Following the example of Wii Sports (the Wii pack-in that introduced the world to motion controls while cementing the console as a must-have party accessory), Nintendo Land is being propped up as the Second Coming of mini-games. It remains to be seen whether Land will have the same effect for Wii U that Sports did for Wii. What really matters, though, is that the game is exceptionally fun, and a fitting show of what tablet gaming on a home console is all about.
A premiere example of a mini-game collection, what Nintendo Land achieves in terms of depth and variety is quite exceptional. It presents 12 different attractions, each with its own unique stages or modes and each anchored around a particular Nintendo franchise - from mainstays like Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong to more niche offerings like Balloon Fight, Pikmin and F-Zero. What brings all these quite varied franchises and distinct gameplay designs into one cohesive whole is the theme park motif that ties it all together, which serves as the crux of the entire experience.
Using your Mii, you'll spend your time exploring the main hub area (called the Plaza) and sampling the various games scattered throughout - all in the company of a hilarious robot named Monita who acts as your impassive guide. From the Plaza you can access the attractions, behold the various park decorations you've won in the supplementary Coin Game and run circles around your park guests (ranging from generic Miis to your Miiverse friends). The theme is effective, and so much more personal and interactive than just having a mini-game menu to scroll through. The Miis also add a ton of personality and a sense of continuity often lacking in mini-game collections. Since progress is tied to whatever Mii you're playing with, even people who are sharing a system don't have to worry about losing their high scores or having their stats messed with. All this lends to the feeling that you really are continuing your little adventure every time you turn the game on.
Nintendo Land is a fun and lively theme park filled with 12 different attractions, each with its own take on a Nintendo franchise. Each attraction features unique and innovative game-play experiences made possible by the Wii U GamePad controller.
and good times. The remarkable thing is that Nintendo Land is riotously fun whether you're playing alone, with a partner or with a group. This is a huge achievement, especially since most mini-game collections are basically worthless unless you have friends over. Nine of the 12 attractions can be played all by yourself, six can be played with up to five players, and all of them can be played competitively via the Attraction Tour (which allows you to play a random selection of games for a set amount of time).
The multiplayer-centric attractions all essentially hinge on the idea of one GamePad user interacting with the game in a different way than the other players (all using Wii remotes). This asymmetric gameplay offers a clever way to shakeup the normal multiplayer routine. Combining the ease of using a touch tablet with gyroscope controls and an additional screen feels really fresh, and is something that's simply never been done before. It's also quite impressive how Nintendo Land alters the gameplay of certain attractions depending on how many players are present, ensuring a fun and reasonably fair time for all. Mario Chase, for example, adjusts for two player games by giving the pursuer a couple of Yoshi robots and Monita's assistance to track down their GamePad-wielding friend. This makes what would otherwise be an unfair and probably frustrating experience much more balanced. It's refreshing to see a mini-game collection go to such lengths to ensure the game can be enjoyed no matter the size of the party, and this is definitely one of Land's greatest strengths.
Each attraction shows off the GamePad's potential in a different way, and several are shockingly deep experiences. Metroid Blast, for example, has three modes and dozens of levels where you shoot down enemies and your friends alike, and Pikmin Adventure is a self-contained, cooperative strategy game where you maneuver a team of Pikmin through multiple chapters and several boss fights. The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest has you fighting your way through different areas of Hyrule, with the GamePad user acting as an archer and the Wii remote players wielding motion-controlled swords. All three of these games can be played cooperatively or alone, and have far more depth than you have any right to expect from a mini-game collection.
Those games alone offer hours of content, but they only represent a third of what Nintendo Land has to offer. There are also the "chase" games - Mario Chase, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi's Ghost Mansion - which all essentially have one or more people being chased by one or more other people. They're similar, but subtly different enough to still feel like distinct experiences. Other games, like Yoshi's Fruit Cart, challenge you with reconciling what you see on the GamePad with what's pictured on the television, trying to draw out a course for Yoshi to follow to collect all of his fruit. Donkey Kong's Crash Course uses the Pad's gyro to let you control a fragile cart through a long and winding level. Balloon Trip Breeze has your consulting both the GamePad and the television screen to collect balloons and dodge obstacles for as long as you can. Each uses the GamePad differently, but all are addicting in their own way and offer some insight into what the system and its tablet controller are capable of.
While the look of Nintendo Land is intentionally simple, everything is remarkably crisp thanks to the HD graphics. The world is all smooth edges and shiny finishes, and while graphics don't make much of a difference in a mini-game collection to begin with, having such a sharp and colorful hub world to run around is still much appreciated. The music is also delightful, featuring a mix of new tunes and remixed tracks from the various franchises represented.
Nintendo Land is a brilliant show of what Nintendo's new console and tablet controller are capable of, and has far more depth and content then you'd expect from a mini-game collection. The attractions are ridiculously fun and offer plenty of variety, whether you're flying solo or entertaining a group. Throw in high scores to best, gold trophies to earn, stamp achievements to collect and tons of Plaza decorations to unlock, and what you've got is an experience that must not be missed, and probably the best show of Wii U available at launch.
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Nintendo Land on Wii U
Nintendo Land is the cream of the mini-game crop, with enough depth to keep you partying for the foreseeable future.
Score: 8.7 - Great
+Fun alone or with friends
+Lots of variety and content
+Great introduction to Wii U
- Grandma might not understand.
Looks like I won't be selling or trading in this game just as soon as I thought. Where reviews are concerned it actually exceeded my expectations.
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