MCM Buzz Play the Wii U

Many of the writers at MCMBuzz, myself included, are the sort of gamers always looking forward to the next big thing and when it comes to big things in the video game industry you don’t get much bigger than the launch of a new system. Since the Wii U was announced, with its uniquely large controller with a built in touch screen, I’ve been eager to get my hands on the system and see how it performs in person. Having spent several hours playing some of the games, I’m now very excited for the future, as brought to us by Nintendo.

During my time with the system I was able to get my hands on ZombiU, the Panaorama View Tech Demo, Rayman Legends, Pikmin 3, Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition, New Super Mario Bros. U, The Wonderful 101, Trine 2 and Nintendo Land (got a chance to play five of the attractions: The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Donkey Kong’s Crash Course).


First off, arguably the biggest game Nintendo had on show (it had its own separate queue and by far the most systems set up to play it), ZombiU. We were treated to a demo that started with a random character waking up in a bed. We knew their name, age, gender and occupation prior to the zombie outbreak, and were told to go follow a mark on a map to find some supplies at a pier. Ammunition was in short supply so I made the choice to use melee attacks with a cricket bat to take down the first enemy I came across. I smacked it in the head four or five time and watched it fall backwards into the water. Feeling accomplished, I started to walk away, only to hear the moan of a zombie. I turn around, and the zombie was back up on its feet, a quarter of its skull missing, still coming for me. That is where I started to learn the most important thing about ZombiU, the zombies are tough to kill.

After fighting for much longer than I expected with this first zombie I had to swim through some water to another area to continue progressing. What took me by surprise and ultimately caused my first death was the fact that when in water, your character holds their backpack over their head to keep supplies dry. While a realistic decision, it does mean that when in water you’re completely defenceless. This taught me the second thing I needed to know about these zombies, they move much faster in water than you do. Trying to outrun the zombie that anticipated my path to land left me being devoured. That was it, my character was gone forever.

So back to the pier I went, playing as a completely different survivor. I knew where my last character’s supplies would be found and that the path there would be a little less zombie filled than before, so I ran back at full speed. This time I opted to try and take the zombie down with my pistol. While it did kill it a little quicker, I found that most of my ammunition was used killing a single zombie (my old character) from across the water. This game wants you up close and personal when you kill these zombies and causes you a lot of stress and tension doing so.

All in all, while not as good looking as other HD titles on either the Wii U or its current competitors, the game’s take on the zombie genre is refreshing. Zombies pose a real threat to your health, they act in ways you wouldn’t expect and the decision to make it so that the game world doesn’t pause when you’re checking your backpack is one of the best examples I have seen of the Gamepad improving the whole feel of a game.  ZombiU is tough and definitely one of the better zombie games coming out in the foreseeable future.

Panorama View

Next up, Panorama View. A tech demo first shown at E3 2011, this demo allows you to select one of a few different scenes, like a person hang gliding or travelling through a carnival, and view it in 360 degrees by moving the Gamepad around, providing a window through which to view the world. While there was no actual gameplay in this, the demo was quick, responsive and ultimately was enjoyable. This is the sort of thing that would make a great pack in, pre-installed on the system. It shows off the Wii U in a way that is instantly understandable for non-gamers and it’s tough not to get a feeling of excitement at how flawlessly it works. The only downside is that the zoom feature doesn’t provide a great quality image, much akin to using a digital zoom rather than an optical one on a digital camera.

Rayman Legends

Next up was Rayman Legends, which is my most anticipated exclusive on the system. Based on the engine used for Rayman Origins, the game looks absolutely stunning. It has a slightly more stylised cel shaded quality to its visuals, which were the most crisp and fluid of any game on show, and on both the TV and the Gamepad screen, it looked to be one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. We were able to play through two levels, one of us using the Gamepad while the other used the Pro Controller, then switching and playing them using the other input method. We played initially through a regular sidescrolling level, followed by one of the game’s music themed levels.

