GGUK manage to avoid the queues by going to Nintendo Land.
If you’re an avid gamer, you were probably glued to watching the E3 Expo last week as each company unveiled its latest offerings and insights into the video games and hardware coming out in the near future. You’ve probably already decided whose showcase brought the most attention to the E3 conference, or which one stood out from the rest. For me, it was Nintendo that held the limelight, not because I’m a bit of a Nintendo fan girl, but because Nintendo were the only company bringing out new hardware. We’ve all been a bit intrigued with the Wii U since its announcement last year, so I was delighted when Nintendo invited me over to their Nintendo Showcase in London to have some hands-on time with their new console.
Being that I spent most of the day playing around with the Wii U, one of the things I did was explore Nintendo Land. Nintendo Land is a theme park, which contains 12 attractions based around existing Nintendo franchises. Each attraction is a mini game, some of which you can experience solo, others with a group of friends. The main drive of the Wii U console is, after all, to encourage people to play together. At the Nintendo event, I got to try out five of the theme park attractions which show off the innovative ways you can play on the new Wii U Game Pad. The multiplayer games allowed anywhere up to five players, one using the Wii U Game Pad and the other players joining in with the Wiimotes. There were only two games available at the time in Nintendo Land that offered a complete solo experience; one was called ‘Donkey Kong Crash Course’ and the other ‘Takamaru’s Ninja Castle’.
In Donkey Kong Crash Course, the Wii U Game Pad is held horizontally between your hands and you’re objective is to steer a fragile trolley kart through an obstacle course, starting from the top of the course and gradually working your way to the bottom, avoiding walls or obstacles. To steer the trolley, you simply tilt the Wii U Game Pad left and right, and allow gravity to do the rest for you. The course is filled with a selection of bridges and lifts and these are activated by pressing the underside buttons on the Wii U Game Pad. The trolley moves along a kind of rollercoaster rail and works on the momentum of how far you tilt the Wii U Game Pad from one side to the other. With rollercoaster style dips added into the equation, trying to steer the trolley kart takes a lot of control and patience. Go too fast over a bump or dip and your trolley kart will go hurtling at full speed into the nearest wall, which results in a squashed Donkey Kong.
Along the route, Donkey Kong can collect bananas, which add to your points score, and once you’ve raced over the chequered flag check point, you can breathe a sigh of relief that you made it that far. The game is completely about control and how well you can navigate the trolley around the course, without losing a life or your sanity. The only distraction I felt while playing this game was the fact that watching the TV screen to play is not going to do you any favours and it’s far easier to watch the Wii U Game Pad’ own screen to progress. The game was bright, colourful and had a fairly upbeat vibe to it. Even though I died more than a few times, I still enjoyed it and managed to walk away without going completely bananas.
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, based on the early famicom game, is an interesting way to utilize the Wii U Game Pad. Holding the Game Pad flat, a Ninja Star appears on the Wii U Game Pad touch screen interface, and you swipe the Ninja star towards the TV screen to target the sneaky ninjas that just so happen to be hiding in the bushes, standing on top of the buildings or lurking behind doorways. Once you begin the game, Ninjas pop up from out of nowhere and you simply slide your fingers over the ninja star on the touch screen to attack them. Some ninjas will require a single hit, whereas others are tougher and will need to be targeted with more than one star. At the end of the level, you encounter the boss ninja, and quick reactions will be needed to take him down. While the game begins at a slow pace, before long ninjas are popping up everywhere and turn your world into a ninja hell. Graphically speaking, it was an enjoyable game. However, at times I felt that the reticule didn’t always respond as well as I would hope, with it not aiming where I felt I was pointing, and sometimes a delay between my action on the Game Pad and the result on the screen.
The next game I tried was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, which allows one player to take the role of the archer and three other players to use the wiimotes as swords. The person who uses the Wii U Game Pad will see on the touch screen interface an arrow. Swipe and pull back the arrow, and a white circle reticule will appear on your desired target. The, use the analogue sticks to home in on the target, until the target is filled and then is your chance to fire your arrow. The Wii U Game Pad makes a special Zelda style noise, when you have to refill your bow, which you can do by tilting the Game Pad forward and down. As you follow the linear path, your friends beside you will use their Wiimotes as swords to destroy enemies by swinging the remote left and right. Each enemy has a health bar above their heads so you can gauge how much more damage is left to finally destroy them. Working together as a team, you as the archer and your friends as the swordsman, you’ll encounter pink blobby enemies and one eyed monsters. During the level, you’ll be required to fire at glass globes, which then light up and open drawbridges and doors, so there are some puzzle elements to be found.
Although we prayed for an Animal Crossing game to be announced for the Wii U at E3, Nintendo obviously had other ideas. However, they did provide the next best thing. The final two games I played were Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. These are multiplayer games, which requires one person to hold the Wii U Game Pad, while up to four other players use Wiimotes.
In Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, the players are gathered in the candy orchard, which I might add is pretty, colourful and bright. I would say this is the eye candy of Nintendo Land. As all the candy loving animals gather in the center of the candy orchard, it’s the job of the person holding the Wii U Game Pad to control two guards, who are there to protect the candy orchard and stop the cute candy loving animals from stealing 50 pieces of candy. The candy is scattered across the orchard, which is is filled with trees, buildings and flowers. The people with the wiimotes must control their character around the orchard, steering clear of the guards, who want to stop them in your tracks. The person with the wii u gamepad, controls a guard with each analogue stick, which makes some interesting gameplay.
During my time playing as the guards, it’s quite difficult to think independently with each thumb, but after a while you get used to it. It can become quite strategic as you position the guards to trap the animals. During this time, the other players are gathering candies, which when eaten enlarge your head, but slow you down. If you need to run a bit faster, you can drop a few, so you are lighter on your feet. Once you’ve been caught by the guards three times, or when 50 candies have been gathered, it’s basically the end of the game. Gaining candy from the orchard trees can require some teamwork. For instance, in front of the trees may be some buttons that need to be activated by having different players step on them to release the candies from the trees. Both playing as the guards or a candy-gathering animal offered an enjoyable experience and I am quite excited to play this game again with friends.
The final game I played was Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, which again is a multiplayer mini game to play with friends or family. One person takes the role of the ghost who has to try and capture the human players that are roaming around this spooky environment. The humans are armed with their trusty flashlights, completely unaware of the ghost. As the ghost player, you are completely invisible to the other players, but can see them on the Wii U Game Pad, Which is pretty cool. The only indication to the human players that a ghost is nearby, is when the Wiimotes rumble slightly. So as the humans, it’s about trying to hide in the shadows, or simply keep moving. If you are caught by the ghost and have fallen, your friends can revive you by moving over to you. If the humans manage to shine the flashlight on the ghost for just the right amount of time, it reduces the ghost points to zero and results in a ghostly death. I had a great deal of fun with this game, playing as the ghost and a human.
Having had plenty of hands-on time with the Wii U in Nintendo Land, I was pleasantly surprised with the different ways that the Wii U Game Pad was used. The only thing that concerns me, and this applies to the Wii U line up in general, is the emphasis that is being placed on multiplayer gaming. Nintendo Land is a pleasurable experience which targets a family audience, and it would be nice to see Nintendo Land bundled with the Wii U at launch, but we will have to wait and see.