New Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario 3D World both have multiplayer modes that blend cooperative and competitive mechanics. In the Mario games players race to grab powerups and coins. The multiplayer mode in The Wonderful 101 has a similar foundation.
The Wonderful 101’s multiplayer mode supports up to five players and each person controls a different lead hero. I played as Wonder Blue and started the mission with a band of citizens ready to kick alien butt. Wonder Red and Wonder Yellow (player three) had their own groups of followers. You can turn followers into a weapon like a giant sword by drawing a straight line or a massive gun by making a L shape. Citizens can also transform into a huge fist which is great for combos and a whip if you make a squiggly line.
But, wait the Wii U doesn’t support five gamepads, so how does The Wonderful 101 work with five players? Wonder Red gets the gamepad and the other four players play the game using the Pro Controller. The left analog stick moves Wonder Blue (or whoever you’re controlling) and you use the right analog stick to draw shapes. Drawing a straight line with the right analog stick to make a sword is easy enough. It’s a little trickier to make a squiggly line since sometimes the game registers that as a L shape and you end with a gun.
While you’re making shapes, robots and aliens are running amok around town. All three of us fought at the same time and often in different parts of the map. With three players on one map The Wonderful 101 was more chaotic with other players than flying solo, but the frantic mix of changing weapons and beating up enemies is felt the same. The one main difference is after each mission the game shows everyone’s scores. It’s essentially like Super Mario 3D World which also has players battle to earn more points.
Between missions there are bonus rounds where you can collect more followers. All three of us scrambled to collect citizens by drawing lines over them. I think Wonder Red has an advantage here since you have to draw rainbow lines in one stroke and that’s easier to do with the gamepad compared to the controller. One trick to snap up people with the controller was making small circles with the right analog stick.
The Wonderful 101 comes out on September 15 in North America and August 23 in Europe.