Last weekend, the doors of Earl’s Court were opened to a horde of hungry gamers as it played host to Eurogamer Expo. We attended the event and while the R4 3ds presence appeared to be non-existent, Nintendo did bring out the big guns in the form of the portable’s big brother; the Wii U. Naturally, we headed in its direction immediately to get our mitts on the shiny new toy.
The obvious question is “how’s the gamepad?” Fortunately we can report that it’s a real nice bit of kit; while the released pictures make it look a bit flimsy, that thing is real sturdy. The gamepad somehow manages to be extremely comfortable to hold while also feeling like it could take a few knocks. Nintendo have earned a +1 to ergonomics. The screen is also great; it’s really bright and the colours look great, and it was putting out some surprisingly impressive visuals. There are big television sets that can’t put out a picture as good.
Speaking of television sets, the Wii U was putting some nice visuals up on there too: It’s definitely a step up from an XBox 360 or a PS3, but if you’re used to playing on mid-range or higher PCs then you probably won’t be too impressed. The fact that it’s putting out some pretty good visuals on two screens however shows just how powerful the Wii U is.
You probably don’t care about the technical stuff though; what you’re really interested in is the games. We managed to get out hands on the Luigi’s Ghost Mansion segment of NintendoLand, The Wonderful 101, and Pikmin 3.
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion
If Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is any indicator, NintendoLand is going to be a ton of fun. If you haven’t seen any coverage of it yet, here is the basic premise; there are five players, one of which is armed with the GamePad while the other four carry a Wii Remote each. The goal of the GamePad player is to navigate an invisible ghost through the mansion and take out the other players, all of whom are armed with torches to both fight off the ghost and revive their fallen comrades.
While it’s fun to play as part of the torch-bearing team, it’s way more exciting to creep around as the ghost hunting down the group. The game does a good job of making the ghost feel powerful with the advantage of invisibility, though you do become visible if you dash or are hit by a torch. Over on the other side, teamwork is definitely a big part of the game and coming together to outwit your foe is definitely something of a rush. Being the one to track down your foe may also illicit a somewhat smug grin from… some people…
only € 34,99
The Wonderful 101
The Wonderful 101 is a game based around forming a squad of superheroes who join together (often literally) to punch monsters in the face. The game was a little disappointing as the controls are definitely in need of some tuning; most of the time it didn’t really feel like the GamePad was having much effect on what the large swarm of heroes was doing. The combat in the game also seemed incredibly simple; you just hammer the attack button until you build up enough meter and then unleash your special attacks. It’s also really hard to tell which direction a swarm is facing, resulting in a few punches to the right veering wildly off to the left.
In one segment of the demo, the lead character walks into a building. That’s pretty standard, but the game veers off in two directions here; on the television set, you’re treated to an exterior view of the building where four numbers are displayed and can be altered. Meanwhile on the GamePad screen, the lead character was walking around inside and found a combination of four numbers! After matching the exterior set with the interior, the door was opened and the heroes were able to continue their journey. This was a surprisingly great use of the GamePad, one which will hopefully lead to some great gameplay moments.
Pikmin 3 was probably the most impressive Wii U game we were able to play. If you haven’t played a previous game, they are centred around an astronaut who commands are large group of the small vegetable people, the Pikmin. The demo was a pretty simple level in which the astronaut (who appeared to be someone other than Olimar) used his Pikmin to collect fruit and wildlife and send them back to the spaceship. A pretty familiar set up, but this time there is some new additions; The most important of which is the Wii Remote.
The Wii Remote has been used poorly a lot in games like this, but here it feels intuitive. Movement of the astronaut is obviously controlled via the analogue stick on the nunchuck while you aim with the actual remote, using it to throw or call Pikmin. Pointing at the large monsters that roam the level and then smashing them in the face with your friendly Pikmin is a ton of fun. There is also the addition of the Rock Pikmin, used for smashing walls and hitting harder enemies, but this third entry into the series is mostly just more of the same great gameplay from the rest of the series.