By Spencer . November 17, 2012 . 3:05am
Love it or hate it, Wii Sports is intuitive. It’s easy to grasp the idea of motion controlled gaming when you swing a remote like a tennis racket. Nintendo Land isn’t designed to be as direct. It feels like Nintendo made this game so players understand what the Wii U GamePad can do.
Monita, a talking robot guide, explains how to play the twelve mini-games and she loves to give instructions. The first thing Monita tells players to do (and the first Wii U demo) is to move the GamePad around. The TV screen only shows part of the theme park. Moving the Wii U gamepad or rotating the analog sticks lets you see all of the attractions.
Attractions are split into three types: team, solo, and competitive. All of the competitive attractions are chase games where the player with the Wii U GamePad plays against the other four people with Wii remotes. Mario Chase takes place in a maze and the player with the GamePad has to escape being tagged by the other four players. The Wii U GamePad lets the runner see the entire map including where everyone else is while the other players have to share the TV. One interesting idea is the camera on the GamePad shows that player’s face on screen, so try to look calm even if other players are closing in on Mii Mario or you’ll give away your hiding spot.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is pretty similar except the player with the Wii U GamePad acts as the catcher with Copper and Booker mapped to the analog sticks. The other players, dressed in animal costumes, run around collecting candy. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is more of the same, but this time the GamePad player is a ghost. The other four players tiptoe on an overhead map and use flashlights to find you.
When you don’t have friends over you can play the solo attractions like Balloon Trip Breeze, which is a surprisingly deep. This game is a remake of Balloon Trip mode from Balloon Fight with Miis and a patchwork art style. Sliding the stylus on the touch screen makes gusts of wind. While you’re flying around there are balloons to catch and bird-like enemies to dodge. Snag all of the balloons in a set and you’ll start a score multiplier. It’s simple and pretty amusing. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is an on-rails shooter where you throw shuriken by swiping your hand over the touch screen. The game keeps track of your swiping speed so a fast swipe sends a shuriken flying straight forward, but shuriken arc downwards if you do a slow swipe. As a fan of light gun games, I dug Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, but repeatedly swiping makes it tiring to play.
Octopus Dance is a rhythm game where you use the left and right analog sticks to copy dance moves. The game switches between showing the actions on the TV and the gamepad. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course is a tilt controlled game where you rotate the gamepad to move a kart through an obstacle course. Captain Falcon’s Twister Race is quite similar except you hold the gamepad vertically, as if you were pointing it towards the screen like a remote. You need to look up at the TV when your car enters a tunnel, which is kind of distracting. Yoshi’s Fruit Cart has players draw a path for Yoshi to gobble up fruit and reach an exit, but you can only see fruit on the TV.
The best mini-games in Nintendo Land are the team attractions. Metroid Blast is a shooting game where you blast enemies as "Samiius" or a gunship if you’re using the Wii U GamePad. Players using remotes point at the screen while the player with a GamePad moves it around to aim at Space Pirates. Metroid Blast is split into missions and some of those are boss battles. Pikmin Adventure is essentially a five player beat ‘em up. Four Pikmiis bash Bulbmin with the leaves on their heads while Captain Olimar tosses Pikmin using the gamepad. Olimar can use his whistle to call player controlled Pikmiis and toss them. For hilarious results, try calling Pikmiis when everyone is scrambling to collect nectar.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is like Dragon Quest Swords meets Wii Sports. One player controls an archer with the Wii U GamePad and the other four players have Wii remote controlled swords. This attraction takes players through the Lost Woods, Goron Mines, and other Zelda locales. Gameplay is entirely on-rails. Players armed with a sword swing their blade at Moblins and block fire fire arrows by pressing B. Just like Skyward Sword you can charge up for a spin attack by pointing the remote towards the ceiling. All players share a heart meter, which can make The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest quite difficult to complete in multiplayer, but man is it fun. To balance out the difficulty level, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest drops a skull wherever your character died. Shoot this and you’ll earn a heart. Metroid Blast, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, and Pikmin Adventure can be played solo too.
Collecting trophies is Nintendo’s hook to keep players coming back. After every mini-game you earn a few coins that can be spent playing a pachinko-like game. Drop coins through all of the holes and you win a Nintendo Land decoration. Miis also have stamp cards that mark achievements like earning a 1,000 rupees. Wii U doesn’t have an overarching achievement system so stamps from Nintendo Land are tied to the game. While there is a sizable amount of single player content for a party game, Nintendo Land is best with a group of friends and a stockpile of Wii remotes.
Nintendo Land is a showcase of what the second screen can do wrapped with classic Nintendo franchises. Yes, this is another mini-game collection, but it skews towards core gamers more than Wii Sports. Whether you’re sold on Wii U or not, Nintendo Land is the game you want to try since it’s a proof of concept and a look at what kinds of novel Wii U only games we’ll see in the future.