Review by darkknight109
"Whimsical and Tremendously Fun"
Nintendo Land is one of two first-party launch titles offered by Nintendo to kick off the start of the Wii U. It's arguably overshadowed by its peer, New Super Mario Bros. U, but perhaps unfairly so. Nintendo Land is a particularly enjoyable game and offers a fantastic multiplayer and solid single player experience.
The game itself features twelve games, each one centring around a different Nintendo franchise. These games are accessed via a central hub, a plaza navigated by your Mii and populated by hundreds of other Miis (taken from the internet if your console has an active Nintendo account, filled by stock characters otherwise). Within the plaza you can spend coins earned during play to unlock models of various characters and items from the game. Sort of a more interactive version of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's trophy system, for those who have played it.
Nintendo Land has a very Wii Sports feel to it, in that it was clearly designed to show off the Wii U's tablet/Wiimote combo gameplay. But where Wii Sports felt in some cases like a polished up tech demo, Nintendo Land is quite clearly a full game in its own right. The two share other similarities beyond their promotion of their parent console most of Nintendo Land's games, like Wii Sports, feature quick-to-learn gameplay that even casual gamers can pick up on in seconds. Don't be fooled by the ease of the controls and game rules, however most are difficult to master and some of the single player offerings provide substantial challenge for even seasoned gamers.
The game widely divides itself into three modes: single player, co-op multiplayer, and competitive multiplayer. Though the official billing is six single player, three co-op, and three competitive games, in reality there's a bit of overlap (Pikmin, for instance, can be played single-player or co-op, while Metroid can be played in any of the three modes).
The single player titles are probably the most varied of the bunch, and can certainly be the most difficult. They consist of a Donkey Kong rolling obstacle course (terribly addicting and my personal favourite of the bunch), an F-Zero time trial (which involves twisting the controller to steer the Blue Falcon), a Game-and-Watch dance game (basically a Simon Says game), a Yoshi fruit gathering game (a fairly creative title where the TV shows a map with objectives and obstacles on it that you have to try and recreate on the tablet, which has a featureless version of the same map), Balloon Trip (which is almost identical to the Balloon Fight NES game it is derived from) and a ninja-themed game based off a franchise I did not recognize (this one uses shooter-style gameplay with the objective being the defeat of enemy ninjas).
The single player games can be characterized by having very quick to pick-up gameplay, but a steadily increasing difficulty which constantly ups the challenge. They do an excellent job of showing off the various capabilities of the tablet for different control schemes. Yoshi, for instance, has you use it like a drawing board, while F-Zero has you twist the controller back and forth for steering.
While the single player games are certainly fun, the real joy of Nintendo Land is in the multiplayer. The competitive games, (with the exception of Metroid's competitive mode), all focus on variations of tag. Animal Crossing has the tablet-player controlling two guards (one with each analogue stick) who attempt to catch the other players three times, while the other players control villagers who try and grab candy while avoiding the guards. The Mario themed game is the reverse situation; the tablet player controls Mario from a top-down view and tries to avoid the Wiimote-controlled Toads, who get an isometric view of the battlefield. The third competitive title is Luigi's Mansion, where the tablet player controls an invisible ghost in a maze and the Wiimote-players control ghost-hunters with flashlights. The ghost tries to sneak up on the hunters and grab them while the hunters try to shine flashlights on the ghost when they think he's near. Though the competitive games are all variations on a theme, they're also tremendously fun and good for some laughs.
The co-op games, Zelda, Metroid, and Pikmin, all involve you tackling a horde of enemies using different abilities (Zelda has the tablet player as an archer while the Wiimote players are swordsmen, Metroid has the tablet player in a ship while the Wiimote players are foot soldiers, and Pikmin has the tablet player taking control of Olimar while the Wiimote players are his Pikmin). They're certainly fun, though categorically I'd rate them as the weakest of the bunch.
All in all, Nintendo Land offers a polished gameplay experience and really shows off what the Wii U is capable of. If you didn't pick up the Deluxe Version of the console and are looking for a solid all around title, or if you know someone who still needs convincing that the tablet controller of the Wii U has definite potential to add a new dimension to gaming, Nintendo Land is a particularly solid purchase.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/19/12, Updated 11/22/12
Game Release: Nintendo Land (US, 11/18/12)
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