This article originally appeared in Nintendo Gamer magazine.
First impressions matter. So the fact Nintendo Land's debut felt like a combination of limp handshake and wet fart was intensely worrying. Nintendo Land should be exciting. It's a Ninty themepark with minigames based on their biggest names, but its E3 announcement consisted of a muddled explanation followed by a fireworks display packing all the oomph of a Nerf gun. Fuuurp.
But after our recent hands-on we're willing to admit that actually, and our face is as straight as a flagpole when we say this, Nintendo Land is brilliant.
The brainchild of Katsuya 'Animal Crossing' Eguchi, Nintendo Land is billed as the Wii Sports of the Wii U's GamePad. And while touting the controller's abilities to the masses is no easy task, Nintendo Land casts its net wide and pulls in a feast of intriguing ideas.
There will be 12 games in the final park, all 'much deeper' than anything in Wii Sports or Wii Play according to Eguchi. And while only five were open to the public in our recent hands-on, three of those almost justify admission alone.
Takamaru's Ninja Castle was first. This arcade-y target shoot had us flicking ninja stars from pad to tele at googly eyed ninjas. The interplay between pad and TV was entertaining but we weren't itching to play again once the demo ended.
Next was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, a fabric-ified mash-up of Wii Sports Resort's Swordplay and Archery modes. Two players grip Wii controllers as sword-wielding heroes while one takes the Wii U GamePad to play cowardly ordinance and shoot out of reach enemies. Unfortunately the on-rails movement removes much of the mode's potential - Four Swords this ain't.
Things started looking up with Donkey Kong's Crash Course. This woollen replica of DK's classic girders saw us tilt the Wii U GamePad left and right to spin the entire stage, with a two-wheeled Mii triangle reacting to the pitch like some 2D Monkey Ball. Albeit without the simian grace: the Mii-mobile was rockier than a Reliant Robin.
The level we played started simply but before long we had to pull shoulder buttons and rotate analogue sticks to call creaking machinery into motion, making sure to keep the controller steady at the same time. It proved surprisingly taxing, and shows that Nintendo Land won't shy away from tricksy challenges just to promote controls. Excellent.
As always in theme parks, though, you work your way up to the big ones, and rides four and five - a pair of asymmetrical multiplayer games - were unquestionably Nintendo Land's star attractions.