Most of the launch games use the GamePad screen to supplement the big-screen action, such as for displaying maps or HUD items, while other games support a duplicate of the on-screen action for portable play.
Other launch games that make more creative use of the GamePad controller such as NintendoLand or ZombiU have you planning strategy on the controller before carrying out gameplay on the big screen, frequently glancing between the two.
Fundamentally, no launch game achieves the ultimate goal of delivering compelling "asymmetrical gameplay" in a single-player experience - not in a innovative, game-changing sense anyway. Among the launch titles there's far too much confusion over where you should be looking and not enough actual innovation, which is probably to be expected for such a disruptive concept at this early stage.
In solo play NintendoLand is full of instructions telling you where to look, while one screen is often left as a glamorised notice board. Even ZombiU - a game designed from the ground up for dual screens - doesn't have the concept engrained far enough into its gameplay that it wouldn't be possible to create a 360 port. Much of its charm and suspense would be killed off, but it'd be totally possible to play on PS3.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, multiplayer games make the best use of asymmetrical gameplay at launch. By utilising the second GamePad screen to give one player a different role or perspective - with the on-board camera amusingly displaying their face on screen - Wii U really does offer a unique experience, and both NintendoLand and Tank! Tank! Tank! Are brilliant fun with friends.
This is one area where Wii U does succeed in engaging the casual audience this Christmas - if they can stomach the price - because even the biggest controller-phobes can keep hold of their old Wii Remotes while a more experience player mans the 'scary' GamePad.
- D-Pad, left and right analogue sticks
- Action buttons:
- ABXY diamond, L+R shoulder buttons, L+R triggers (digital and not spring-mounted), two analogue stick push-in buttons, Start + Select
- System buttons:
- Home, Power, TV, Sync, Volume slider
- Motion control:
- Built in accelerometer and gyroscope for motion sensing
One thing Wii U does have over its rivals on day one is the ability to take proper HD games on the go. Well, almost.
For games that support the feature (Mass Effect 3, New Super Mario Bros. U and more) big-screen gameplay can be pushed down to the GamePad, allowing you to stroll around the house.
The feature is hampered only by how the GamePad itself operates; The controller features no internal horsepower and images are instead streamed from the console to the GamePad screen with absolutely no lag.
Nintendo says the controller will operate up to 25ft away from the console, though in our tests we found this to be largely dependent on the size and shape of your house, how much furniture you've got and whether your walls are made of MDF or solid steel.
In CVG's open office the GamePad can be read from as far as fourteen metres away. However as soon as walls become involved the distance at which you can play drops. It's also possible for the controller to work in rooms above the Wii U console, though again this didn't work in every house we tested.
When it does work the experience is seamless, and you're introduced to a new world where Mass Effect 3 in bed is a tantalising, brilliant reality.
- A front-facing 1.3mp camera for video and photos
- Sensor strip:
- Spread behind the camera is a small sensor strip that works in a similar way to the Wii's sensor bar which can read the infrared signals from a Wii Remote. No games or applications have yet been used for it.
- Near Field Communication tech.
- Other features:
- Microphone, vibration, stereo speakers, battery LED, Infrared transceiver
But there's another catch. As well as requiring a healthy proximity to the game console, portable Wii U gaming has another condition - and it's undoubtedly the biggest negative of the GamePad itself.
Nintendo claims the controller's rechargeable (and replaceable) Lithium Ion battery will last around 3-5 hours on full charge (which takes around 2 hours), but we found that it struggles to last much longer than three with the best quality brightness settings.
We don't have to tell you that that's a big inconvenience for those who don't want to play whilst tethered to a power socket. Which is most of us. We imagine Nintendo's decision was one based on balancing price and weight, but it's still very disappointing.