Game Review: Nintendo Land
OverviewGenre: Action, Dance, Platform, Racing, Shooter, Sport, Survival Horror
Pros:A variable blast of Nintendo favourites and innovative game modes that are best shared with a few friends and present a pleasant, surprisingly deep gaming experience
Cons:A little overpriced on its own. "Split personality" game types will have trouble grabbing your attention for too long at a time. More pick up and play than unputdownable.
The Wii U has landed, and purchasers of the premium pack will find a complimentary copy of Nintendo Land with which to toy around. Is it deserving of the nickname “Wii U Sports”? Well, yes and no. Read on.
Nintendo Land is the first port of call for most of the Wii U’s early adopters; an expansive and carefully balanced love-letter to all things Nintendo by, er, well, Nintendo, but without being self-congratulatory. The game is in fact 12 mini-games that operate in 12 distinctive styles, each of which references either a classic Nintendo title or a fresh first-party IP. Mario, Zelda, F-Zero and (an alarmingly large) Metroid are all present themselves here. More obscure favourites like Balloon Fight, Takamara’s Ninja Castle and Game & Watch Octopus (dancing) also make themselves known.
Let’s not proceed further without getting this out of the way: yes, Nintendo Land is ‘Wii U Sports’ insofar as it’s essentially a tech-and-concept demonstration to show players and developers alike whole new ways of playing with your new toy. However, it diverges from the path of its spiritual predecessor by being a surprisingly layered and challenging title. Honestly, did anyone play a Wii Sports game (other than the bowling, naturally) more than once? Nintendo Land supplies no such shortcomings. Its 12 game modes are unique enough to inspire many hours of gameplay each, whether played alone or with friends.
When you start the game, your Mii is thrust into a vacant amusement park and welcomed by Monita, a flying monitor who talks a little too much to make her even a little bit endearing. She explains how to play each of the games before letting you explore Nintendo Land for yourself. As you enter each ‘ride’ and begin to earn trophies and money, you can use the latter to play a coin-drop game in the park plaza that unlocks mystery gifts and attractions around Nintendo Land. Before long, your park is populated by objects from Nintendo lore and Miis of real people from all around the world, each of whom can be spoken to. Some Miis have awards attached to them, and have to be chased to gain extra coins.
The games themselves range from throwaway to engrossing. The Ninja Stars game has you swiping the touchscreen frantically, whereas Donkey Kong’s Crash Course is a more controlled effort that has you tilting the controller from side to side, trying desperately not to fail (and you will fail, many, many times). The Zelda game makes you physically get out of your seat and turn away from the television to continue playing at times, while Yoshi’s Fruit Cart will have you unsure where to look, as you inadvertently condemn your favourite dinosaur to an early (or 65 million year-late, depending on your point of view) grave. Whatever you play, the game is by no means unfair, and any success or failure in each mode comes by your hands alone. The boon of this being your frustration levels stay at a minimum and your desire to improve remains very much intact.
However, the real fun of the game is in its multiplayer modes, as well as being the places where the gamepad really comes into its own. Luigi’s Haunted Mansion allows the gamepad player to take control of a solitary Boo ghost, while up to four friends control torch-waving dungaree-wearing plumbers tiptoeing through a darkened stately home. The ghost is visible only on the gamepad screen, barring the odd lightning strike through the windows that reveals his position. In 5 minutes, Boo has to catch all the plumbers, or the plumbers have to exorcise him with their flashlights. The game is excellent at amplifying the tension in the room, and will give gamers genuine creeps. Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is similar, except that gamepad player controls two cutlery-waggling ‘guards’ simultaneously, while the other players hop about trying to steal sweets and deposit them in a sort of inverse capture-the-flag mode.
Collecting all the trophies, rewards and bonuses in Nintendo Land will take even seasoned gamers (with friends) around 20 hours of solid play. Even after that, the replayability on offer is potentially staggering. There is much fun to be had whether played solo or not, and there’s always someone you’ve never met before in your park. Nintendo have hit on somewhat of an unexpected gem here, and it’s hard to ignore its charms. Conversely, if you were to go into a game store tomorrow with €60, Nintendo Land probably wouldn’t be at the top of anyone’s list as, for that kind of money, most gamers will want a coherent, focused experience rather than a collection of mini-distractions, however entertaining they may be. As a freebie with a deluxe edition of the console, Nintendo Land is a more than welcome title. As an independent purchase, it stands up as fair, but not essential. If you have a friend who has it already, it’s probably not worth investing in it, unless your desire to go octopus dancing is truly insatiable.