If Nintendo Land is intended to be the Wii U’s equivalent of Wii Sports, the acid test is surely a post-Christmas dinner session with the family. Five players, four remotes, a few too many sherries: had Nintendo recreated such a setup for review sessions, one senses the game’s Metacritic rating would be a good bit higher.
The biggest initial successes and failures of this festive experiment aren’t too surprising: half a dozen games of Mario Chase pass by in an instant, soundtracked by constant shouts, shrieks and peals of laughter. It’s noticeably different from the three-player mode I’m more accustomed to, a larger arena offering more places to hide, even though routes are more easily blocked with four human pursuers. The only complaints concern the GamePad’s camera, whose fisheyed perspective of its holder is unflatteringly displayed throughout. It’s quickly turned off, and little is lost.
If anything, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is an even bigger hit, though it’s here that the fights over who gets the GamePad begin. It’s almost a little too much fun to be the ghost, after all, and it’s not until a few games in that we happen across a solution (more on that shortly). Animal Crossing Sweet Day suffers the opposite problem: no one wants to be the guards. The twin-stick controls prove off-putting to most, with only two of our group managing to coordinate the pincer movements required to capture the candy-gobbling animals. Again, however, it’s heartening to see Nintendo subtly tweak the game to account for a higher number of players, even if four seems to be the sweet spot for most games.
Metroid Blast is an immediate casualty of the increased player count, however, its control setup requiring us to search in vain for additional nunchuks. A three-player game is the best we can manage, and while everyone fancies a shot at guiding Samus’s gunship, no one returns for another shot. A quite hilariously inept deathmatch follows, the spoils going to the one regular gamer in the group. “Intense and daring” it may be, but this isn’t going to encourage your mum to invest in Wii U. Zelda: Battle Quest fares rather better, though the first few games end in failure, our archer ending up so far behind the action that we begin to wonder if he’s taken a wrong turning in the Lost Forest. It’s a pity it doesn’t allow for a fifth player, too, though we’d have been a RemotePlus shy of a full set anyway. It’s here you begin to see one of Nintendo’s biggest problems with Wii U – does it demand the extra fidelity of the improved remotes, or offer access to the vanilla, less precise version? That arguably Wii U’s most important launch game can’t make its mind up is a problem.
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