PAX East 2013: A staple at every Penny Arcade Expo, both at Prime and East, is Nintendo’s large booth. As was the case in Seattle last fall, the Wii U was the primary focus. Unfortunately, pretty much every single game made a return appearance in Boston, including the same exact builds. So those who had never played the previous Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101 demos finally got their chance.
Though the reappearance of New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land was especially disappointing (and somewhat pointless), given that both titles have been in stores for months now. Were there any new Wii U games on hand? Yes, a few third party offerings. But Lego City Undercover and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate have already been released and their presence wasn’t quite special. Still, there was one sole “brand new” first party offering, if you could call it that: Game & Wario.
Four mini games were selectable, which many have seen already via various Nintendo Directs. At least it was the first chance for North Americans to put it through its paces. Each starred a character from WarioWare, though Game & Wario hardly qualifies as an entry of that series. Even calling it a spiritual successor is a stretch.
First was Arrow. One launches projectiles via the GamePad at oncoming enemies on the big screen. The GamePad is held in a 90-degree fashion and one must both aim the reticule on the larger display and also apply the right amount of pressure on the touchscreen when it comes to pulling back the arrow and letting go.
Almost immediately there were calibration issues, though it was quickly rectified. Still, aiming was quite tricky. Perhaps it can be nailed down with practice. At least if any enemies get too close, there’s a second chance; they appear on the GamePad screen and can be squashed with a simple tap. At any rate, Arrow is what it is; it’s serviceable game, but not exactly what one might call compelling. Or even fun.
Next was Ski. This time you helm Jimmy T (Wario was the star of the last activity, but he was never onscreen so he hardly counts). Instead of directly manipulating Jimmy, you instead tilt the GamePad, as he goes down the ski slope. When he hits a ramp you can also tap him, as to initiate a jump. Much like Arrow, Ski is nothing more than a tech demo.
On the positive side, Jimmy’s actions are highlighted on the big screen via dramatic camera angles that are cool, so if you’re playing with friends, they’ll have something neat to look at. But that’s about it.
Shutter was the third game, and stars WarioWare staple Mona. This time she plays the role of private investigator that must take pictures of suspicious individuals. The player is presented with a scene that primarily consists of three buildings that has occupants standing near windows, plus various folks are also milling about on the street, sometimes driving around in cars. The GamePad acts as the camera’s viewfinder and as such must be held in a similar fashion.
The tricky part is how the field of vision is zoomed in considerably. Add in the fact that everyone looks vaguely similar and you have quite the challenging activity. Though what makes it especially frustrating is how calibration issues also reared its head very early on. Again, this can be fixed in the heat of the moment, thankfully.
One must also be mindful of taking the best shot possible, which means the subject must fill the frame, but not too much so, but also be at the right angle. As with before, Shutter is a tech demo, but one that is not all that fun to play.
Lastly there was Fruit, the only multiplayer activity of the bunch. The primary player assumes the role of Penny, who must watch another busy scene, filled with characters engaged in hustle and bustle. The other players choose one of these similar looking denizens, and must try to steal one of several onscreen objects while going undetected.
Obviously, the person controlling Penny must keep all eyes open, to see who is stealing what. Aside from the fact that everyone looks almost exactly the same, there are other distractions, like vehicles and smoke. To aide the primary character, there is an indicator letting him or her know that another player is close to an object, but that’s about it.
Afterward, Penny must choose which character in the line-up is a thief. At the risk or repeating one’s self, all that can be said is that it works. Nothing more, nothing less.
… Sadly, those expecting another WarioWare type game is going to be seriously disappointed. Truth be told, much of the gameplay here resembles activities found in the original titles. But instead of just a few seconds, they’re presented for minutes at a time. Which is enough to become thoroughly bored. As a result, you get a bunch of mini games that serve as tech demos.
…which would have been fine if Game & Wario had been released at launched. And while no release date has been given, the later it materializes, the staler the whole thing feels. Though it’s too early to make a final assessment. Who knows, some of the other mini games might be super compelling and charming. But the four presented thus far contain neither of those qualities.