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Nintendo Land review
A land of potential

The good:

It manages to show off the capabilities of the WiiU's controller well enough to make you wonder how developers are going to utilize it. In a group setting, this game is a lot of fun.

The bad:

The lack of online play is a missed opportunity. Most of the single player games are passable if not a bit lacking, and one of them is pretty much broken. So really, it's only fun with a group of people. Hope your friends have Wiimotion Plus Wiimotes... Oh, and there are some calibration issues here and there.


Released in 2012 by Nintendo, Nintendo Land is a collection of mini games that, in some way, shape or form, utilizes the features on the game pad. Whether it's motion control, the touch screen or the fact that games on the WiiU can also be viewed on said touch screen, every feature gets a chance to demonstrate themselves. So as a tech demo, it's actually not too bad, but unfortunately, I'm not reviewing it just as that - I'm also reviewing it on the merits of being a retail game. You know, a game you buy in a store, not a game that's packaged with the console! On those merits, Nintendo Land is decent and even a lot of fun under the right circumstances, but more often than not, it's just that game you play for about an hour or so before you go and do something else, like mow the lawn, head out to the beach or play a better game.

Nintendo Land has 12 attractions, which are grouped into three categories - Competitive, Team and Solo. To start this on a weaker note, the Solo attractions are pretty lackluster and only really serve to show what kind of potential the WiiU has. This is no more evident than in Octopus Dance. The idea is to either move the analogue sticks, tilt the controller or shake it when the onscreen dance instructor prompts you to do so. He'll show you the moves first, and then you'll need to do them in time with him and the music. Now, where this attraction loses me is when it expects you to use the motion controls. See, the controller can't seem to properly recognize whether you're tilting or shaking it if you tilt it quickly, which is what you're inevitably going to do because you'd want to keep up with the beat. As a result, when it asks you to tilt it and it inevitably recognizes it as shaking, you're going up a choppy river without a lifeboat. Because of this, Octopus Dance is easily the worst attraction.

There are two more that utilize motion control – Donkey Kong's Crash Course, and Captain Falcon's Twister Race. Donkey Kong's Crash Course involves you moving a trolley from Point A to Point B by tilting the controller. This reminds me of Super Monkey Ball where you have to tilt the level so that you can move the ball around, but oh man, I don't remember that game going from manageable to a whole heap of bullshit within the first ten seconds! You'll eventually find a segment where you'll lose a lot of lives until you realize “I need to go this quickly and tilt the controller at that exact moment”. The calibration is fine on this one; at least the course tilts with your controller, the shoulder buttons at least manage to activate the movable platforms and you can at least blow on the microphone to activate the fans. It's just how much you're willing to tolerate constant failure due to minute speeding errors.

As for Captain Falcon's Twister Race, you're racing through twelve increasing difficult parts of a long race track, dodging obstacles along the way. For a while, this was my favorite because while I had to turn the controller around like a steering wheel, there was plenty of fun to be had in swerving around tight corners like Captain Falcon. But then I notice some calibration issues after making some particularly tight turns... and when I hold it straightly, I'm turning a bit in the opposite direction! Ouch! There are some methods like pressing up or down on the D-pad, and a lot of it is due to wildly turning it to get around those sharper corners, but with all that's said and done, it's all a natural response to these kinds of situations and, unless you're willing to constantly recalibrate during downtime, it's an outright pain in the ass. Doesn't help that you're on a time limit – if it hits zero (or if you blow up by crashing into an explosive), it's game over and you have to start again. Imagine if it's all because of calibration issues! So a favorite stops being a favorite because of an oversight on Nintendo's part. Double ouch.

The other three Solo attractions make use of the touch screen, rather than motion control. For instance, Takamaru's Ninja Castle (remember Takamaru? No? Well, he's from some Japanese-only game called Nazo no Murasame Jo) has you throwing ninja stars by stroking the screen either quickly for a quick throw, or slowly for a slower, lower throw. The idea is to take out all of the ninjas before they manage to hit you three times. This one is actually a lot of fun as it gets more frantic with more ninjas to take down and they're not afraid to take you down either. If you're willing to get used to the flick controls, this game will be a potential favorite for when you just want to kill a few minutes.

Then there's Yoshi's Fruit Cart, where you'll need to draw a path for Yoshi to follow, gathering up the fruit in the order shown on screen... the TV screen, that is, without falling down any holes. The touch screen won't show crap, so you'll need to use the TV screen to make reference points. Early on, it's easy enough, but later on, it becomes a bit trickier as you absolutely have to get the numbered fruit in numeric order, without falling into holes AND while making it to the door at the end. There aren't any technical issues as it follows the path you've drawn finely and whatever fruit you miss is entirely your fault – don't be such a sloppy drawer – and it can be refreshingly addicting if you're a sucker for puzzle games, and hey, if they added some sexually explicit anime characters, they can pitch it to Atlus as their newest hentai dating sim!

