Platform | Release Date
WiiU | November 18, 2012
Developed by Nintendo EAD
Published by Nintendo
Nintendo Land is a fun and lively virtual theme park filled with attractions based on popular Nintendo game worlds. Each attraction features unique and innovative gameplay experiences made possible by the Wii U GamePad controller. Depending on the attraction, players can choose to play solo, compete against other players, or even team up to play cooperatively. Up to five players can participate in dynamic multiplayer modes in select attractions. The experiences change depending on whether players are using the Wii U GamePad, a Wii Remote controller or just watching others play on the TV screen. However you choose to play, a whole new realm of fun awaits on the Wii U with Nintendo Land.
Packed in with every Wii U Deluxe Set and sold separately as a full-priced retail title, Nintendo Land is a mini-game collection specifically designed to introduce players to the Wii U experience. Unlike Wii Sports before it, it throws away any semblance of reality in favor of providing Nintendo-themed attractions within a fantastical amusement park. While it makes for an enjoyable primer to the Wii U GamePad and Miiverse social network, its thrills are fleeting.
As you explore the hub world for the first time, you’ll quickly notice that six of the game’s 12 attractions are one-player only experiences. Initially, this struck me as an odd decision, as local multiplayer was the Wii’s bread and butter. To my surprise, some of the solo games are its strongest.
For instance, Yoshi’s Fruit Cart is a unique puzzle game that makes great use of the dual-screen setup. Your task is to draw a path for Yoshi to follow in order to eat all of the fruit on screen and exit the level. All of the visual information you need to complete the line is on the television screen, but the locations of the fruit and the obstacles are absent on the touchscreen. It’s on you to interpret the information you have between the two screens and lead Yoshi to delicious victory.
Other pleasant surprises include Balloon Trip Breezeand Donkey Kong Crash Course The former is a modern take on the Balloon Trip mode from Balloon Fight. Instead of controlling your character directly, you control the wind around him with the touchscreen. It takes a lot of finesse to master while still being immediately rewarding for newcomers. Making heavy use of tilt controls, analog sticks, and triggers, Donkey Kong Crash Course captures that same sense of enjoyment as you’re tasked with maneuvering your trolley through a crazy obstacle course.
On the flipside, some of these attractions highlight the gimmicky side of the Wii U. The biggest offender is Captain Falcon’s Twister Race. In this time-attack racer, your television displays the action from a behind-the-car view, while your GamePad captures the action from an overhead perspective. What makes things weird is that you actually steer by holding the controller vertically and tilting, while using the touchscreen as your primary point-of-view. Only when you go into a tunnel is it advantageous to refer to the television. While I get the point that holding the controller in a vertical orientation lets you see more of the track in advance, the entire experience is clumsy and ultimately not that enjoyable.
When I play the game alone, I always spend a good chunk of time interacting with Miiverse content. The Miiverse is the Wii U-specific social network, which can be integrated in games to add a cool layer of communication between players. Other player’s Miis will populate the hub world, alongside their most recent Nintendo Land-specific post. By clicking on their Mii, you can reply to their post, ‘Yeah’ their post (the equivalent of a Facebook ‘Like’) or view their profile. This social aspect goes even deeper, as Miiverse posts specific to the mini-game you just played will appear on your controller to interact with. From here, you can even post your own mini-game specific note for the world to see. I really appreciated these timely posts in particular, as it gave me the feeling of playing this game alongside a large community.
With friends – and the requisite Wii Remotes and Nunchucks – Nintendo Land can create neat party experiences that no other home platform can provide out of the box. The showcase example of this is Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, where up to four Wii Remote wielding players try to blast the ghost, who is controlled by the player with the GamePad. While the ghostbusters cannot see their target on the television unless they shine their light on it, the ghost can see everything on the touchscreen. The limited-information, cat-and-mouse dynamics are a blast to explore with friends, but they’re rehashed with minor tweaks in Mario Chase and Animal Crossing Sweet Day.
It’s disappointing to see half of the multiplayer attractions are basically the same thing, but the remaining offerings pick up the slack. In particular, The Legend of Zelda Battle Quest stands out as one of my favorites. As a team of swordsmen and one archer, you can hack, slash, and shoot your way through over a dozen Hyrule levels. Even though its surface-level gameplay systems are simple enough for anyone to grasp, there are a lot of nuances to master, especially since it’s surprisingly difficult. Seasoned fans of the franchise will eat this up.
Link’s multiplayer adventure is a lot meatier than what you’d normally expect from a mini-game, but the shelf-life of the package as a whole is very short. All of these attractions could have been as substantial as the aforementioned, but Nintendo opted to keep this package light. As awesome as Yoshi’s Fruit Cart and Balloon Trip Breeze are, Nintendo might have squandered the opportunity to implement procedurally-generated levels to prolong the fun-factor. Other games such as Animal Crossing Sweet Da, only contain two or three maps to play on.
Where you side on this issue will ultimately be determined by which version of the Wii U you own. As a pack-in for the Deluxe Set, it’s a great starter title that will introduce you and your friends to the potential gameplay possibilities made available through the Wii U. Any sort of disappointment from its staying power are offset by the the other spoils that come with the premium package. As a separate investment, its short shelf-life is a real detriment.