Wii Sports revolutionised social gaming in 2006 by appealing to the masses with an intuitive new controller and a large amount of the credit for the success of the Wii can be levelled at the decision to bundle it with the console. Now Nintendo are innovating again and are clearly hoping to repeat this success with Nintendo Land, another minigame compilation designed to introduce players to the new-fangled Gamepad, the only difference is that Nintendo Land is a much better game.
But it won’t have the same cultural impact. The game is pitched at very wide demographic, simple and inviting enough for the newbie while still offering just enough variety and depth for the fan. It’s much more a traditional videogame albeit delivered in manageable chunks but it lacks the immediacy of its spiritual predecessor and its representation of already familiar sports. The amusement-park themed game is divided into several attractions, each one inspired by a different Nintendo franchise, a move Nintendo clearly hopes will encourage new gamers to seek out more of their properties. Like most compilation titles some games are better than others but they’re all at least decent if not always inspired.
There’s a roughly equal focus on single and multiplayer experiences and the game squeezes plenty of variety out the controller. Three, Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Animal Crossing Sweet Day all involve players chasing one another in asymmetrical teams. One player, the quarry, uses the Gamepad which uniquely gives them an omniscient view of the playing field while the pursuing team uses Wii Remotes and the more limited view offered by the TV screen to track them down. They’re all solid games but unlikely to keep high-score chasers occupied for long.
The Legend of Zelda Battle Quest, Metroid Blast and Pikmin Adventure provide some more progressively combat challenges that all find plenty of different styles of gameplay. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle in which you use the Gamepad’s touch screen to fling shurikens at waves of ninjas is arguably the most fun attraction. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course tasks you with tilting the controller to guide a vehicle through a maze of girders and is one of the most addictive and subtle games. Balloon Trip Breeze is essentially Balloon Fight’s Balloon Trip mode with some added bells and whistled and Captain Falcon’s Twister Racer an enjoyable enough F-Zero style driving simulation. Yoshi’s Fruit Cart involves using the touch screen the guide Yoshi around levels to gobble up fruit which is only visible on the TV. Finally Octopus Dance is a functional but forgettable Game and Watch-inspired rhythm game.
Each game is well presented and has its own charms, many provide players with multiple play modes and the pursuit of stamps, trophies and stars will keep completionists playing all of them for some time. What Nintendo Land lacks is a stronger sense of structure to play, something the best minigame compilations have. The Mario Party series intersperses minigames with a quite compelling board game scenario while Wario Ware delivers the games with a rapid and exciting pace. In Nintendo Land you pick a game and play it and when you get bored you play another one. It’s fun but still a little throwaway.
Design – 7
Gameplay – 7
Graphics – 7
Sound – 7
Content – 7
Nintendo Land offers a very competent introduction to both the Wii U Gamepad and Nintendo’s various franchises and will go a long way to satisfy gamers of various skill levels.