Review: Nintendo Land – The Wii U’s ‘Wii Sports’
If there’s one piece of software that perfectly encapsulates not only the Wii U’s biggest charms but also its flaws, it’s Nintendo Land. This title is included in the Premium Bundle –and well worth looking into. PATRICK KOLAN buys the ticket and takes the ride.
12 sub-games in one, Nintendo Land puts your Mii character into a circular hub world (essentially an interactive menu – though, there are traditional shortcuts available if you really detest legging it around). From here, you can partake in a homage to Nintendo’s classic game franchises with games inspired by their settings and characters.
It’s clear from the outset that Nintendo wants to ease you into dual-screen gaming, rather than wow you with production values. While gorgeous, this isn’t some kind of incredible extension into brave new worlds of game design.
Instead, Nintendo Land has you shifting and rotating the GamePad (flawless 1:1 motion control gives you a great sense of augmented reality at times, like viewing a window into another world), using simple timing games and basic puzzle games to test your mettle.
The gentle increase in difficulty, stage by stage, made me feel like I was playing the Nintendo of old – like a true return to arcade gaming roots. That sentiment alone should be enough to make a few of you out there pretty curious. Investigate.
As you play, you earn Nintendo coins, which can be cashed in in-game for unlockables in your park. Likewise, if you need more incentivizing in this age of Achievements and Trophies, Nintendo Land’s in-game equivalent is ‘Stamps’. Coins and stamps have no bearing at all outside of the game, however, which is disappointing.
Games are divided into categories: Competitive Attractions, Solo Attractions and Team Attractions. Most have single player provisions – but all of these games benefit from inviting some friends.
On the team-front:
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest: The Zelda adventure is an on-rails shooter, but the motion controls are so nicely refined that it’s one you’ll actually <i>want</i> to play, unlike the Wii’s ‘Link’s Crossbow Challenge’.
Metroid Blast: Both a ground-based shooter and an aerial shooter, Metroid Blast is a little too cumbersome for its own good. I feel like the intentionally convoluted controls were shoehorned in to make full use of the controller, when there were probably more gamer-friendly solutions out there.
Pikmin Adventure: Pikmin Adventure is probably my pick of all the included games, to be honest. Very pretty, well designed, challenging and completely in the tone of the original games. Snap it up.
Mario Chase: Mario Chase is a bit like Pac-Man; four players with Wii remotes chase a fifth player with the Wii U gamepad. Fun, simple, well designed and balanced.
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion: A very clever take on Pac-Man again – this time hunting for a ghost with your flashlight. It’s funny, very pretty and will make you yearn for the missing-in-action 3DS game.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day: The Animal Crossing: Sweet day is another foot-race game – but this time, you’re all playing to collect candy. After a few games with this essential formula, this one feels like the weakest of these.
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle: The ninja-start flicking game that Nintendo used to demonstrate the Wii U’s potential returns. It’s also kind of boring.
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course: DK fares a little better – this time requiring an even hand to carefully tilt the GamePad one way and the other as your little cart rides down steel girders and through obstacles. Actually really solid, but probably limited in long-term novelty.
Captain Falcon’s Twister Race: Holding the GamePad vertically, you watch the controller’s screen and steer. It’s kind of a yawn-fest, since you’re not really getting to enjoy the sense of speed you’d expect – and it’s a bit of a one-trick pony.
Balloon Trip Breeze: There’s a lot of finesse to Balloon Trip in general – pixel-perfect accuracy is hard to live with when you’re dealing with analogue control. Swiping across the screen sends your balloon-laden man cruising, but it’s hard to work out how hard to swipe. Maybe you’ll have more patience than I do for this one.
Yoshi’s Fruit Cart: Well, this one’s a little different. Collect fruit by tracing a path on the touchscreen – but you can only see the path on your TV. Ah ha! Here-in lies the rub. This one’s better than it sounds.
Octopus Dance: Move the controller and thumbsticks to match your competitor’s arm and body movements. It sucks. Skip it.
The Final Word:
Nintendo Land points out the best and worst features of the Wii U in the same stroke. That’s a hard pill to swallow in some ways, since it’s likely going to be many players’ first encounter with the game. If you didn’t play anything else (or had no interest in doing so again), some of these games might actually work against the Wii U’s favour.
On the other hand, it’s a game about games full of game-<i>ettes</i>. Nothing here ever intends to replace a full gaming experience, so instead of putting all of its eggs in one proverbial basket, Nintendo Land gives something back to fans – and tries to please everyone with a grab-bag of gameplay styles, looks and unlockables.
More often than not, Nintendo Land succeeds. Multiplayer games shine – and there are still bold glimpses of what the future of the Wii U will be in games like Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Pikmin Adventure. It’s a future that I certainly look forward to – and one that has plenty of hardware to play with and ideas to build on.
A mini-game mash-up with a Smash Bros.-style collectables system. Cool idea and a great bundled game.
Production values: 8
Great orchestrated music, excellent framerate and a cohesive LittleBigPlanet-like design ethic. It’s trademark Nintendo (or Media Molecule, kinda).
Things don’t come together consistently, but when they do, Nintendo Land proves a lot of fun. Just make sure to invite some friends around for the best experience.
(out of 10 – not an average)