To all the gamers now lose interest in the words “mini-game compilation” after years of poor quick-buck efforts on the Wii, I’d advise you to give Nintendo Land a chance. Wii Sports stunned players across the globe as they picked up the Wii Remote for the first time, and experienced a revolutionary new spin on gameplay that had never been exposed to them before.
While that time has now passed and the Wii U won’t make quite the same impact on the public, Nintendo Land succeeds perfectly in its objective: to show users all the ways in which the GamePad can be used. And have a some fun while doing so.
Platform: Wii U
Release: November 18, 2012
There are 12 mini-games on offer, or “attractions” as they are named in-game: six are single player only, three are 1-5 player co-op and the final three are versus only. The park is your central hub, with gateways to all attractions surrounding it. Miiverse is integrated in an interesting way, with other online Miis walking around with messages and drawings above their head – a nice little distraction as you wander around. Your host is Monita, a robot who is not only dull but rather annoying. It’s clear that Nintendo aimed to create a robotic voice with a dry sense of narcissism like GlaDOS, but the end result sounds very odd, irritating and makes her rather unlikable.
The game is definitely built with multiplayer in mind. This isn’t to say half of the game is redundant though, as the “Attraction Tour” is a mode wherein players take it in turns at besting each other’s score. While there are indeed six solo attractions, most of these are pretty forgettable and you may not even feel compelled to revisit them after the first time. Octopus Dance is a very dull game of “Simon Says” with some rhythm elements. Despite its simplicity, it can be confusing to play as it reverses the analogue sticks assigned to move the left and right arms. Captain Falcon’s Twister Race is a time trial of an average top-down racer on the GamePad screen, controlled by tilting the controller. Yoshi’s Fruit Cart has you guiding Yoshi by drawing lines using the stylus – it’s okay, but really isn’t anything that the DS or mobile devices couldn’t have done.
Balloon Trip Breeze is pretty fun albeit simple, tasking you with guiding your balloon flyer to collect balloons by swiping the GamePad to control the wind direction. Takamura’s Castle, the least recognisable franchise of the 12 is ironically one of the most enjoyable. It is essentially a lightgun shooter, controlled by holding the GamePad vertically and swiping Ninja stars at the screen. By far the greatest single-player game on offer though is Donkey Kong’s Crash Course. This is very challenging but addictive, utilising the GamePad in a variety of ways. Primarily, you tilt the GamePad left and right to move your cart, but you must also the L and R buttons to activate switches and platforms and blow into the microphone to revolve fans to lift platforms.
The team attractions have perhaps the most depth out of all the mini-games, hosting a generous amount of various levels each. Again, these are best experienced playing with friends, but there’s still joy to be had from them as a solo effort. Players work together with the GamePad and Wii Remotes, with both controls offering different styles of play. Zelda Battle Quest has an archer on the GamePad, and sword wielder on the Remote; Pikmin Adventure has one the GamePad player as Olimar controlling a group of Pikmin with others as individual but stronger Pikmin; and Metroid Blast sees the GamePad user in Samus’ spaceship and Remote user running around in the Power Suit. All encourage teamwork satisfyingly, the different play styles are fun to exchange and there is a decent sense of challenge as you progress.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is definitely one of the best mini-games in the package. The GamePad holder simultaneously controls both police dogs from AC, Copper and Booker, with both analogue sticks used to move each one. The Wii Remote user controls the villager, tasked with stealing as many sweets as possible (from the ground or from trees) and drop them in plates dotted around the map. For a mini-game based on one of the most relaxing games around, this mini-game is wonderfully frantic. There is subtle strategy at play, where the thief can hold multiple sweets at once but the more you carry the slower you run, and using two chasers simultaneously means you can corner your opponent if you play it smart.
Mario Chase is pretty similar in concept, but is basically just a simple game of tag. Oddly, there is no nunchuk support here, and therefore no buttons to control the camera, which can be problematic in this mini-game at times. The final versus mini-game is definitely another highlight though: Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. With the GamePad player as the ghost and the Remote player as Luigi, this plays out almost like a game of Pac-Man, except both players hunt each other rather than it being a one-sided affair.
The Animal Crossing and Luigi’s Mansion mini-games introduce amazing potential for multiplayer with the use of separate screens, that I hope that developers will strive to explore in future titles. The fact that, unlike in a normal split-screen game, one player can’t see the other player’s GamePad screen, makes it difficult to anticipate where and when their opponent will attack, creating fantastic tension and inviting strategic logic.
In terms of visuals, the game is absolutely beautiful. Finally seeing Nintendo’s vibrant worlds finally shine in HD does not disappoint, with bold colours and an adorable visual style of materials such as cloth, stitches and cardboard. The soundtrack consists of remade orchestrations of Nintendo’s most iconic themes which, if you’re a fan, I don’t need to tell you how good they sound. The game provides a lot more replayability than you might expect too, with stamps to earn (accomplishments in the same vein as Xbox’s Achievement system) and prizes.
Prizes are earned from a 13th mini-game, that takes place in the centre of the park on the tower. Using the coins earned from playing each mini-game, you drop them in a Pachinko-style arcade game. As you complete a stage, you unlock a prize. These prizes are statues and interactive doodads displayed throughout your park of various Nintendo characters and items. I still have many to unlock and there’s no telling how many there could be in total, and it nicely populates your initially empty park as you progress.
Nintendo Land may not have the staying power for the lone gamer, but it is an extremely fun introduction to the console and a riot in multiplayer. If you opted for the basic Wii U model, the game is well worth a purchase, or if you’re on the fence about buying the system, it is a solid launch game that will assist you in learning what the console is capable of. While it’s inevitable that we’ll see an onslaught of feeble clones, here’s hoping that there’ll be more mini-game bundles as innovative as this one.