We’ve had a Wii U in the RocketNews24 office, not to mention out on the shinkansen bullet train, for about a week now. Despite being made by a Japanese company, the console isn’t available in Japan for another 10 days, and many Japanese and foreigners alike are clamouring to know how the new machine works and, most importantly, whether games on the platform are really the magical experience Nintendo would like us to believe.
We picked up New Super Mario Bros U, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, ZombiU and Nintendo Land along with our import machine, and are happy to say from the outset that these are all genuinely good titles. This isn’t a review as such, but since we have a number of lifelong gamers on the RocketNews24 team, especially our main man Kuzo, we were keen to share our impressions with you regarding how the four biggest titles launching alongside the Wii U show off the new console, not to mention which of the games are most likely to satisfy once they arrive in your sweaty little hands come December 8.
Let’s get straight to business, shall we?
- New Super Mario Bros U
Sequel to 2009’s New Super Mario Bros Wii, New Super Mario Bros U brings classic 2-D side-scrolling action into high definition for the first time. While Sony and Microsoft went completely high-def with their own consoles more than six years ago, Nintendo, ever the black sheep of the industry, has remained doggedly faithful to standard definition visuals until the release of the Wii U this month.
Suffice to say, New Super Mario Bros U is simply gorgeous to look at, with Mario world’s chunky, colourful backgrounds and characters looking perfectly at home in high definition. As our reporter Kuzo put it, “New Super Mario Bros U is Mario turned pretty.”
Since the game follows much of the same formula of its Wii predecessor and implements many of the long-standing series’ set-pieces and power-ups, the thrill of “next generation” gaming will doubtless wear off quicker than other Wii U titles, but it’s still an absolute joy to play and really comes into its own when experienced with a group of people.
With the console supporting up to four Wii remotes (same as the old ones, don’t worry) as well as the new multi-functional control pad, a total of five players can run through Mario’s hectic new levels. The player with the Wii U control pad is able to use the touch screen to add blocks and platforms to the levels as their friends progress, helping them out and sometimes even saving their lives as the last second as they plummet towards a bottomless pit. The blocks created on the touch screen appear on the TV in the blink of an eye and there is no noticeable delay, making this new control system something that even gaming novices will take to in seconds.
If you’re looking for a genuinely new gaming experience, we strongly recommend getting a few friends together (surely everyone in the world as a Wii remote lying around somewhere by now!?) and playing as a big group; it’s utter, heart-pounding Mario mayhem and one of the most fun multiplayer experiences we’ve ever had.
And just like that, we’re in a world of blood, gore and urban zombie violence. While the sight of yet another zombie game may put many off at first, sitting down with Ubisoft’s ZombiU, we soon found ourselves genuinely immersed in what is a surprisingly rich, compelling title that begs players to play just a little more each time.
The game puts you in control of a human character trapped in zombie-infested London. While at first you follow the familiar path of collecting items and tackling zombies (though, since the game’s set in the UK where firearms are rare, you’ll do more than your share of cricket bat swinging ala romantic zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead), after being overwhelmed for the first of many times during your adventure, you come to realise that ZombiU is actually quite different.
Restarting at a different area of the level, you’re forced to scavenge for items and weapons anew, but, if you manage to find your way back to where your last character died, you might just run into… your zombie self carrying all your old gear! The first time we spotted Zombie Rocket (as we’d christened our character) staggering about and slathered with blood, we were genuinely taken aback. It’s quite a surreal experience taking a hammer to your zombie self to reclaim your hardware!
But is it a “next gen” gaming experience? Well, it’s certainly original, and makes great use of the Wii U’s unique controller. ZombiU transforms the player’s touchscreen into a backpack, meaning that in order to access any of the weapons and supplies you picked up along your travels, you’ll need to take your eyes of the TV screen. That might not sound like such a big deal at first, but deep into the game and having had the bejesus scared out of your for the nth time, looking down at your controller to rummage around in your inventory while the game continues playing on the TV becomes as terrifying as fighting the undead itself and we were caught off-guard more than a couple of times while trying to dig out an item.
The controller also acts as a room scanner and a sniping scope later in the game, adding a whole new layer of immersion that you will never have experienced on a console game before. Definitely the kind of thing we’d like to see more of in the near future!
ZombiU isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a look, if only to experience the Wii U’s new controller at its best.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Testament to Nintendo’s promise to cater for the “hardcore” crowd and not just Mario fans, Activision’s multi-million-selling series has arrived on Nintendo’s new console. It’s fast-paced military gunplay at its best, and comes complete with an in-depth online multiplayer mode that our man Kuzo was even able to enjoy while taking the train after tethering our console to his trusty iPhone 5.
While the RocketNews24 team aren’t all the biggest fans of the online shooter genre, every member agreed that Black Ops 2 is one of the most realistic-looking games they’ve ever seen. The character animation and facial expressions in particular blew us away and gave us a glimpse of where ultra-realistic video games are headed from here on out.
Although there’s little here to wow those already used to the series or anything special in terms of game content on the Wii U version (the game is also available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360), Black Ops 2 on the Wii U does have one fantastic feature that we simply had to mention: you can play the entire game, online and off, without the need for a TV set. What does that mean for you? It means home console-quality games from the warmth of your bed. It means never having to leave that intense online multiplayer match just because you’ve been struck down with the norovirus and are confined to the toilet for the best part of the day.
That’s perhaps not the nicest mental image we’ve ever painted for you, but it’s one that thousands of gamers will likely act out in real life very soon thanks to the Wii U’s unique controller. Albeit hopefully without the diarrhoea…
- Nintendo Land
Aaand back to cute!
Described by its maker as “Nintendo’s biggest game worlds in one giant theme park,” Nintendo Land is designed to do one thing: show off the Wii U’s capabilities. And show them off it does!
At first glance, Nintendo Land may seem like a collection of simple mini games and a little reminiscent of the original Wii’s Wii Play, but there’s far more to it than meets the eye. Drawing on game worlds including The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, Metroid, Donkey Kong and even racing title F-Zero, Nintendo Land is presented as a huge adventure playground where players can visit whichever areas they like depending on their mood, each themed differently and with unique art styles.
The games, presented like fairground attractions, can be played alone or with friends, and are so painstakingly crafted that we found ourselves getting dangerously close to the screen to admire the details in things like Zelda games’ stitch-cloth characters and cardboard cut-out shuriken-throwing ninjas.
As well as the Zelda-themed levels that see one player aiming and shooting arrows with the gamepad while others hack and slash with Wii remotes, we found ourselves falling in love with the curiously addictive “Octopus Dance” mini-game that sees players copy dance moves by twisting and turning the gamepad in time with increasingly fast beats and rhythms, not unlike Nintendo’s ultra addictive DS and arcade title Rhythm Heaven.
Don’t overlook Nintendo Land– it’s a heap of fun, especially played with a few pals.
But for those on a budget, which of these games are most worth buying? They can’t all be day-one purchase, surely!?
Our team ranked the four titles we played depending on what kind of gaming experience you’re looking for.
- Singleplayer experience ranking:
2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
3. New Super Mario Bros U
- To play with a boy or girlfriend:
1. New Super Mario Bros U
2. Nintendo Land
- To play as a group:
1. Nintendo Land
2. New Super Mario Bros U
- For hardcore gamers:
1. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
3. New Super Mario Bros U
- And, finally, our shinkansen-riding-game-enthusiast Kuzo’s top three:
2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
3. Nintendo Land
Happy gaming, boys and girls. We’ll leave you with a bonus video taken during Kuzo’s recent on-the-go gaming session. Don’t say we never treat you!