Like an amusement park version of Mario Party minus the board game, Nintendo Land arrives, without restrictions on which classic Nintendo series it can contain. Various characters from Nintendo’s franchises are represented here, each given a little game to represent their respective worlds. And, believe it or not, only a couple of them are genuinely bad. The rest range from alright to fun, which wouldn’t be a problem if there was more than a few minutes worth of content for only a handful of games.
Like the Wii Sports was to the Wii, Nintendo Land is a means to explore the many things the Wii U can do with its new GamePad controller. This time, however, there’s a little bit more ambition as the games aren’t representations of sports but are creative little attractions. If Nintendo Land can be considered a theme park, than each game is an attraction, each one complete with their own set of rules and objectives.
The gameplay within each attraction doesn’t necessarily match up with what you did in the originals. Yoshi enjoys fruit. When Yoshi eats a lot of fruit, he pops out an egg. Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, however, is a surprisingly clever puzzle game. In this game you’re given a start and a finish, along with platters of fruit. On the TV screen you can see the start, finish, traps and fruit. On the GamePad you can only see the start and finish, Using the accompanied stylus, you have to guide Yoshi from the start to the finish while navigating the traps and collecting all the fruit, using your best judgment on where everything is on the GamePad in comparison to their locations on the TV.
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course utilizes the art style of the original Donkey Kong games more than it does the gameplay. In this rather difficult game it’s up to you to navigate a rolling cart around various obstacles to save Pauline. Control is done by tilting the GamePad, along with a few button presses, some thumbstick twirling and some microphone blowing. Only through care and patience, along with a little trial and error, will you hope to succeed.
Captain Falcon’s Twister Race also requires you to tilt the GamePad around in order to control your vehicle, but in here it seems cumbersome and unnecessary in comparison to just using a thumbstick. Twisting the GamePad around like it’s some sort of steering wheel is mostly responsive, but while playing it I ended up losing a few races due to the GamePad just losing connection for no good reason.
Still, Captain Falcon’s Twister Race isn’t the worst attraction in the park. Octopus Dance takes the cake on that one. It’s like PaRappa The Rapper in how you must mimic dance moves in order to succeed. This one is the least creative of all the games and is the least interesting on what you’re required to do with the GamePad. As a game it’s cliched, as a tech demo it’s unnecessary. If you’re watching someone play either Captain Falcon’s Twister Race or Octopus Dance, the GamePad camera is there to display the players face in the game, making for easy ridicule.
The best time that the game offers is when you’re playing with other people. Competitively more so, co-operatively so-so. It’s these games that I think really bring out one singular advantage that the Wii U has that the other consoles do not. Within these games, a single person plays using the GamePad, while the other players use that standard Wii-motes. The gameplay experience, and even the objective, changes depending on who is playing what.
My personal favorite is Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. In this game one person controls a ghost while up to four people control ghost hunters. The hunters use flashlights to attack the ghost while the ghost player sneaks about, seeking to knock out the hunters. The ghost is invisible on the TV screen, only becoming visible when lightning flashes through the windows, while dashing or if caught in the flashlight beam of a hunter. It makes for an entertaining game of cat-and-mouse that requires teamwork if the hunters expect to win, cunning if the ghost hopes to succeed. It would have been nice if there were more than three maps available.
Mario Chase is sort of like Ghost Mansion, except Mario is always visible, and the four competing Toad players are out to tackle him. Except now there are only two maps available. Animal Crossing: Sweet Day offers the most challenge for the individual opponent against the team as that person controls two guards at the same time, chasing down animals out to steal candy. Sweet Day requires teamwork only in regards to unlocking candy from larger candy trees, otherwise it’s all about protecting your own skin. Oh, and Sweet Day only has two maps as well.
Nintendo Land isn’t a bad game, for free. As something that is included with the system, as long as you bought the deluxe model, this makes for an interesting tech demo, letting you and your friends try out different methods of how a game can be played on the Wii U. There is some fun to be had, but it’s short lived, mainly due to lack of content, and not all of the content will be fun to everyone. If you bought the regular version of the Wii U and find yourself forced to spend 60 dollars on this game, as if it was a full release, take my score and halve it.