GAME NAME: Nintendo Land
PLATFORM(S): Wii U
RELEASE DATE(S): 30 November 2012
Mention the words ‘theme park’ and the first thing that comes to mind are bright, vivid colours, blue skies and so many events to attend that you can’t quite figure out where you should start. This is exactly what happens when your Wii U sucks up the Nintendo Land disc.
Nintendo Land is in essence a tech demo for the Wii U – like Wii Sports was for the Wii. It goes about showcasing the unique features of what the new controller can do by introducing you to a theme park with 12 mini-games based mostly off popular Nintendo franchises. It’s colourful, it’s cute and it’s a little better than hardcore gamers might imagine.
Once you’ve selected your Mii you’re dropped into an empty theme park plaza where you’re met by a floating monitor-like guide (Monita) that explains everything from top to bottom in typical Nintendo fashion. To keep with the Nintendo regularities Monita has the most bothersome voice of any guide in the history of gaming. Should you make it past her annoyances it’s on to the meat of the game. Like a theme park some rides are worth the entrance fee while others are nothing more than a stop-gap while you wait for the good ones. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Mario Chase, Metroid Blast and Animal Crossing Sweet Day are all loads of fun but at the expense of requiring at least three other players to make the experience worthwhile. Should you have enough friends these are easily the best games in this bag of tricks.
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion has the player with the tablet playing as a ghost and the remaining participants using a Wii Remote to move their Mii’s. Your aim as the ghost is to catch the other players without them shining their torch lights on you. The players watching the TV can’t see where the ghost is but the person with the tablet controller, playing as the ghost, gets to see everything. Mario Chase follows a similar pattern but the person controlling their Mii with the tablet controller is now running away from the other players. A meter gauge shows the other players what distance they are from the competitor and it is honestly a huge amount of fun trying to catch him or her. Drop your friends and attempt it in alone and it’s nothing more than a 2-minute tech demo.
There are of course games suited to those of us without the benefits of friends. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course will see you manoeuvering a roller-car thingy through an obstacle course. It’s as hard as nails but nothing quite beats the satisfaction once you beat a stage using the gyroscope to move left or right, blowing on the mic to raise platforms, circling the analogue stick to manually rotate something or using the L and R buttons to angle platforms. It’s probably the game that will keep you entertained for the longest stretch. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle has you holding the tablet controller vertically and literally swiping in an upwards motion (towards your television) shooting ninja stars at brightly-dressed ninjas.
There is loads of fun to be had, but there are also pointless games that can best be compared to a $1 iOS time-waster. Balloon Trip Breeze, Octopus Dance, Captain Falcon’s Twister Race and The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest all lack impact. It’s great to test the hardware, but don’t expect to be swallowed up by hours of entertainment.
For each game you play you are rewarded with coins that can be spent at the Tower central area on another minigame or to unlock new songs to listen to while browsing the plaza or buttons that, when tapped on the screen of the tablet controller, change the time of day. It’s all very gimmicky. Nintendo Land’s biggest flaw however is the fact that everything has been designed for the living room and only for the living room. There is no online functionality outside of uploading your comments to MiiVerse. It’s much easier to find your friends online than in your living room and for a device (tablet controller) that’s focused on one individual this makes absolutely no sense in 2013.
Nintendo Land does a fantastic job in showing off the new hardware and now makes a bit more sense after the initial confusing showing at E3. Instead it shows off the hardware functionality and succeeds. Should you purchase this with New Super Mario Bros. U and ZombiU on the shelves? Most likely not, but then you have made the wrong move in not buying the Premium Wii U (that comes bundled with Nintendo Land) in the first place.