Posted on December 3, 2012 AT 01:58pm
Every new game system needs that first game. You know the one if talking about; the title that takes the time to really show you what capabilities the console has. If you bought the deluxe package of the Wii U, then that title was packed right in the box for you. In Nintendo Land, the titular company creates an amusement park of fun to teach you how their new system can be used. Like any amusement park, some rides are going to be more popular than others, but the overall experience leaves you with a big smile.
The game breaks down the various attractions into three categories: solo attractions, team attractions and competitive attractions. In each of these games, you can earn both stamps and coins. The coins allow you to play a pachinko-like game in the center of the park to earn some extra Nintendo-themed decorations to litter the park. The stamps, which are the closest thing to achievements you’re going to find, are mainly for bragging rights, although they do offer net you some extra coins. The goals for these stamps range from things you might accidentally do your first try, to something you might swear at the TV for after your 50th attempt. While a system-wide achievement system might have been better, this is still a great way to get you to attempt things you might not otherwise.
The game also makes good use of the Miiverse function in many ways. As you walking around the park, either admiring the decorations you’ve unlocked or heading to your next event, many of the additional people walking around the park are real Miis that will display Miiverse messages. Every time you finish any event, it was also display Miiverse messages from all the people that have been recently playing that event. It’s a great way to get validation about what you’re playing from real people that are doing those same attractions.
Since Nintendo feels the need to separate each of the game types into three categories, I’m going to do the same with the remainder of my review.
Competitive Attractions -
The three games in this category all have one big thing in common. One player, the one holding the gamepad, has more information than the other players and uses it to either escape or attack them.
In Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, one player takes the role of the attacking apparition and hunts down the other players. The most fun thing about this particular game is watching people freak out. As the ghost gets closer to a player, their controller vibrates, which understandably makes them nervous. This gives the player the opportunity to mess with everyone else while applying the proper amount of tension to the game to make it an awesome experience. There’s nothing quite as fun as watching your friends flip out as you sneak up on them.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day again has the gamepad holder in the role of attacker. The Wii remote-holding players have the task of running around, shaking trees and collecting the candy that falls. As they collect more, it gets harder and harder to run away from the gamepad-wielding player. The person holding the gamepad during this attraction controls some guards charged with catching those players. These guards, armed with utensils, are controlled with the analog sticks on the gamepad. With two guards to control, it’s a little difficult to control them both, but much like patting your head and rubbing your stomach, it’s only a matter of practice before you’re a force to be reckoned with. It’s also a lot of fun to try and outfox the guards by coordinating with the the other players.
Mario Chase takes the competitive table and flips it on the gamepad player. In this game, the player holding Nintendo’s newest controller has to escape from the four other players holding Wii remotes. The advantage the gamepad player has in this instance is a map showing the entire layout of the stage and the location of every player. Even having the layout of the stage in your grasp, it still cranks up the adrenaline in each match whenever a player spots you and they start coordinating about how best to take you down.
Each of these games has several different stages that can be unlocked by playing. The new stages offer different challenges for both the gamepad and Wii remote players. Some good examples include slides in a Mario Chase level and a conveyor belt in one of the Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. For people’s first outing with the game, I would stick to the first available stage for each of these games, but the additional ones ad a nice challenge once people adapt to the controls and get better.
Team Attractions -
Any of the team attractions can be played solo, but what’s the fun in that? When the player that’s been holding the gamepad during the competitive games manages to win back the affections of the other players, it’s time for some cooperative games.
In Metroid Blast, the Wii remote players strap on a nunchuck and take on a horde of enemies as Samus. All the while, the gamepad player flies around in Samus’ ship and provide air support. It’s a ton of fun to coordinate and work together with the other players to take down all of the enemies. You can even grapple onto the ship as Samus and have them fly you to another area of the arena. This team-work aspect adds a great deal of fun to the game.
This is also the one team attraction that can also be a competitive attraction. When you’re choosing a game type, you can pick a battle mode that pits the Samus players against the ship. While the ship definitely has the advantage, the numbers of the opposite team can be used to take down the ship if applied properly.
Pikmin Adventure and The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest are fairly similar games in that you are taking a group of up to five players through an environment, taking down enemies and trying to survive. The gamepad players, taking the role of an archer in Zelda and Olimar in Pikmin, now have an equal, but slightly different, role in the action. There’s no extra information for the player using the gamepad in these instances, just a different mode of control. This gives you an extra option to pass around if anyone gets tired of the role they’ve been doing. Each game features multiple stages with increasing difficulty as you go. You can also go for various achievements in each of these games, which includes beating stages in a particular time in Pikmin and clearing a stage without damage in Zelda. The Nintendo Land patchwork graphical style works really well for each of these games and they’ve done a good job of adapting locations from the various series to this style. It’s also hard not to be giddy seeing your Mii dressed up as Link.
