Stewart: Nintendo Land manages to rise above tech demo status


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Nintendo Land
Platform: Wii U
Developed by Nintendo
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E10+

When the Nintendo Wii was released in 2006, every new console came with a copy of Wii Sports, a collection of mini games that was meant to show what motion controls could do. It was a big hit, and it is still one of the defining games of that console.

For the release of its new system, the Wii U, Nintendo has concocted Nintendo Land*, another great pack-in meant to show off its new controller’s bells and whistles. But unlike Wii Sports, Nintendo Land manages to rise above tech-demo status and stands out as one of the best games in the Wii U launch lineup.

When you boot up Nintendo Land, you are introduced to the game theme park and its 12 attractions, all of which are based on such Nintendo franchises as Zelda and Metroid. These attractions are split into three different types: solo, competitive, and cooperative.

Of the 12, six are solo, meaning there is plenty to do if you are playing alone. These range from a racing game based on F-Zero in which you use the GamePad as a steering wheel to a Donkey Kong obstacle course that uses tilt controls.

Many of these are great games, using the second screen in some interesting ways. The unique one of the six is Yoshi Fruit Cart. You are shown the location of some fruit on your big screen, and have to draw a path between it on the GamePad screen. The problem is the fruit doesn’t appear on the small screen, forcing you to use small visual hints to collect the various fruits correctly.

The solo games also contain the worst attraction, Octopus Dance, an analog-controlled dance mini-game that hardly uses the unique controller.

The three cooperative games, based on Zelda, Metroid, and Pikmin, all feel like small-bite versions of their respective games. Each game consists of a series of gradually more difficult levels, all of which require you to defeat all enemies to complete. The GamePad player controls the main character, and extra players with Wii remotes can support them as minor character.

For example, in Pikmin Adventure, the GamePad user controls Captain Olimar, and Wii remote users are the Pikmin. These three attractions are the ones I grew tired of most quickly because of their repetitive nature. All of these games can also be played solo, but I recommend group play to get the most out of your time.

The other nine attractions are all over the place in terms of quality, but the three competitive attractions are the gems of Nintendo Land, single-handedly proving to me that the GamePad is a worthwhile idea. Mario Chase is basic hide-and-seek. The hider uses the GamePad and has a full map that shows the locations of the seekers. The seekers all share the main screen and have limited views.

The other two games take this idea and tweak it to create a new experience. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion plays exactly the same way, except the GamePad user (controlling a ghost) must sneak up on his pursuers while simultaneously avoiding capture. This two-way game of hide-and-seek offers the deepest play of any of the attractions.

The final game, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, changes things up and makes the seeker use the GamePad to control two guards who are attempting to stop the Wii remote players from collecting candies. I could spend, and have spent, hours playing only these three games, and my interest in them hasn’t waned.

Your rewards for playing these games are coins, which can be used in a pachinko-style game that earns you decorations for your theme park. Each attraction has stamps for you to collect that require you to do specific tasks to win a large number of coins.

As one of the first Nintendo developed games in HD, Nintendo Land looks great. It has a very colorful, very detailed cartoon-art style that is reminiscent of Mario Galaxy. The game also has amazing music, featuring classic music from all 12 represented franchises, as well as some new tracks, including the amazing Nintendo Land theme.

Wii Sports was a great game to help new players understand what the Wii was all about. Nintendo Land does that for the Wii U, but it is also much more. It is a great game that uses the GamePad in unique ways, and it is also something I can see myself playing years into this console’s lifespan. If you are a Wii U owner, you need to have this game.

*Nintendo Land is only packed in with Wii U Deluxe Sets

Review Score: 8.75/10

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