Nintendo Land: A Wii U classic in the making?
25th Aug 2012 | 12:01
First impressions matter. So the fact
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.
Asymmetrical play, if you don't know, is the idea of two different styles of gameplay existing simultaneously. Nintendo tried this first with Pac-Man Vs back in 2003 and it was brilliant. However the significant monetary investment required to sample multi-man Pac (one Gamecube, four GBAs, four GBA-GC cables, a TV, friends, food etc) means it remains criminally under-sampled.
With Nintendo Land, the Wii U is bringing that genius to the masses, and our first taste was Luigi's Ghost Mansion. This one-vs-four multiplayer game casts the GamePad player as an invisible spook stalking four torch clutching Mii's around a Cluedo board. The four 'humans' play on the TV and can only see the ghost when he's illuminated by a light source, but they can always feel his proximity through their controller's rumble. Ghost wins by catching the humans, humans win by eliminating the ghost. Simple.
Only it's not that simple. Playing the sneaky, all-knowing ghost and toying with your enemies' nerves is entirely removed from the almost survival horror tone of the human role - all worrying, cowering in corners and scrabbling for extra torch batteries. The asymmetrical set up creates something surprisingly tense and considered.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is asymmetrical showcase number two, trading ghosts and torches for hollow animal mannequins, over-sized fun-hating cutlery and mountains of sweets. It's like a nightmare straight from Willy Wonka's formative years.
Here the tablet player controls a knife and a fork, one with each stick, and is tasked with grabbing three animals before they snaffle 50 sweets between them. Animals play on the TV and have a limited field of view, cramming their heads with candy while keeping an eye out for the heat at all times. It's about the chase - spotting incoming cutlery creates anarchy, and trying to predict and outsmart each other is brilliant fun achieved through GamePad vs. TV asymmetry.
Nintendo also showed icons representing the other attractions. Pikmin, Metroid, Mario, Yoshi, F-Zero, Balloon Fight and, erm, Game & Watch Octopus. What's being done with that last one is anyone's guess but if even one is half as brillo-tastic as Luigi's and Sweet Day then sign us up for an annual pass.
So after a few hours of ghost hunting, sweet pooping and Mii rolling, we're willing to make an exception. We're going to put that bungled first impression out of our minds and accept Nintendo Land for - and we've got our serious faces back on for this - the Wii U classic it's shaping up to be.