Wii U and Nintendo Land Review

Review by Ian Abbott

After unboxing a brand new Nintendo Wii U (premium edition) on Christmas morning and feeling a joyous surge of happiness, the last 4 days has seen me in a wall to wall gaming lock down, exploring the Wii U, what it has to offer and getting right under the skin of Nintendo Land; the Wii Sports beater for 2012.

My initial delight was slightly dampened as I powered up the Wii U for the first time and was met with a 1.5 hour patch (and updates for each game that were played for the first time). The necessity of transferring of my data and Miis from the Wii to Wii U (although the cut scene of dozens of Pikmin’s moving data parcels from one place to another was a lot more interesting than a blue progress bar) was cumbersome, needed an external SD card and added another 30 minutes to proceedings.

Nintendo Land Map
When I finally got into Nintendo Land I found a giant retro theme park of single and local multiplayer goodness that demonstrates the HD multiple capabilities of the Wii U and the brand new wireless GamePad. The primary features and innovations of the GamePad are the inclusion of an integrated 6.2 inch touchscreen display and the ability to continue playing some games completely off screen (i.e. the TV can be turned off or someone else in the room can play another console/watch a movie on the TV) which is a piece of gaming magic that I doubt will ever lose the ability to make me smile.

Nintendo Land offers 12 miniature games (each one proposing an array of unique ways to use the GamePad like swiping a hand lengthways across the screen to zip out Shuriken’s to beat origami ninjas or tilting the whole pad to steer around a sci-fi racing course) that breathe new life into familiar versions of Nintendo stable favourites including: Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, Luigi, Pikmin, Mario, Metroid and even Zelda. There is a mass of fun to be experienced through the intelligent design, with nods and new twists from Nintendo’s past with 8-bit soundtracks and visual art landscapes of old whilst there is a massively addictive and inventive quality to be had in each of the games. I’ve already spent hours with friends using the GamePad and an original Wiimote across the six single player, three multiplayer co-op and three multiplayer competitive attractions. For those that like a challenge, there are five stamps to be earned from each game and when completed, golden stars adorn each tunnel entrance showcasing a mastery of that mini game but also unlocks more levels and a greater difficulty setting adding many more hours and life to Nintendo Land.

Donkey Kong Crash Course
My theme park favourites are the solo, tilt and balance of Donkey Kong Crash Course - inspired by the original arcade game. Rolling my delicately fragile contraption from the top to bottom, negotiating lifts, triggering levers, riding pulleys and bouncing along see-saws trying to make my way to area 10 initially seemed a deceptively simple challenge but is tricky and requires real skill and patience. Mixing up my inner yearnings to keep shaving milliseconds off my best time whilst pushing the possibilities of velocity and physics; my on-going attempts to bag a new high score has kept me playing long into the early hours of the mornings. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is competitive co-op bliss. I prefer to play as Luigi with a shiny torch with which to discover a ghost (usually Tracey donning the spectral costume) and whittle down her energy from 100 to zero before she catches and scares me three times. The ghost player uses the Gamepad to see where Luigi and three other torch bearers are on the map (there is a time limit of five minutes, but it never lasts more than three). When close to the ghost, the ghost hunter’s Wiimote vibrate furiously indicating that discovery is imminent. We both consistently jumped and whelped with delight whenever the person playing the ghost managed to sneak up and frighten to hunter when we least expected.

With ten other delightful gaming experiences to be had plus the reward of collecting in game coins to accrue and try your luck at a coin drop puzzle arcade game which in turn rewards theme park owners with figurines and access to original audio cues, Nintendo Land is a riot of happiness and pleasure. Nintendo have also introduced an online Mii community to the Wii U and it’s great to see my Nintendo Land plaza filling up with trinkets and populated with other Miis from around the world. I can see what trophies they’ve collected, what message they leave in their greeting bubble and see their percentage progress through the major games simply by touching their happy faces. Nintendo Land is rammed with fun and displays dozens of neat touches whilst the GamePad and the possibility it affords for future game development and genuine innovation in gameplay control is mind boggling.

Luigi's Mansion
The Wii U has finally caught up with the Xbox 360 and PS3 in the graphical and high definition performance stakes. Launched with over 20 impressive titles, including the heavyweights of Batman Arkham City, Mass Effect 3 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Nintendo are trying to appeal to the hard core gaming community as well as the casual users it aims to bring with it from the Wii. With You Tube, backwards Wii game compatibility, a HTML 5 Internet browser and Netflix all on offer from the outset, the Wii U is aiming to position itself as the family entertainment hub which the Xbox 360 has taken a large chunk out of in the past couple of years. The creation of the unswervingly positive Miiverse, an online community that offers a place for users from around the world to offer thoughts, scribblings, comments and some incredible fan artwork all feels very generous and laced with happy Nintendo spirit.

With two more games to play (New Super Mario Brothers. U and ZombiU) in the early new year I don’t expect to be turning off the Wii U anytime soon.

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