Game: Nintendo Land
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Available on: Nintendo Wii U only
Talk about pressure, Nintendo Land knows pressure. The last pack-in game on a Nintendo system was Wii Sports, a title which, for many, stayed in their Wii consoles for an extended period of time, becoming the go to game for casual gamers the world over. But Nintendo Land isn’t trying to showcase brand new motion controls, the likes of which we’ve never seen before, instead it has been tasked with re-introducing gamers to local multiplayer, but this time with multi-screen ideas and, for the most part, it’s a rip roaring success.
It’ll feel like an exaggeration, but in a family environment, I haven’t laughed this much playing a game in years. In years. The concept is that your Mii walks around a circular environment, with 12 park attractions that you can enter, then play. Ranging from single player experiences, to team or competitive ones, there’s variety, but also repetition of ideas. Every game is based on a popular Nintendo franchise, but the mechanics of each one are what will have you coming back, not the aesthetic familiarity, though it must be said, Nintendo Land is absolutely stunning. You just don’t get this kind of colourful world outside of Nintendo, not to this degree anyway. It’s may be sickly saccharine to some, but if you grew up on a diet of Nintendo, this is the only park you ever wanted to visit.
However, back to the aforementioned hilarity, which happened during Mario Chase, a 2-5 player experience which tasks the Gamepad user (Mario) with running away from the Wii Remote users (up to four Toads) for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The escapee gets a 10 second head start to run away into the maze that is made up for four coloured quartets, so as to aid the Toad players with team work, because if they locate you they can shout “Red”, and before you know it, four Toads are baring down on you. But the kicker is that what the Toad players see on screen is completely different to what the Mario player sees on the Gamepad. Mario can see his avatar, but also a map, showing every other player, whilst Toad players are split-screen on the TV, only able to see themselves and their peripheries, but also a picture of the Mario player, as the camera on the Gamepad is capturing their lunatic, grinning face. It works so well, and seeing four toads hit the tackle button (2 on the Wii Remote) and all miss, well, it’s impossible not to laugh, but you laugh together, as a group. It’s absolutely brilliant.
But it’s not exclusive to Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion channels a very similar gameplay mechanic, with the Gamepad player once again able to see everything. Playing as the ghost, the Gamepad player has to scare the other players, who are tasked with catching and killing the ghost, by shining their torchlight onto the ghost. As the ghost nears the players, their Wii remotes will rumble stronger, before they either find the ghost, or the ghost scares the pants out of the players who have just been ghost-napped. Again, it’s just outrageously fun hi-jinks for a group to enjoy.
Pikmin Adventure is another fun group experience, with one player using the Gamepad more like a DS and controlling the action with the touch screen, able to collect the other players (the Pikmin) together by holding a trigger button. You work together to take down enemies, bosses and generally charge around like mad, before finishing the level and moving on to the next.
It’s not all good though, because some games require Wii Remotes to have the Motion+ accessory. Not that the Motion+ accessory – or Wii Remote Plus – is in itself, a problem, but the fact that a large percentage of people just won’t own the devices. If you don’t own them, you can’t play multiplayer in The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, which is a shame, and it’s not cheap to go and buy four Wii Remote+ controllers.
Outside of the park attractions you can also jump on top of the central Nintendo Land tower and play a game that strongly resembles Pachinko. As you win games in the park attractions, you collect coins, which you can drop into the Pachinko-like machine. As you complete each level, you’ll get a present, which is fired out into the Nintendo Land arena. These prizes are pieces of Nintendo history, like the berries that Yoshi eats, it’s all rather lovely and designed to mainline into the veins of Nintendo fans; and it works.
Nobody will deny that Nintendo Land is a mini-game compilation, but rather than one of those shovelware games, this is mini-games done Nintendo style, which is to say, it’s fantastic. Whether you’re drawing lines for Yoshi to travel along in Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, or copying on-screen commands in Octopus Dance, there’s something here for absolutely everyone.
However, it’s slightly odd that 6 of the 12 attractions are single player, but by using the tour train you can still play those in turn based multiplayer. The tour train allows you to select an amount of time to play for, then you’ll select games to go through with your friends, with each round awarding points to the winner, before the final round offers up a triple-points award.
Surprisingly though, despite the initial impression that Nintendo Land wouldn’t hold the attention for long, it actually grabbed me more than Wii Sports ever did. The fact you have real feedback through rumble and the actual buttons you press, means that the more hardcore gamers will find more entertainment here than they ever did with Wii Sports. But casual gamers aren’t left out either, because there is such variety that whilst some may find buttons off-putting, attractions like Mario Chase are as simple as a D-Pad and one button; who can’t play that?
VERDICT: It’s a no-brainer that you’ll be picking up Nintendo Land, as it’s a pack-in with the premium model that most people will be buying, but to those that decide to pick up the ZombiU pack, don’t discount just how much fun this simple, colourful title is. The Motion+ requirement may turn some people away, but there are plenty of different attractions that don’t require that accessory, that are just as fun.
It may not be a game you are still playing in 12 months time, but you’ll get hours of fun out of Nintendo Land, it’s absolutely chock-full of content. Oh, and that theme tune is absolutely incredible.