Mario has never looked sharper than he does in New Super Mario Bros. U.

Mario has never looked sharper than he does in New Super Mario Bros. U.

A new Nintendo console wouldn't be complete without the tubby plumber. And Mario has never looked sharper than he does in New Super Mario Bros. U.

The moustachioed marvel revels in Nintendo's long overdue move into the realm of high-definition.

The game features some terrific new foes and wonderfully imaginative backdrops, including a stage inspired by Impressionist painters.

The playful levels contain loads of surprises and cleverly hidden secrets, rewarding patient players prepared to explore.

There's more creativity here to justify the "new" label than in previous series instalments. Almost every stage has a wonderful new gimmick.

Early levels are joyously accessible to all, but as you progress you will discover some challenges are fiendishly difficult, and will certainly test a player's skills and resolve.  

The enjoyable power-ups include items that let Mario hurl fireballs, encase enemies in ice and a new squirrel suit that lets Mario glide, cling to walls and take advantage of a helpful mid-air boost.  

Baby Yoshi appear in some levels to add amusing twists. There's the chance to inflate Yoshi to use like a hot-air balloon, trap foes inside bubbles and light up dark caverns.

Other highlights include a mischievous rabbit that requires constant pursuit, and a massive sea snake that chases you throughout an underwater level.

Four players can run riot together through the madcap levels, while a fifth player can use the Wii U's touch-screen controller to place platforms to helpfully assist or mischievously hinder progress.

Using the screen is not as much fun as directly controlling Mario or his pals, but parents might find it useful for joining in and helping kids through tricky sections.

Challenge mode is also a welcome addition, with some inventive objectives helping to teach advanced techniques.

It's testament to Nintendo's design nous that the game is just as much fun whether alone or with friends. You can continue playing solo just using the GamePad screen even when others are using the television.

What have you been playing lately?

- Jason Hill

twitter Jason Hill is on Twitter: @thatjason