Planning a trip to Nintendo’s virtual theme park? Well, enjoyment of your time there will depend a great deal on whether you have access to at least one regular playing partner. If you do, then roll up.
Yet how curious that a game being touted as Wii U’s answer to Wii Sports should devote half of its attractions to solo pursuits. You’ll be more baffled still after playing Captain Falcon’s Twister Race, which serves to warn anyone clamouring for a new F-Zero to be careful what they wish for. It asks players to gaze at an unattractive top-down view on the GamePad, twisting the controller to guide a clockwork Blue Falcon down a winding track. The ride stops every four sections to invisibly recalibrate the controller. We expect that few will continue past the first break.
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, meanwhile, has perhaps the most tenuous link to Nintendo’s past, suggesting the concept came before the set dressing. While the finger-puppet ninjas are as adorable as they are deadly, repeatedly swiping shuriken to throw them from the small screen to a bigger one is a fleeting diversion at best. It’s better, mind, than Octopus Dance, a rhythm-action Simon Says with one neat touch: a live feed of the player’s face floating past the shape-throwing Miis.
In Mario Chase you can replay everyone’s movements on a minimap, complete with slow-motion finish if the pursuers succeed. Shame we don’t get to see the Mario player’s anguished face
The other solo games fare better. Balloon Trip Breeze is a sweet and simple take on the NES game, seeing you huff a lone Mii along and tapping enemies and obstructions away with the stylus. The GamePad only displays your immediate surroundings, though, so you’ll need to keep shifting your attention to the TV to navigate, which could cause neck strain.
That’s a problem less likely to afflict Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, which requires players to draw a path for a wind-up toy to munch plates of food, the twist being that the fruit can’t be seen on the touchscreen. It’s a fine and surprisingly taxing hand-eye challenge, even if it feels like an expanded WarioWare minigame. The same goes for Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, a lengthy obstacle course navigated with tilts of the controller as you rotate sticks, squeeze triggers and even blow into the mic to manipulate platforms. It’s frustrating in all the right ways, but we have a nagging doubt it could have been accomplished on Wii without losing much.
However, Nintendo Land springs gleefully to life with friends. Pikmin Adventure’s cooperative mode is gratifyingly mischievous, as competition for kills, coins and level-boosting nectar hots up. When Olimar whistles for his diminutive charges, Pikmin players are dragged away from their current position, though a brisk shake of the Remote breaks the spell. It’s a basic but substantial offering with plenty of stages to beat, including timed challenges and boss fights.