Whether you love them or hate them, mini-game collections are here to stay. After all, they’re popular sellers and have become the new way to show off technological advancements. That’s especially true in Nintendo’s case, as the video game giant’s Wii console was inundated with them. As expected, a few were good, and a lot were bad, with the company’s first-party Wii Sports titles being the most popular ones of all. Of course, as we all know, the first game in that particular family friendly series was packed in with the console from the get go. Now, several years later, the same thing has happened with what is surely the beginning of a new franchise: Nintendo Land.
Packed in with all Deluxe Wii U models, and also available by its lonesome, the above-mentioned party game is the perfect way for families to have fun while learning how to use the brand new console’s impressive GamePad controller. That’s because it’s both accessible and fun, presenting a difficulty level that acts as more of an incentive than a deterrent. As a result, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found for seasoned and casual gamers, not to mention those who’ve never played a video game before.
Now, there’s no denying the fact that the title in question is yet another mini-game collection. It’s common knowledge, and shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. However, with that being said, it also shouldn’t be seen as an issue. This isn’t your run of the mill, buggy third-party mess. Instead, it’s a project that received a lot of noticeable thought and care. The simple fact is that there’s a lot of polish here that you wouldn’t normally find in party titles, which is proof that Nintendo took its time in order to give its fans something colourful and interesting to play.
As its trademarked title hints at, Nintendo Land is essentially a digital, Nintendo-themed amusement park. There’s the obligatory tower, the large gathering area, plus a varied assortment of creative experiences. On top of that, there’s also a polite little robot that fills the guide role. She’s the one who introduces players to everything that they can interact with within the park, and she also happens to be the tutorial queen. There’s nothing bad to say about the new character, apart from the fact that she isn’t memorable, and it’s nice that the developers decided to program voice over files into her artificial intelligence.
Once the introductory session ends, players are free to explore at their own pace. All of the mini-games are open from the start, meaning that there’s no need to achieve high scores or hit certain point plateaus in order to progress. Those who happen to own the game will appreciate that, especially if they’re playing with anywhere from one to four friends. Nothing is locked, and everything is available, which is the way things should be in these types of games. Although many of us play these things on a regular basis, and sometimes for several hours per day, a lot of people don’t. They’d prefer to just jump in and out whenever free time is available, and that’s the idea here.
It’s not difficult to find any of the mini-game gates, because they’re all located in the same area. However, instead of dealing with the gimmicky gyroscope viewing angles and virtual walking that moving throughout the park requires, users can simply press an icon to see a sorted list of what’s available. That way, activating a session of choice can be completed through the press of a button or the tap of a finger. Then again, if you’re an Obsessive-Compulsive gamer like myself, you’ll want to use the stylus to activate it. To each their own.
Keeping with the list view, it’s important to note that all of the mini-game challenges are sorted into groups, the largest of which happens to be the solo play tier. After that, one will find team competitions that support solo players and groups, as well as party games that require two to five people. It’s a typical set-up that we’ve all seen before; that is, apart from the five-player functionality. That’s new, unlike the attraction tour, which is a competitive multiplayer event that culls from the included activities.
Now, you’re surely wondering whether the games are worth your time. The simple answer is yes, because the majority of them happen to be creative and well made. There are a couple of tough to control duds, specifically an underwater Game & Watch dance off and an awkward balloon collecting flight scenario. However, those were the only two. Although the others vary in quality, they all range from decent to great.
Unsurprisingly, almost every interactive facet of Nintendo Land was created as an homage to the company’s storied past. There’s a polished but challenging time trial slash kart balancing test featuring Donkey Kong and his beloved bananas, a multiplayer game of hide and seek featuring Mario, a fruit collecting competition set in the world of Animal Crossing and combat mini-games based on the Metroid franchise. On top of those, one will find an interesting path-drawing test where Yoshi must collect pieces of fruit before he can go through doors, a great party scenario where the GamePad user hunts his friends as a ghost, plus an easy to control quest starring a star throwing ninja. Those aren’t the only game modes to be found on the disc, but they’re some of the most memorable ones.
What’s great is that all of the activities take advantage of the Wii U’s touchscreen controller. Some have players swiping across the screen, while others use the controller for private viewing. Going further, the gyroscope comes into play a bit, with the same being true of the GamePad’s various functional positions. You’ll find yourself holding it upwards, keeping it flat and moving it around. All of the necessary bases are covered through accessible and enjoyable ways. That includes the front facing camera, which occasionally takes live video footage.
Now, a lot has been said about the GamePad, but not much has been mentioned about how the other four players interact with the game. Those who’ve been following the console since its inaugural reveal will know this already, but newcomers will want to note that several Wiimotes are required for five player functionality. If you own a Wii, you’ll already have at least one, though you may need to spring for a Wii Motion Plus accessory or two. Certain activities require those for precise aiming. Then again, the new Wiimotes actually include that technology.
As far as replay value goes, there’s a lot to be found here. Some mini-games can be played in different ways, such as the The Legend of Zelda’s spin-off quests, which task players with using either a bow and arrow or a sword. At those times, you’ll be using the Motion Plus accessory, while other modes only require a horizontal remote. Plus, it’s also worth mentioning that leaderboards factor in, allowing friends and family members to challenge each other to see who can achieve the highest score in each of the scenarios.
Thanks to the inclusion of presents, children will find yet another reason to return. You see, participating in any of the featured activities earns you coins. Once those are in the proverbial bank, they can be used in gift winning attempts. Yes, you heard that right – you can’t actually buy the interactive decorations. Instead, you’ll need to drop coins into a pixelated Plinko machine, aiming at certain pegs so that the currency will drop into specific holes. Whenever all of a board’s lights have been turned on by falling coins, presents are shot out into the common area, where Miiverse creations congregate.
Last, but certainly not least, comes presentation – an impressive facet of this experience. Thanks to its system’s full high-definition output capability, Nintendo Land looks great. Its colours pop, and each game has its own creative look. The sterile and futuristic appearance of the actual hub leaves a lot to be desired, but that’s not a major concern, considering that it’s just an interactive menu. Going further, it’s important to note that the sound design team did a very good job creating quality sound effects and memorable remixes of familiar tunes.
If you purchased the Wii U’s Deluxe Bundle then you already have Nintendo Land. That’s great, because it’s a thoroughly entertaining game, which offers a lot of replay value. Frankly, this review is mainly for those who went with the 8GB Basic console, because this colourful experience should be on their radar.
Our review is based on a Wii U copy of the game that was provided to us.
Nintendo Land is a triumphant return to form for the party game genre.