Wii U Preview: The Many Mini-Games of Nintendo Land
Developer: Nintendo / Publisher: Nintendo / Release Date: November 18, 2012 / Platforms: Wii U / ESRB: Everyone
Announced officially in front of the crowds of E3 2012, Nintendo Land is a culmination of an assortment of tech demos that showcase the Wii U’s fancy new technology, as well as a smorgasbord of quirky, theme-parked-themed mini-games set in the universes of some of the company’s most historic, long-running franchises.
Sporting brands none other than the likes of Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Pikmin, and even Balloon Fight and Animal Crossing, Nintendo Land is essentially a bundle of bite-sized games that are fit for enjoying in the living room by yourself, but most fittingly among friends, family, or roommates. When in attendance at Nintendo’s Wii U press conference last week, I was given the opportunity to play some of the newly announced additions to Nintendo Land, including Mario Chase, Pikmin Adventure, Metroid Blast, and Balloon Trip, each with their own distinct purpose and control style.
Originally beginning life as the Wii U’s prominent tech demo Chase Mii, the newly titled Mario Chase is all about fast-paced competition in the living room. With support for up to 5 players, this multiplayer-only game takes the simple concept of a game we all played as kids, Tag, and crafts it into an addictive, zany mini-game.
The concept is simple: the player holding the Wii U GamePad is designated as Mario, while the other players (up to 4 allowed) are using Wiimotes and playing as Toads. At the beginning, Mario is given a 10 second head start to allow him to gain the upper hand against the Toads. When the whistle blows the game will begin, and the players will be sent forth to chase Mario down. If tackled successfully, the round will come to an end. However, if Mario can run the entire 60 second game without being tackled by another player, he wins.
The innovation comes in to play with the Wii U Gamepad, with which the player controlling Mario is given an overhead view of the map, as well as locations of each of the opposing toad players. But since this feature is locked to the gamepad, the toads are only allowed to use what they see on the television as well as team communication to track Mario down. In this way, the toads only know where Mario is when they physically see him… or when their friend shouts out his location in their ear.
It’s hectic and zany, and being caught when playing Mario might incite near-heart attacks as you spin your legs into an all-out dash to escape the oncoming wave of Toads. It’s really a ton of fun with all five players, and it’s one of the best attractions in Nintendo Land thus far.
If you’ve ever played a Pikmin game, then you’re aware of the goals the game lays before you quite straightforwardly. As Captain Olimar, you’re to pluck an exceptional amount of Pikmin, assign them tasks like collecting items around the game world and delivering them to your ship, and defeating in-the-way enemies and getting back to your ship before sunset.
While Pikmin Adventure isn’t exactly the traditional Pikmin experience (Pikmin 3 has you covered there), it does pull from the quirky roots of the series, and most-importantly delivers an exceptional co-op experience that’s simple, hectic, and fun.
You have two ways of playing Pikmin Adventure, as Olimar or as one of his Pikmin, using the Gamepad or a Wiimote respectively. As Olimar, you’ll be able to punch, toss your own set of Pikmin and call them back, and perform a move that warps the player-controlled Pikmin on top of your head for tossing purposes. As a Pikmin (using the Wiimote), you’ll be able to walk and head-butt any enemy or item you find along your journey, as well as collect experience points in the form of golden goop ejected from defeated enemies and bonus blocks.
You’ll trot along colorful, Pikmin themed levels and beat up giant bugs, solve puzzles, and fight boss battles on your way back to Olimar’s rocket ship, and all of its simple, cooperative fun.
Metroid Blast is the newly announced mini-game in Nintendo Land, but is one of the most robust we’ve seen so far. Featuring two methods of control mechanics in the form of the Gamepad and Wiimote/Nunchuck combo, you’ll be able to control a Samus-dressed Mii on the ground (Wiimote/nunchuck), or Samus’ space ship.
The outcome is a wave-based cooperative shooter that has the Samus character fighting off enemies on foot, with arm-blaster and ball-transformative abilities in tow, with the space ship (controlled by the Gamepad) providing air support from the friendly skies.
Though only allowed to experience one level during our demo, Nintendo was kind enough to show off to us a number of varied levels in Metroid Blast, all suitably Metroid-themed. In these levels you’ll fight waves of familiar enemies with a number of environment-based traps to help you along.
Also of note: You can totally shoot at the ground player as the space ship. It doesn’t do damage, but it knocks them on their rear-end – a form of buddy-trolling we’ll never deem unacceptable.
One of the most simple games in Nintendo Land, Balloon Trip Breeze, comes from one of Nintendo’s most historically simple games: Balloon Fight. Based on the secondary mode from that game, BTB has you using the touchscreen and stylus of the Wii U Gamepad to drift through the cloudy, obstacle-filled skies to collect points and traverse from island to island. Innovatively, you control gusts of wind by swiping across the touchscreen at any direction of your Balloon-sporting Mii. You can swipe in any direction at any time, and even as fast or slow as you like, to create the perfect gusts for the situation your flyer is in. Your goal is to get your Mii through a series of sky-high obstacles, while also collecting as many points as possible.
It’s really that simple. And while it’s not a lot to understand mechanically, the game will accelerate pretty quickly, throwing harsh winds your way, seemingly impassable obstacles, and tempting bonus balloons you must go out of your way to pop.
It’s one of Nintendo Land’s few single player games, but it provides ample entertainment through a fun, surprisingly unexplored set of controls. Feeling in control of wind never felt this fluid… or good.
All in all, the package Nintendo is putting together here is indicative of the thought and care they’ve poured into each of their franchises. While none of these games look particularly deep, none of them feel as much like a tech demo as expected — certainly making the package all the more tempting a purchase. We’ll have to see how it all comes together when Nintendo Land releases alongside the Wii U on November 18. And remember, if you buy a Deluxe set, you get Nintendo Land for free.
There are 12 total attractions in Nintendo Land. Here are the others not included in this preview: