Time to get SERIOUS, the EB Expo is all about the games and Wii U is the biggest reason I was there. This was Nintendo’s big one, Nintendo Land. It had 8 kiosks set up all with 3-5 player games going constantly. Do the math, and that’s a shitload of people playing. Let’s go through each of the 5 games on display!
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle
This game is your average star flinging tablet ninja game, but it’s the first star flinging tablet ninja game! You hold the GamePad sideways and flick stars with your finger into the TV screen. This blew me away, partly because it was the very first Wii U game I played. The stars are actually going from the tablet to the TV? AMAZING!
Anyway, there’s no sensor bar so it uses motion to move the cursor, and your flick dictates the speed and distance of the star. A tiny weak flick will make it flop on the ground a few metres in front, I never found a use for that but perhaps it could be used to get behind things. I managed to string together a 17 combo which the Nintendo Rep said was a record, but maybe she says that to everyone. I couldn’t figure out exactly HOW the cursor was so accurate with basic tilt, the motion stuff inside is more advanced than I thought. You move it left, cursor moves left. Makes sense, but it felt more like an IR pointer.
There were 3 levels and the Ninja’s got annoyingly quick by the end, popping up on the roof and dancing around the ground. I found it hard to spam stars rapidly, because you lose accuracy very quickly when you start destroying the GamePad screen with flicks. It’s an interesting compromise. Overall I thought this game was cool, and has potential to be addictive with the combo system that rewards hitting consecutive targets without missing.
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course
This game was challenging. It uses the tilt of the Gamepad to move a kart left and right along tracks, and the goal is to complete the obstacle course without destroying the kart. The motion was responsive, and it’s very important to use the RIGHT amount of tilt. The challenge involves moving the kart fast or slow enough so it can land properly. If you slowly drop off a ledge, it’ll go sideways and hit the ground head first. L and R triggers are used to open traps and raise / lower platforms, I crushed myself a few times letting them go too early.
I found it pretty fun but not amazing. It was frustrating finding the right speed to go in some parts through trial and error, but when you’re on a good run it feels great. The tablet screen gives you a slightly more zoomed-in view of the TV. Every Nintendo rep told me to look at the GamePad because “it’s so much easier!” but I found looking at the TV easier, and more steady when tilting. The controls work well, and how good this game is will depend on the level design. By the way, that’s not the whole course in the picture above; it scrolls down about twice the distance!
This was my first 5 player experience, and I played it 15-20 times throughout the event. It was a completely different experience every time depending on how well people worked together. One player is the ghost and can see everyone on the GamePad, and the other 4 players are all different coloured Luigi’s with flashlights. Luigi is busy looking for Mario in his upcoming 3DS game, so we’ve got Mii’s to replace him here.
The ghost’s job is to approach all 4 Luigi’s from behind and scare them, and Luigi’s objective is to completely drain the ghosts health with the flashlight. The ghost is invisible on the TV screen, but they can see everything on the tablet… and the other players might have a peek at the tablet too. The Wii remotes rumble faster and faster when the ghost is close. “IT’S RUMBLING!” says the guy next to me. “What, which player are you?” I clarify. “ON THE RIGHT! AAUGH!” Too late, that’s one player down.
The ghost got away… but we know where he went! He’s in the top left corner somewhere, if we split up we can guard the exits, and another Luigi can go in! Right guys? Wait, why are we all going the same way? BAM, ghost attack! Okay, crap. Two players left, we should try to revive our friends! Luigi can revive other Luigi’s if they’re dead, by holding the flashlight on them for about 10 seconds (feels like longer). This can be DANGEROUS because while doing this, your back is turned in one way and that’s a prime target for the hungry ghost. One player starts reviving the Luigi on the right, i’m on the other side of the map so I decide to come over to back them up. There’s no rumbling over here dude.. the ghost must be near you. Stop reviving! BAM! Too late. I’m the only player left. By now i’m in the middle and all I know is the ghost is on the right. My flashlight battery is low but I don’t mention it or i’m screwed. There’s some battery in the corner and I make my way there… but the ghost dashes and i’m defenseless. Good game everyone!
Luigi’s Mansion is an AMAZING multiplayer game but every time I played was with 5 people. I don’t know how I’m going to get 5 people over to my house, or what kind of single player options are there if any. 3 or 4 players could definitely work though, and this is going to be a huge multiplayer hit.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest
The hardcore Zelda you’ve been waiting for. This demo was 3 players only, two heroes are given swords and the GamePad player gets a crossbow. I only played this once because there was usually more than 3 people around each unit wanting to play. It’s an on-rails trek through a stage using the Wii Sports Resort / Skyward Sword style swinging controls for the sword. Enemies approach and need to be slashed away with the Wii remote before they do any damage. The crossbow player has to be paying attention to the surroundings because only they can shoot airborne enemies and high switches. You can also fire the crossbow at other players butts and watch them fall back and stumble in comedic fashion. It was an accident, I swear.
As you stroll through the stage kicking ass, the enemies get a bit tougher. Halfway through the demo level you have to slash the enemies are a certain angle, some will block, and archers will appear up in towers. At the end there was a boss fight, I can’t say much about it because we all died. The crossbow controls were great, you can use the left analog stick to flick the camera view around quickly, then move the GamePad for more precise motion aiming. Pulling down on the right analog stick fires a shot, and you reload by flipping the tablet down. The game has potential but the demo level was far too basic to say much more.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day
This was my favourite game in Nintendo Land, and it’s hard to explain properly but I’ll do my best. It’s another 5 player game, and there’s a lot going on here. 4 players have to work together to get all the sweets, while the player on the tablet tries to stop them with 2 guards. Everyone starts in the middle, but the 4 players on the TV get a 10 second headstart to run off and hide! Here we go, we need 50 sweets to win! Sweets are found in trees, and the only way to get them down is to activate switches. The twist here is most trees have 2 or 3 switches that need to be pressed at the same time before any sweets will fall down.
“Come over here guys! Bottom left, there’s a triple switch! Help me out!”
Of course, the first thing that happens here is the GamePad player walks to the bottom left and kills the guy. The GamePad player controls one guard with each analog stick, and R and L works as dash for each one. If a player is in a corner you can approach from both sides and trap them, it’s amazingly satisfying controlling both guards at once with one victim in view. Putting both guards on separate ends of the map gives you a view of the whole area on the GamePad, but also makes it more difficult to maneuver both at the same time. I found that having a guard simply show up on a players screen was enough to make them panic. These guys are terrifying.
2 guards sounds like a lot to deal with but the 4 players can run faster than the guards, and hey, it’s 4 vs 2 right? This all changes as soon as you grab some sweets, as you gradually get fatter and slower the more you carry. If a guard finds your fat arse, you can press 1 to drop the sweets and run away. No need to be greedy, we can pick them back up later!
Most of the time I just ran around like an idiot and hoped to get lucky avoiding the guards, but by the end of the day we had some good strategies going. The best one was having everyone grab sweets and dump it in one specific place immediately. Then we’d run back afterwards and pick it all up at once. It was a good idea, but we still didn’t win! In fact I never saw anyone beat the guards, and some games were over in less than a minute.
That’s it, 5 out of the 12 games in Nintendo Land. I can’t wait to play the rest next month!