored pills onto the other player's board. There's also a new Flash mode option for versus play, which requires players to clear the flashing viruses before their opponent. Once again, you can foul up the other player with combo chains.
Couch co-op is not the only option if you want to battle against your friends. Online Battle mode lets players play either Classic or Flash mode with Operation L or Retro Remedy against friends or against random gamers all over the world. With the online leaderboards, you can finally see how well your pill-popping prowess stacks up against others.
While I greatly enjoyed Dr. Luigi, most of my joy can be attributed to my profound love for Dr. Mario. Those who have such a nostalgic tie to the game will love Dr. Luigi in the same way the new iterations of Tetris keep fans from the '80s and '90s coming back. However, with so many similar games available for the cheap on mobile devices, I doubt Dr. Luigi will be contagious enough for newcomers to this particular puzzle series.