We all already know Nintendo Land is essentially what Wii Sports was to the Wii: A showcase of just what the Wii U's new controller can do, how we're expected to interact with it and why we'll want to. Based on our earlier impressions at E3, it does that best in tandem with the Wii Remotes, and the same stands after Nintendo's special Wii U event in New York.
After some time with three new Nintendo Land games, this whole "asymmetric gameplay" kick that the company is on is more than a marketing term--it's a major selling point for the console. Exciting cooperative/competitive romps like third-person shooter Metroid Blast and the glorified (and glorious) game of tag that is Mario Chase further prove that.
However, single-player touch-and-tap fests like Balloon Trip Breeze don't do much to blow players away. Nintendo dubs games like this in the Nintendo Land suite as "simple but fun and engaging play," but they lack the cleverness that $.99 iOS games, like Tiny Wings, employ so well. For instance, there's little reason that Balloon Trip Breeze couldn't be controlled without a joystick and button. Instead, players are forced to swipe on the touchscreen of the GamePad while focusing on their TV.
You can probably guess by now that Balloon Trip Breeze isn't a far cry from the original on the NES. Players swipe at the touch screen to create breezes of air that direct where there balloon pilot goes, navigating it safely through obstacles to the finish line. Frankly, it feels like a forced level of hand-eye coordination for the sake of using the touchscreen on the GamePad.
During our play session with Balloon Trip Breeze, we were told to destroy the red spikes by looking down at the touchscreen and tapping them. However, the view on the touchscreen is zoomed in, which makes looking back and forth between the two to control the pilot and eliminate spikes terribly disorienting.
Returning to what makes Nintendo Land work, Metroid Blast is, well, a blast. Designed for three players (or up to five in cooperative mode), the folks with the Wii Remotes can either gang up on the GamePad-toting ship pilot in a competitive two-on-one death-match mode or team up to take down waves of alien monsters. Both modes call for both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and allow those players (donned in space suit armor just like the series' protagonist, Samus) to zip around levels using a grappling beam.
Even in the hustle and bustle of preview event, players (myself included) were coordinating attacks and communicating to take down the enemy ship or opposing aliens. What's most striking about mini games like Metroid Blast is how they take "hardcore" play concepts--like running, aiming and shooting simultaneously--and distill them into an experience that even the most casual game fan might appreciate.
Games like Mario Chase, a four-on-one game of tag, show the Wii U's brightest colors. When four strangers find fun in cooperating to catch a Mii in a Mario suit controlled by the advantageous GamePad, you know Nintendo is onto something. While that demands that you own four Wii Remotes, this points to the fact that Nintendo has considered what might make Wii owners want to upgrade. If Nintendo can double down on this type of play, then the future may very well be bright for the Wii U.
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