Reviews: Nintendo Land
Don't call it a "mini-game" collection, call it a retro game collection
A long time ago, there was a game called Adventures In The Magic Kingdom, which put you in a mini-game theme park. It implied that your character was actually going on adventures in the theme park, portraying the rides as if they were "real", and going so far as to have a lives limit that was consistent throughout the game. Nintendo Land takes a different approach, making it clear that the attractions are just that, and that you're merely pretending to go on adventures — all the things on the attractions are clearly animatronic robots, look like toys, or are made out of fabric or other such materials. The park atmosphere is also really well done, with Miis walking around with surprisingly realistic AI, walking as groups, talking to each other, checking out the statues, reading sign posts, and excitedly running into the attractions. Many of the mini-games here have enough depth that I can easily see them as $10 downloadable games on Steam, or even old-school NES games with modernized graphics, sound and control schemes. United by the amusement park element, which gives the games a consistent theme, this is a mini-game collection that feels like a fleshed-out experience. The mini-games themselves range from mini versions of classic games such as Balloon Fight and Pikmin, with added depth in the former and removed depth and an added co-op mode in the latter, to entirely original concepts. The main intent of Nintendo Land is to demonstrate the capabilities of the Wii U's unique touchscreen controller, and the game does that quite well. Pikmin Adventure shows how much Pikmin would easily benefit from the use of a touchscreen, as you tap exactly where you want to throw the Pikmin while navigating your character with the stick. Meanwhile, Luigi's Ghost Mansion and Metroid Blast allow for a unique form of multiplayer in which the players have vastly different capabilities, such as one player flying a spaceship while others run on the ground, or one player assuming the role of an invisible ghost on the touchscreen, who must sneak up on ghost hunters whose view is limited to the TV. Some games even have different modes depending on your controller type. Overall, it's a package filled with creativity with real depth.
The only tech demo game I've seen to use the console's real potential
I intially had low expectations for this game, as I saw it as a Spiritual Successor of sorts to Wii Sports and knew it was a Tech Demo Game. But after actually playing it, I was genuinely impressed. Not only with the games, but with the fact that they seemed to zero in on the Wii U's main strength: Asymmetrical Multiplayer. The Wii U gamepad allows information to be fed to one player and be hidden from the rest. Luigi's Ghost Mansion hides the ghost from everyone who isn't playing it, Sweet Day allows the guard player to make successful sneak attacks and such that would otherwise be thwarted by screenwatching... the list goes on. Even the single-player games are very entertaining and addictive. Donkey Kong's Crash Course requires some very precise moves, Octopus Dance will pretty much push your short-term menory to its limit, and even after you think you've beaten them they hit you with an extra stage. If you think this will be easy because it's a casual game, you are dead wrong - it's called Nintendo Hard for a reason. About the only minigame I don't like is Takamaru's Ninja Castle, and even then Your Mileage May Vary. I would say this game is more a Spiritual Successor to Super Smash Bros than anything. It's the game you bring out when you have a bunch of friends over and want everyone to have a good time. It has something for everyone - casual or hardcore - and is in my opinion the best Wii U launch title, beating out New Super Mario Bros. U and Scribblenauts Unlimited - quite a feat!