Nintendo Land
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-12-29 Wii U Mini-games E10 (Everyone 10+) Nintendo

The Wii U was our videogaming highlight of this year's Christmas. While it took a while to figure out the Wi-Fi setup, I was playing Nintendo Land a few hours later and didn't want to stop.

Nintendo Land serves mainly as a showcase of what the Wii U is all about, disguised as an amusement park in which you find a variety of games, some of which you can play alone and others with up to five players (one using the GamePad, four others with Wii-Mote and Nunchuks). All 12 mini-games are based on Nintendo's popular franchises, such as Donkey Kong, Metroid, Pikmin, among others, and as any mini-game compilation, they range from just "...meh." to "I can't stop playing this!".

If you have no one to play with, there is plenty to do as far as the single-player attractions go. I began by jumping right into the rhythm game, Octopus Dance. You play by using the analog sticks as your arms and mimic the diver's movements. It's easier if you're seeing the characters from the back, but sometimes your instructor will smack your Mii around and they will face you instead. When this happens, the characters will face you and the views on the TV and the GamePad switch. The dance progressively becomes faster and more complex. I wasn't keen on how my face was floating around in a submarine on the screen, it was incredibly distracting. But then again, I look awfully pale and sickly, so who in their right mind would want to look at that anyway? Big ghostly face on screen definitely draws the eye...

Moving on, I was attracted by the cuteness of Yoshi's Fruit Cart. In it, you ride Yoshi from start to finish by collecting all the fruit in the stage. You can see the position of the fruit on the TV screen, but not on the GamePad. You then use the stylus to draw an effective course that will let you eat all the fruit and reach the exit without using up all the fuel. Basically, we must use the background as reference point. It's a cool game that offers plenty of obstacles to keep things interesting, and it's definitely not as easy as it looks!

I tried Donkey Kong's Crash Course, but wasn't too keen on it. The stages are obstacle courses reminiscent of the original Donkey Kong game, and you must tilt the GamePad to navigate left and right, and use the analogs to activate platforms and elevators. I found it more frustrating than fun.

Also frustrating was Balloon Trip Breeze, which was incredibly difficult to control. Your Mii floats around strapped to balloons, and you control the trajectory by swiping the stylus on the GamePad, which creates a gust of wind that will transport your Mii through the sky. As if the touchy "gust of wind" control wasn't enough, there are obstacles to make your life miserable as you go, be it mines or giant creatures coming out of the water.

After those not-so-great experiences, I found Takamaru's Ninja Castle to be just what I needed for some fun. This is a on-tracks shooter where you use the GamePad's touchscreen to throw shurikens at waves of enemy ninjas. You can aim with the controller while you swipe your finger on the screen, and you must hold it upright to reload. It's a lot of fun, colorful and the googly-eyed ninjas are cute, but deadly.

I kept coming back to Captain Falcon's Twister Race even though I suck at it. While you can see your course from a third-person behind the vehicle point of view, you get a birdseye view on the GamePad, which you hold vertically and use to steer around the obstacles. The gyroscope is pretty good at registering the movements.

The competitive games involve a four against one type of gameplay. Mario Chase has one player as Mario on the GamePad and four others as Toad using Wii Remotes to hunt him down around Mushroom Kingdom. In Animal Crossing: Sweet Day four players collect as much candy as they can before being caught by the guards, which are controlled by the player using the GamePad. The more candy you gather, the slower you become. Luigi's Ghost Mansion puts up to five players in a maze, one playing as a ghost on the GamePad and the others trying to find him with their flashlights.

The team-based games rely on cooperation. The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest places three players as swordsmen using Wii-motes and one as an archer on the GamePad. Metroid Blast (which is based on the Battle Mii demo we played at E3 2011) places up to four players on foot with Wii-motes and Nunchuks, and one player on Samus' gunship using the GamePad. There are three game modes: Assault Mission (co-op against waves of enemies), Surface-Air Combat (ground players versus gunship player) and Ground Battle (everyone competes for tokens). Pikmin Adventure places one player as Olimar on the GamePad, and others as Pikmin using Wii-motes. I went through the entire adventure solo, though. Well, if you don't count the army of A.I. Pikmin, of course!

Participating in all the mini-games rewards you with coins, which you can then use to redeem for prizes. At the center of your park is the Central Tower. Clicking on the monitor lets you access a Pachinko mini-game, where you drop the coins to hit certain areas. Once all areas have been hit, you win a prize. Prizes become decorations and interactive objects in your park. The Central Tower is also a way to quickly access all the games without having to run to the respective attraction gate.

Your plaza will also be bursting with activity once you have activated the Miiverse. Miis from all over the world can be seen walking around, and you can read their messages, comment on them or post your own.

Overall, this is an interesting collection of mini-games. The different games and gameplay modes are used to show off the capabilities and versatility of the Wii U in ways that can entertain pretty much everyone, regardless of their skill with videogames. I honestly didn't expect much from it, and ended up pleasantly surprised.