17 Reviews

NintendoLand review: A mixed bag but a clever showcase for GamePad

All the fun of the (un)fair

NintendoLand is, in the truest sense, the Wii U's equivalent to Wii Sports. Like its predecessor, NintendoLand is a light and chirpy mini-game festival that exists primarily to teach players about the unique possibilities of their new console, yet manages to do so in a framework that provides lasting entertainment in its own right. However, it is there that the similarities end.

Both games are teachers you see, but they're teaching a different class. Think of it if you will as being similar to introducing a sport to a young child for the first time.

Wii Sports was the moment (both figuratively and literally) when you first slipped a bat into their hands and invited them to swing it for themselves. Well, NintendoLand assumes everyone now knows how to swing a controller. Now it wants to teach you what you can really do with it.

In that sense, it's more like their first trip to the ball game. But Nintendo aren't taking you to any old ropey bush league game. Nope, they're taking you to Game Seven of the World Series. This is NintendoLand, a virtual theme park built as a permanent shrine to 30 years of glorious Ninty history.

The beauty of NintendoLand's nerdy-but-inviting facade is that it makes it an enticing place for grizzled 8-bit veterans to explore, too. This is important, as the main purpose of Wii U's asymmetrical (or as we like to call it, 'lop-sided') multiplayer is to bring together gamers of differing experience and controller-fluency levels, and get them playing on an equal footing.

But while NintendoLand's sparkly hub - awash with sights, sounds and secrets as it is - succeeds in grabbing the attention, it is the quality of the mini-games themselves that will determine whether NintendoLand manages to hold onto it. With that in mind and without further ado, let's quickly run through each of the twelve games on show, and work out if they're any cop or not.


Mario Chase

Players: 2-5

NintendoLand boasts three very different riffs on Pac-Man Vs, a Miyamoto-designed maze-chase game which saw four Gameboy Advance-controlled ghosts working together to capture a fifth player controlling Pac-Man on the TV screen.

Of the three, Mario Chase is the purest interpretation of the formula. The GamePad player assumes the role of Mario, the chasee, and is given a ten second headstart before up to four grab-happy Toads club together in an attempt to hunt him down.

While the chasee can see the maze (and the location of the Toads) in its entirety, the chasers are forced to share screen space on the TV, the zoomed-in camera meaning they can never get an overall picture of what's happening on the map.

Maps are split into four distinct coloured zones, which makes it easier for the chasers to communicate Mario's location to the others when they spot him on their screen. "He's running into the blue zone! No wait, he's going back into yellow" is a common battle cry as the clock begins to tick down and nerves begin to fray.

Within this simple template there's a surprising amount of opportunity for strategising on both sides - which is why it's so much fun to watch the replay together on the big screen when the round ends, to see how the events unfurled.

This is exactly the sort of thing Wii U was built for - funny and light, but with a devious streak a mile wide. It's just a shame that Nintendo didn't build more than three maps for it. The second map in particular - featuring mud-moats and bridges that vanish after Mario runs over them, leaving would-be persuers wallowing in the brown stuff - hints at the mode's unfulfilled potential. That said, sometimes there's something to be said for keeping things simple.



Captain Falcon's Twister Race

Players: 1

It's F-Zero - on the Wii U! Except, not so much. It's more of an OutRun-esque obstacle course, with manholes, debris and dawdling space-traffic conspiring to make you miss your appointment with the next time-replenishing checkpoint.

Your craft is controlled by tilting the GamePad's accelerometers - your first clue that this isn't going to be an F-Zero GX beater. The action is displayed on both screens, but due to the high walls surrounding the track you're best off concentrating exclusively on the top-down viewpoint as shown on the GamePad screen - although you're forced to switch back to the TV screen when you drive into a tunnel.

The main TV screen also shows a live feed of your face (via the GamePad's front-facing camera), making this a must-play game if you've ever wondered what you look like when you're not really having a great time.


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