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The star of the Team Games, however, is undoubtedly Pikmin Adventure. Beneath its cute exterior it’s actually a streamlined Diablo clone, with Captain Olimar and up to four giant Pikmin chums tackling outdoor dungeons, clearing them of insect enemies and bosses. There’s even a simple levelling mechanic, with both the Pikmin and Olimar consuming nectar to build experience levels, giving Olimar more tiny Pikmin to hurl at foes, and the giant Pikmin more resilience and damage. Each level adds new twists, like special jump pads, time limits, bombs or tricky adversaries, and with a good number of levels to work through it’s a surprisingly meaty effort that you’ll be happy to come back to again and again.
It’s with the competitive attractions that things get really clever, with games that focus on the way the Wii U Pad allows one player to see things that aren’t visible to those playing with the Wii remotes. In Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, the Wii Remote players gather and eat sweets while being chased by guards controlled on the Wii U Pad (though there is another variation for two players where it’s all about collecting and depositing the sugary bounty).
In Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, one player plays a ghost, creeping up on up to four ghost hunters who can wear down the ghost’s energy levels with their torches. The ghost can see the hunters, but the hunters can’t see the ghost unless the unlucky spirit is in their torchlight. Otherwise, the only clue is a rumble that increases as the ghost gets nearer. This puts the emphasis on teamwork. Coordinate, and you can deal with the ghost. Fail to coordinate, and the ghost can pick you off one by one. Spooking family members has never been so much fun.
The best of the competitive games is the simple, stupid and utterly lovable Mario Chase. It’s basically hide-and-seek, with four players on remotes chasing one dressed up as Mario, who races around maze-like levels trying to avoid them. The Mario player can see the map and all the player’s positions on the Wii U Pad’s screen, but the players can only see him when he’s close, again pushing teamwork and communication as the key to victory. Different ground types and obstacles make the game more challenging beyond the first map, and it’s a perfect example of what Nintendo does best: a game so simple that your eighty-year-old gran could pick it up and play it, and so addictive that you won’t get her off it. We love it to bits.
Graphics and Sound
While Nintendo Land is a stirling showcase of the Wii U Pad and its varying capabilities, it’s not the place to come if you want a powerhouse demonstration of the Wii U’s graphical prowess. Pikmin Adventure aside, the art style is very much in the flat, stylised mould of Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Wii Play, though with richer textures and more exotic effects and lighting. The soundtrack is typically Nintendo, with jolly music and a range of classic themes. If only it didn’t also contain the mutterings of your annoying compere, Monita.
There’s Something about Monita
If there’s one thing we don’t like about Nintendo Land, it’s Monita. A robotic guide who introduces the attractions and explains the workings of each game, she’s a dull, wordy personality with an intensely irritating high-pitched robotic voice, and this is a game that explains everything so much, in such simple terms, that you’ll have to endure an awful lot of her. You’re tempted to skip, but then you know that if you do so you’ll miss some vital instruction, or have to explain the whole game yourself. Prepare to see younger members of your household – the ones who will love Nintendo Land most – finding their patience getting stretched very thinly indeed.
Monita aside, Nintendo Land is a delight. Mini-game compilations usually struggle with a lack of meat and a dubious strike rate, but here the attractions are almost all enjoyable, and a few are downright compulsive. Most of all, it’s a game that demonstrates how Wii U can get groups of people playing together in a whole new way, and having a good time while they do it. It makes you smile. It makes you laugh. It makes you cackle maniacally as your nearest and dearest succumb to ghost attacks or get floored by a flying tackle. It makes you feel like a team of heroes. At its worst, it’s just another bunch of mini-games, but at its best, it’s absolutely magic.