After playing quite a few rounds of Nintendo Land this week, it’s easy to see why Nintendo is hoping that this collection of games will be the next Wii Sports.
Even though the barrier to entry is quite high—you need four Wii Remotes with the Wii U GamePad in order to get a full five-player experience—each of the attractions proved to be a lot of fun at our preview session in San Francisco. Most importantly, every game felt designed to fully take advantage of one player having a secondary screen, and to that end, Nintendo Land looks like it’s going to surprise a lot of people.
Out of the 12 attractions in Nintendo Land’s main park, I got to test-run three of them, each with a specific method of using the Wii U’s GamePad tablet controller.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day
With Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, the dual-screen mechanic works very well by giving one player a wide view of the map, while the other four players are limited by zoomed-in, splitscreen views on the main TV.
Here, the person with the GamePad is actually controlling two “knife” and “fork” characters, as they try to round the other four players before they can collect 50 pieces of candy on the map. It’s a little hard to control, though, as each analog stick on the GamePad steers a separate character, making it difficult to try cornering anybody.
But you’ll have more than enough time to figure it out—as each of the four teammates loads up on candy, they get slower and more sluggish, making them easier to catch. Some candy trees can be shaken loose to snatch up a whole bunch of treats at once, but the players have to take the risk of shouting out their position in order to get everyone to work together.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day looks like prime party material, and after playing a few rounds, it seems like the best way to play is to give the GamePad to the most experienced gamer in the group. Its “reverse Pac-Man” mechanic worked best when a knowledgeable, crafty player was trying to catch everyone else on the map.
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion: Haunting Hijinks
Nintendo Land‘s Luigi-themed attraction is a bit of a different flavor from Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, as both the GamePad player and the four-person team are threats to each other. Once again, the split between using the TV and using the Wii U’s controller is well utilized, as the GamePad player can see his or herself and everyone else on the tablet touchscreen, while the “ghost” is completely invisible to everyone else watching the big screen.
In Haunting Hijinks, the four other players have to use their flashlights to capture to the ghost player. Since the ghost is invisible, they can only sense it through sonar-like vibrations in their Wii Remotes. Once they manage to shine their flashlight on the ghost, they’ll start draining its power, forcing the GamePad player to run away and regroup.
However, the GamePad player’s task is to snatch each player from behind without getting caught in their flashlight beam, so they’ll have to risk exposing themselves sooner or later. All of this is contained within a time limit, so if any players are left standing at the end, the team wins. Since the four-player team has to keep their flashlights charged by picking up batteries, they’re only vulnerable during the small windows when they’re running out of juice, and they can use tactics like going back-to-back.
Out of all the Nintendo Land games, this comes off as the most difficult for the GamePad player, since the mansion map is so enclosed and the players aren’t hindered by a splitscreen view. As a result, teamwork is a lot easier to pull off here, as the other four players just have to make sure that they’re not splitting up too much.
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course
Although it’s the only other single-player game that’s been revealed so far (Takamaru’s Ninja Castle was introduced at E3), Donkey Kong’s Crash Course is hands-down the most difficult activity in the virtual park so far.
Using the Wii U GamePad’s built-in gyroscope and accelerometer, the goal is to steer a rickety cart carrying an egg through a maze of slopes, loops, and platforms without breaking your vehicle. Go too fast, and the wheels will pop off your cart. Go too slow, and you’ll get one of your cart’s springs stuck on the edge of a platform, cracking the egg when it falls over.
It’s insanely tough, and the physics behind the game aren’t very forgiving if you get careless. On the other hand, you’re rewarded for going through the course quickly, as your best times and distance are recorded in a leaderboard.
It seems like that’s something perfectly geared toward the Miiverse’s social mechanic, but Nintendo wouldn’t confirm how it would work. What they did say was that Miiverse features “would be a big part of every Wii U title,” so take that for what it’s worth.
Is Nintendo Land going to be the next Wii Sports?
Right now, I’m going to say—maybe.
Nintendo Land certainly feels like it’s going to be the next Wii Sports, and it seems most likely to be the Wii U’s bestseller for families and crowded households, but I’m not sure that the single-player games are remotely as fun as the five-player experiences.
Of course, that’s entirely dependent on if you’re the crowd who has a full collection of Wii Remotes and Nunchuks stacked on your entertainment center—the best rides in the park are the ones with the most people, but the real question is: Will you have as much fun with one or two players instead of five?