As much as I enjoy being on the front lines, I also really appreciate the opportunity to help others do well when they play videogames, which is why I had such a good time manning the Wii U controller as four other players platformed their way through a few levels of New Super Mario Bros. U. The four players manning the Wii Remotes play the game the way you're used to playing a 2d Mario title, gobbling mushrooms, kicking koopas, and collecting coins, but the player with the Wii U controller acts as a kind of guardian angel by using what Nintendo is calling "Boost Mode."
By tapping on the controller's screen, I could place temporary platforms to help the foursome as they navigated the landscape. As they raced across unstable stars, I put blocks over the yawning chasms to prevent anyone from plummeting to their demise. The blocks disappear after a few seconds, and only a few can be on screen at once, but with careful placement and proper timing, I was able to lead a few players up a makeshift staircase to collect a ginormous coin.
I could even go on the offensive, tapping koopas to knock them into their shells or bumping goombas out of the way. I couldn't do any actual damage, and actually ended up knocking a goomba into the players more than once, but my heart was in the right place, which must count for something.
If you're less civic-minded, you can also use your Boost powers to grief your pals, placing blocks in awkward locations to help guarantee a fall or three. You might end up doing that by accident anyway; the action in New Super Mario Bros. U can be pretty fast and frantic, and it's easy to lose track of who's trying to do what.
The major downside of being the helping hand is that you don't get to put on the new flying squirrel suit which lets Mario fly. It's not as cool as the Tanooki suit - let's just be honest about that - but it's close. If your roommate is tired of watching you collecting powerups, you can play the game on your Wii U controller instead of your TV.
I like that Nintendo is encouraging the spirit of cooperation in its games, but what I like even more is that the company is improving on ways to make that cooperation fun. Player 2 in Super Mario Galaxy, for example, wasn't really helping all that much, but well-applied Boost Mode can be the difference between success and failure in New Super Mario Bros. U. Or between failure and success, if you'd rather your friends go down in squirrel-suit flames.
If you're at all thinking about grabbing a Wii U when it comes out, you should probably plan on snagging New Super Mario Bros. U as well.