Solo Attractions -
After your friends have left and you’re sitting there with just this game, it helps to have some solo attractions to keep you occupied until the next party. Sometimes it can be fun to take turns playing these with your friends, but it makes it a bit hard to not accidentally shove them off the couch when they’re about to beat your high score.
When Takamaru’s Ninja Castle works well, it’s a very enjoyable game. You hold the gamepad on its side and flick throwing stars at cardboard ninjas on the screen. Hard to argue with a concept like that, but I have experienced a few issues along the way. Occasionally, when flicking stars at my foes, it’ll register as a weak flick and will count against me. While the difficulty is pretty forgiving and you can get away with missing every now and then, when trying to earn stamps and high scores, it can get frustrating. A few times, the calibration has gotten so far off that I was pointing my gamepad about 45 degrees away from the TV, which is unacceptable in game like this. All that aside, when it works well it’s a ton of fun and definitely worth your time to check out.
From the get-go, I really didn’t expect my favorite attraction to be Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, but it ended up surprising me. In this game, you use various control schemes to guide your character through a Donkey Kong themed course. While getting through this path just once is enough of a challenge itself, besting your final time has been the thing that’s kept me coming back. The run through, twisting the gamepad, blowing into the mic and doing circles with the analog sticks take a fair amount of patience and precision. Speeding all of that up, but keeping that same precision creates an unforgettable challenge that I’ve really enjoyed in this game. I could easily see this attraction having the potential for some additional DLC down the line.
Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, at first, sounded like it was not going to be one of my favorite attractions. After starting it up, I ended up being delightfully surprised with how much I enjoyed it. In this game, on the TV there is a screen with fruit and a door with a patterned background. On the gamepad, the pattern remains, but all the other stuff has vanished. Your job is to draw a path on the gamepad so that Yoshi eats all of the fruit on the screen and makes it to the door. As you advance stages, it adds more and more challenges to the mix. It ranges from the fruit and background moving, to holes on the map that make you lose a life if you hit them. The challenge of this game adds enough to keep you coming back time and again.
Octopus Dance, takes a semi-obscure reference to an old Game and Watch title and turns it into a decently difficult rhythm game. The major thing attraction has to teach you is about switching between the gamepad and TV screens. At all times, you Mii is facing you on one screen and has their back to you on another. The controls have you manipulating your characters arms with the analog sticks, which is easier when viewing them from the back. Every once in a while, your character gets spun around and you must switch which screen you’re looking at to keep up. Throw in some extra dance maneuvers and patting your head and rubbing your stomach will seem easy as delicious pie.
Captain Falcon’s Twister Race has you turning the gamepad on its side once again. Your Mii then hops into an F-Zero machine and the race begins. To be honest, I expected this one to be competitive, but the main idea here is to pump up your score by getting a faster time on each leg of the race. To control the racer, all you have to do is twist the gamepad in either direction and avoid the various obstacles on the course. One nice touch they added in was that they proudly display the face of whomever is playing onscreen. This makes it a fun game to watch if you’re interested in seeing someone’s contorted face half the time and the wall the other half.
I really expected to like Balloon Trip Breeze a lot more than I ended up. I’m a huge fan of the original Balloon Fight game for the NES and everything to like it has been included. Just like in the balloon trip sections of the older game, you take your character through a treacherous path of the sky and see how long you can last. There are obstacles, giant fish and other characters to fight along the way. The only complaint I have is that you have to use the touch-screen to control the game. It feels a bit sloppy and I really didn’t feel like I had as good control as I would’ve using the analog sticks. If touch-screen controls are your thing, you might well love this attraction. The fact of the matter is, they aren’t mine and it wasn’t a hit with me.
Let’s Sum This Up -
Whether you’re in a large group, or playing it solo, Nintendo Land has a great amount of content that will keep you coming back. The challenge offered by some of the later levels any of these games makes it fun for advanced players and the accessibility of the earlier levels makes it easy for beginners to jump right in. Just like most games, not everything is going to appeal to everyone, but there’s enough there to enjoy this game for what it is: an instruction manual for the Wii U. Each attraction incorporates something Nintendo wants you to know about the Wii U. Whether it’s the asymmetric gameplay, interesting new control schemes or ability to put someone’s face on the TV, there’s a lot here to be excited about here. Every Wii U owner should have this game, just be warned that people might start to dislike you after you school them as the ghost a few times.
Score: 9.0 (out of 10)
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