First, when playing through the regular platforming level using the Pro Controller the game controls much like Rayman Origins. The player movement is responsive, the jump arcs are predictable and the game controls with all the accuracy you would expect from a platformer. The player using the Gamepad was tasked with helping the other player by moving platforms, cutting ropes, defeating enemies and turning regular collectables into ones worth extra points. Two players really have to work together to succeed and while both players are doing very different things, both felt equally important. Neither player should walk away from this feeling like they missed out because of the controller they used.

While the regular sidescrolling level felt great, the real surprise was how good the music level was to play. The level is constantly moving and both players have to act in time with the music and the way it progresses. The player using the Pro Controller has to jump over gaps collecting orbs and slap through walls in time with the music, while the Gamepad player has to tap eyeballs, turn orbs into different coloured orbs and generally assist the Pro Controller player. The action was timed perfectly with the music and provided a brilliantly choreographed experience that felt fantastically polished.

The last thing I want to say about Rayman Legends is how brilliantly the Gamepad serves as an entry point for less video game proficient people. The player with the Gamepad gets to help in a very real way, becoming someone that is hugely relied upon, without needing to keep up with a more skilled player’s speed or jumping ability. I can see myself sitting down with my mum, who is a big Rayman fan but not as proficient as myself, and having a great time going through it together.

Pikmin 3

Next on the list of games was the long in the works Pikmin 3. Initially in development for the Wii, the game was shown off using the Wii remote and Nunchuck in much the same way the Wii ports of Pikmin and Pikmin 2 did. The pointer was responsive and the game played very naturally. The Gamepad in this version of the game was only used to show a map but other Gamepad uses have not yet been confirmed or denied at this stage. The first section on show was a small level where we had seven minutes to collect as much fruit as possible.

Starting with the traditional red Pikmin we set off fighting the series’ trademark enemies and trying to collect fruit. Some of the highlights of the demo included finding a pile of rubble which your Pikmin could pick up and use to build a bridge shortcut and the discovery of Rock Pikmin, a new addition to the series which while slow, are able to do lots of damage when thrown.

After that we got to try out a boss battle against what appeared to be a giant centipede covered in a glass armour of sorts. You have to use the Rock Pikmin to smash a segment of the armour before bombarding Pikmin at the exposed segments to do damage. The level was fast paced, challenging, and exactly what I was hoping for from a new Pikmin.

The game looks much better than the earlier Gamecube games, with drastically improved lighting effects and animations, but was not as crisp as ZombiU or Rayman Legends. As the game is not a launch day title hopefully they will have time to work on polishing some of the visuals.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 played identically to the versions on the 360 and PS3. It could be played either on the Gamepad screen or the TV. While it looked fantastic on the Gamepad, on the TV it didn’t look as good as the PS3 version of the game. The textures were just as crisp, but it was lacking a certain fluidity of movement that makes the PS3 version look a lot nicer when on a large TV.

New Super Mario Bros. U

New Super Mario Bros. is pretty par for the course in terms of its gameplay. For upto four players it plays pretty much identically to the Wii version of the game, but with new power-ups like the Flying Squirrel Suit (a surprisingly fun suit to use). The main difference with the game is when playing it on the Gamepad.

The game looks good on the TV, but even better on the Gamepad. The game is bright, colourful, fast and crisp. When using the Gamepad you can either play the game with upto four people or play single player using the screen. Single player works much as it does on the TV, but even better looking. When playing multiplayer the user on the Gamepad can tap on the screen to create platforms. While this doesn’t sound very exciting, like Rayman Legends before it, the sense of reliance on the Gamepad player makes it a really fun role to play. You don’t have to compete directly but can easily be a big part of your friend’s success (or failure if you’re feeling cruel with your platform placement).

The game felt very polished and is easily going to be good. It’s more Mario and it’s hard to go too far wrong with that.