Okay, teasing aside, there is one last Solo attraction, and that's Balloon Trip Breeze. You use the touch screen as a means of creating a small breeze of wind for your balloon fighter to fly by. Said touch screen gives you a zoomed in view of the action while the TV screen is zoomed out. This one's alright, but having to constantly switch between the touch screen and the TV screen is a bit of a pain, and there isn't much to really keep your interest. The touch controls are fine, but the physics are a bit stiff and it's a bit too easy to die because of one slightly misdirected breeze, but maybe it's just because it's a bit too dull that I can notice something like that before moving onto a different attraction.

Better yet, it might entice you to bring over friends to try out the Competitive attractions! These ones can only be done with 2-5 players, so hope that said four people brought over their Wiimotion Plus Wiimotes... because that's the only Wiimote the WiiU will accept and there's no option for classic controller usage. Let's start with Mario Chase. The idea is that the person using the WiiU controller, playing as Mario, runs away from the people or “Toads” using the Wiimotes. Now, this sounds like a great idea for a simple, fun competitive game – have the rowdy Toads drunkenly bumble about trying to find Mario while he does his best impression of Sam Fisher by staying in hiding. The execution is hit and miss. For one thing, if you have less than five players, their Toads will be replaced by robotic Yoshis with... random AI, so to speak. Sometimes, they're relentless in their pursuit; at other times, they're complete idiots who couldn't catch a cold. Unless you're all rowdy and/or the TV is turned down reasonably low, the robotic Nintendo Land guide Monita will tell the others where Mario happens to be. Given that the best Mario has at his disposal is a star that appears after a while to make him run faster, this is unfair.

Luigi's Ghost Mansion is the opposite – the idea is for the person with the WiiU controller to frighten the torch wielding Wiimote using Luigis while said Luigis shine a light on the ghost to capture it. Where it's Mario Chase's opposite is in the fact that human players are a necessity in order to capture the ghost because the Monitas that replace the Luigis are more braindead than Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants. Theoretically, they're meant to spin around when they find a ghost, but they seem to spin around because... why not? The only real advantage that humans have is that they can revive Luigis that... crapped their pants in such fear that they can't move anymore. Overall, you absolutely need plenty of human players to actually have any fun with this, particularly a rowdy group of friends.

Oh wait, there is one more Competitive attraction that I forgot to mention, and that's Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. The idea is that the animals, controlled by the Wiimotes, have to collect the candy and drop them off at score zones while the guards, controlled by the WiiU controller, have to capture said animals three times while protecting said score zones. Keep in mind that the more candy the animals have, the slower that they go, so keep an eye out for any that are taking on more than they can handle... if you can. See, if you're controlling the guards, you may go a bit cross eyed as you're controlling two at the same time using both analogue sticks. If you've noticed a pattern, it's that all of these Competitive attractions are a glorified form of tag. Not that it's a bad thing or anything, it's just something I thought was amusing enough to point out.

Which leads us to the Team attractions, which are most definitely the highlight of the game. These, you can either play on your own or with a group of friends, but either way, they're vasty superior to the other two types of attractions. First up is The Legend Of Zelda: Battle Quest. In this one, the person with the WiiU controller uses a bow and arrow while everyone with Wiimotes uses a sword each. For the WiiU controller, you tilt it in the direction that you want to aim, and then hold down the left or right analogue stick to charge a shot before letting go to fire, and reloading is as simple as tilting it down pretty low. For Wiimote users, you swing the Wiimote around and the sword will swing with you. Holding it up will charge up your next strike. The quest is on rails though, meaning that you can't move at your own pace, so pay attention for enemies that charge towards you and above all else, back each other up! If anybody dies, it's game over! But honestly, this is so much fun to go through – taking down enemies, especially big bosses, always feels so satisfying, especially amongst company that helps you out, but even on your own with just your bow and arrows, there's always plenty to shoot and some strategy that's necessary to ensure that you survive long enough to get the Triforce. Thankfully, it's split into stages and they aren't all that long, but not to worry, as they get progressively harder, forcing you to prioritize and aim better.

Next up is Pikmin Adventure, which... well, it's fun if you're using the WiiU controller as you get to control Captain Olimar, master of all Pikmin that he plucks out of the ground. I'd hate to be the one using a Wiimote in this game – Wiimote users control one of the Pikmin. Granted, these will have more room to do what they need to in order to progress than those ordered by Olimar, but not by much. Sure, they're bigger, but other than that, they're as much Olimar's slaves as the smaller Pikmin. There wasn't much thought put into this one as far as a Team attaction goes. It feels more like a Solo attraction and when you play it by yourself, it definitely feels more natural. But anyway, the idea is to get the Pikmin to destroy obstacles and kill enemies in order to get to the boss at the end, defeat it and move on to the next stage. It's still fun to go through, but more on your own than with friends.

