Wii U Preview
Rayman Wii UIt’s fun, but perhaps not as much fun as Rayman Legends. Here we had a chance to get to grips with two levels, with one player taking over the running and jumping stuff while a second helps out as a weird frog-like creature, interacting with the environment through simple tap and swipe gestures on the Wii U Pad. It’s a supporting role, but one that threatens to steal the show, as you tap collectibles to increase their value, slash ropes and drag obstructions or traps out of the way. Plus, there are some really neat tricks to try, including tickling tougher monsters to make them more vulnerable, or grabbing huge chunks of scenery and rotating them by twisting the Wii U Pad left and right. This, plus a slick, brilliantly timed jaunt through a chaotic chase level, with everything keyed in to the old rock hit Black Betty, left us thinking this all-new Rayman could be Wii U’s launch sleeper hit.
NintendoLand Wii UBut if one game has Wii Sports potential, it’s Nintendo’s own NintendoLand. At E3 we found this rather underwhelming, but now with five of the game’s twelve minigames to explore, we were surprised at just how much fun it is. Balloon Trip Breeze is an amiable diversion, as you swipe winds across the screen to push a floating Mii safely from one island to another, while Metroid Blast is a pint-sized multiplayer FPS. In one mode you cooperate with up to four other players to tackle waves of Metroid critters, with the Wii U Pad holder in charge of a heavily armed and armoured spaceship. In another, the four of you work together to take down the aforementioned Wii U Pad player.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is a linear take on a Zelda adventure, following up to four sword-swinging players plus one Pad-wielding archer through a series of landscapes and battles. Again, the Wii U Pad player takes on a support role, shooting fire-arrow shooting goblins and heart-carrying birds to keep the other players going, while whittling down the opposing forces when there’s a chance. The motion controls work brilliantly, and there’s plenty of fun to be had in slaying goblins and avoiding damage – hearts are shared between the players, and if you lose them you’re identified clearly on the screen (of shame).
The real hits, however, are Pikmin Adventure and Mario Chase. Pikmin Adventure turns out to be a Nintendo take on Diablo, with the Wii U Pad wielder playing Captain Olimar and their Wii-remote packing compadres playing oversized versions of the little seed people. Each level is basically a sunny dungeon-crawl followed by a boss battle, and by collecting nectar you level up and boost your destructive power. Captain Olimar can whistle to force the other players to leap on his head – vital for leaping over obstacles or tackling larger critters – and tap targets to unleash his smaller Pikmin upon them. The other Pikmin take a more direct damage-dealing approach, smacking enemies left, right and centre with furious melee attacks. It’s a fiendishly addictive and surprisingly meaty mini-adventure, and one we can’t wait to get home and play.
Mario Chase, meanwhile, is simple, silly and the sort of thing that might just sell Wii U from house to house. The player with the Wii U Pad plays Mario. The other four players chase him using the D Pad on a normal Wii remote. Mario gets a ten minute head start, then has to run around a map for ninety seconds hoping nobody gets close enough to tackle him. The areas of the map are colour coded, and the trick is for the chasing players to communicate, using a proximity meter to guide them as to where the tubby plumber might be hiding. It doesn’t sound like much, but in practice it’s hilarious, and different maps with different obstacles and surface ensure that the fun doesn’t fizzle out too soon.
If you regard this sort of thing with horror, and sneer at family-friendly gaming on the Wii, then you won’t like NintendoLand, and you probably won’t like Wii U. There is a touch of novelty factor about it, and those who have had Wiis gathering dust for the last two years might take the ‘once bitten, twice shy’ approach. But we’re now seeing Nintendo demonstrate not just what Asymetric Multiplayer is, but how much fun it can be. It’s this, we suspect, that will sell or not sell Wii U. We haven’t entirely lost our cynicism, but we’re slowly growing more convinced. The more you play Wii U, the more irresistible it seems.
Price, Release Date and Final ThoughtsThe barrier for many will be the Wii U price. By console launch standards the £250 for the basic 8GB model and £300 for the premium 32GB model isn't horrendous, particularly as the latter comes with NintendoLand bundled in. But the Wii U Pad clearly makes this a premium investment over the Xbox 360 or PS3, given you only get one pad with each console purchase.
Given that the 3DS launch was blemished by high pricing, it seems risky of Nintendo to put Wii U out at such a high price, but at least here it feels like there's more justification. We'll be back with more thoughts as we get closer to the Nintendo Wii U release date on 30 November.
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