The Wonderful 101

The Wonderful 101, previously announced as Project P-100, was one of the first 3rd party Wii U games to be playable back at E3 2011. It sees you take on a role of a superhero who can give superpowers to those he saves, giving him the ability to transform them into different tools that can be used to help save the city. Need a gun? Just draw a straight line up and to the side at a right angle. Need a sword? Just draw a a straight line up. The Gamepad screen shows you your current available powers whilst you run around a game that looks like a modern day city version of Pikmin.

Gameplay was fast paced, the screen bright and colourful and the enemies felt powerful, but not impossibly hard. It’s a game that, as long as it gives you plenty of new powers throughout to spice things up, could be one of the hidden gems of the Wii U launch window.

Trine 2

Ported from the Xbox 360 and PS3, Trine 2 is an action puzzle game where you have a party of three adventurers, each with their own unique set of skills and abilities. At any time you can switch between a spellcaster with the ability to create blocks and platforms, a knight with a sword, shield and hammer and a thief with a bow and grappling hook. The game allows you to instantly switch between characters without any time in between which is really nice.

The game looks beautiful, both on the TV and the Gamepad. I didn’t see any Gamepad specific features in my time with the game unfortunately but it does look beautiful on whichever screen you choose to use. Beautifully layered 3D backgrounds and character models on a fixed perspective, amazing lighting effects and a super smooth framerate, Trine 2 looks fantastic and should be a real treat for puzzle fans.

Nintendo Land

I was able to play through five of Nintendo Land’s twelve attractions, each of which played very differently. I was sceptical, but I could see Nintendo Land turning into, like Wii Sports before it, the game that families will buy a Wii U for, to play something together.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest

In the first playable Zelda adventure on the Wii U, you and your friends can take control of your Mii’s, complete with hat and tunic, and battle waves of classic Zelda enemies in an on rails race to the Triforce.

The player with the Gamepad moves it around to aim a bow, firing with the right trigger, while their friends use Wii remotes (Wii MotionPlus required) to swing their swords and fight off the enemies. The swordplay is 1:1, much like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and was nice and responsive. Enemies would block and require being slashed in specific ways. The players all share one pool of hearts, with the game ending when the hearts are gone. Both the Gamepad and Remote options were fun, I personally preferred the sword swinging, but both worked well and were responsive.

Takamaru’s Ninja Castle

With its unique folded paper aesthetic, Takamaru’s ninja castle has a simple premise. Your Gamepad has a ninja star on it. There are ninjas on the TV screen. Flick the star with your finger and watch it leave the Gamepad and hopefully hit a ninja. Tilt the Gamepad to aim your ninja star. While one of the more simple ideas, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is the perfect example of how these two screens can interact and work as one screen.

Gameplay that brings what you’re doing with the controller and what happens on the TV closer together is a very exciting prospect and one that is easily accessible by someone of any gaming skill level.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day

One of the best examples of the Gamepad screen giving that player an advantage against their opponents is Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. Up to four players have to run around collecting fruit, while the player with the Gamepad gets a top down view of the map and control of two guard dogs and has to try and catch the Wii Remote players.

While the player with the Gamepad is outnumbered, the ability to see all players at once gives them a considerable planning advantage. The game is fun, challenging and provides two very different play experiences depending which controller you use.

Luigi’s Ghost Mansion

Very similar to Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion sees the four Wii Remote players carrying torches and trying to shine them on the Gamepad player, who has become a ghost. The player with the Gamepad can see themselves and the Wii Remote players, while not appearing on the TV (you do show up at certain times, like when attempting to scare Wii Remote players). Again this game provides a very different experience depending on which control style you use, but one that encourages teamwork to overcome the Gamepad player’s natural advantage

Donkey Kong’s Crash Course

The last game on show was a solo campaign for one Gamepad user titled Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, in which you have to tilt a minecart as it travels through checkpoints. While a very simple idea to understand it does force you to make tough choices between the cautious play route and the rewards of completing levels quickly for a high score. The level was fun, but I wonder how much variety there will be in the full set of levels, and will it be enough to keep coming back?

Is there a game in there you’re itching to try out at the MCM Expo later this month? Are you planning to get a Wii U on day one? If not, is there anything that would change that for you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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