Finally, there's Metroid Blast, my absolute favorite attraction in the entire game and one that'll most definitely be yours too! The person using the WiiU controller will control a gunship, using the analogue sticks to move around, motion controls to aim and buttons to fire. Now, this will feel unwieldy for a while, but once it clicks, it sticks, and when it sticks, this attraction will be so much fun that you wouldn't believe it! There are plenty of enemies to shoot down in this attraction – at first, the most that they'll do is nonchelantly float towards you, but eventually, you'll get ones that shoot at you and will put up quite a fight. Thankfully, the Team part of this attraction is fairly balanced like the Zelda attraction. The Wiimote users will be on the ground, backing you up... I would hope so, anyway. The only problem is that some of the later levels' designs favor the gunship as there's some convoluted navigation for the ground troops. Bit of a shame that there has to be at least one problem beyond the learning curve for the gunship's controls. But yeah, once things get rolling, they most certainly get rolling and unless you have a full force, it becomes an intense festival of staying alive against impossible odds, like a battle in one of the Lord Of The Rings movies... only with laser beams instead of swords and arrows.

I would talk about Nintendo Land itself, but all it is, is just a means of getting into the attractions in an easy to navigate manner, maybe with some prizes that tell you fun facts about various Nintendo franchises. There would be something to say if there was online multiplayer... then you could set up rooms to play the multiplayer attractions with people from across the world. But alas, that'd go against what Nintendo had set out to do with this game, which is to test out the capabilities of the WiiU's controller and see how well Wiitmotes work on the console. Oh well, I mean, I'd love to play the Competitive attractions with people online because it could make things even more rowdy, or maybe there'd be some people willing to work with me while I play the Team attractions! Not everybody is in a position to get together four of their real life friends for some video games – this is why online multiplayer was invented in the first place!

Nintendo Land looks pretty good. The most that it shows off about the WiiU's graphical capabilities is that at least it looks crispy and sharp, not at all low quality. The visuals themselves are cartoony with plenty of colors to keep your eyes on the prize, although a lot of the character modelss do appear to have a coat of wax smeared all over them. Not that it hurts the game in any way nor is it all that distracting, but when Monita the robot appears more human than the supposedly human characters, it's just a bit weird to me. I have noticed some issues with objects popping up as you walk near them in the main park, but unless you want some fun facts, it's not even noteworthy since you'd hardly be in the main park anyway – not much if anything suddenly pops up in the games. So while it doesn't make you go “WOW check out these phat graphics on this spiffy new HD console”, it at least shows that the WiiU has the potential for high definition graphics.

The sound design is nothing to write home about. A lot of the songs are chippy and upbeat to get you into the fun of playing a bunch of carnival games, but unfortunately, none of these songs are memorable in the slightest. They just sound like generic uptempo songs that do little to stand out or even get you all that chipper. It's almost like listening to feel good elevator music, it's that bland and forgettable. The sound effects aren't much better – they're either 8-bit sound effects to try and niggle at your nostalgia bone, or they just sound like what they ought to. Monita's voice is the only thing that works. It's robotic, yet her voice is strangely welcoming, which is what a tour guide ought to be.

Something that I've stated throughout the review is “it at least shows *insert feature here*'s potential”, and that's all Nintendo Land really is. It's a platform on which they can experiment with what the WiiU has to offer. They did do this with Wii Sports on the Wii and Sega did this with Altered Beast, but the reason I'm stressing this with Nintendo Land is because it's more blatant about it than those games. Outside of the Zelda and Metroid attractions and maybe the Takamaru's Ninja Castle attraction, nothing really stands out as more than adequate on their own terms, relying more on human interaction than the actual playing of the game to hide underdeveloped designs and blatant tech demo-isms. Perhaps I am unfairly criticising a game that comes packaged with a console, but at the same time, that's the only condition on which this game is ever anywhere near your collection – because it came with your console! There's no real reason to have this game otherwise because only a few attractions are worth playing as games rather than just as a social activity!

Gameplay - 6/10 – A lot of the attractions feel somewhat underdeveloped, like they really wanted to make games that just tested how everything worked. There are some that are legitimately fun to play through, but others are just time killers. It's not worth rating it highly just because of two very good attractions when the other ten were a mixed bag.
Controls - 3.5/5 – There are some calibration issues to be found in a few attractions – whether it doesn't straighten out completely or recognize the difference between quick tilts and shaking, there's definitely some room for improvement. The normal controls work finely as you can move with them just finely, it's the motion controls that need some work.
Graphics – 4/5 – Everything looks fine as they're crispy enough, although pop up is a bit weak.
Sound – 2.5/5 – Bland and unmemorable. Remembering a single track takes a lot more brainpower than I'm willing to expel. At least Monita sounds like what you'd expect and sounds good doing so.

Overall - 6/10 – As a tech demo, it somewhat succinctly demonstrates what the WiiU can do; as a game, it's alright, but unless you absolutely need a time killer to play with friends, I'd advise on skipping this one and going straight to Mario.

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