Wii U Round-Up 4

Need for Speed: Most Wanted U

I’m not a huge fan of racing games generally. The things I most get out of them are the thrill of high-speed driving and viceral enjoyment from spectacular crack-ups at high-speeds. Basically the things I don’t get out of driving in real life. Racing around a track has little appeal for me (outside of fantasy tracks like Mario Kart or F-Zero) so this game definitely ticks the boxes: really fast cars and a game engine tuned to give you a sense of high-speed (without a corresponding lack of control), a “real-world” environment to race around in and fabulous smash-ups with effective use of slow-motion to sell the moment.

The developers have built a wonderful, self-contained city with surrounding countryside and plenty of bendy roads to drive your super-cars around. The Wii U shows it’s stuff not only in consistently high framerates and beautiful detail on the cars, but a lack of load times despite the large environment: you can drive non-stop for hours around town doing nothing more than blowing by speed cameras and running from the law without feeling limited by the size of the game world.

Of course eye-candy is just that and without a fun game surrounding it, wouldn’t count for much. I enjoy the Wii Wheel control option (though annoyingly you have to select the Remote from the Gamepad control menu every time you play): it provides a nice pick-up-and-play arcade feel. Everything in the game can be accessed in a couple of ways and there’s loads of achievements for those who like ticking boxes. Although a huge list of cars is immediately available, you can find others in hidden locations or earn them by scoring points via races and other achievements. The sooper-dee-dooper cars can be unlocked via the “Most Wanted” races against tough AI opponents.

You can jump into new cars on the spot via an on-screen menu system or the Gamepad and you can find cars in various locations (“jack spots”) allowing you to jump into the car at that location. Races can be started on the fly from a menu or by going to designated race areas and spinning your wheels. The variety is nice and caters to those who just want to start playing as well as people who like to drive around and explore or set missions for themselves. There are other achievements than finding car “jack spots” like blowing by speed cameras dotted about and if you sign up for the EA online account you’ll be set challenges based upon what your Wii U friends are doing in the game, as well as having the option to race with people online.

Whilst there’s no true local multiplayer, a second player can use the Gamepad to tweak things like night and day settings, traffic, car selection and mess with the cops whilst someone else plays with the Wii Remote. You can even take over the controls: kind of like a driving instructor with a second wheel. It’s a great way for a more skilled player to help a novice; alternatively for a non-player to participate.

So much for this being a mini-review, but Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is so much fun and so much care was put into it by the developers that anything less wouldn’t feel right. If you have a Wii U and enjoy racing or fast cars at all, get it!

BIT.TRIP Presents…Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

I loved the original BIT.TRIP Runner so much I gave it a perfect score in my Nintendo Life Review. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought it was the best of the WiiWare series as Gaijin Games decided they needed to do a sequel as their inaugural HD game.

This game is similar to the original Bit.Trip Runner in basic structure: CommanderVideo runs and you press buttons to guide him past obstacles, collecting gold bars and items which boost the musical dynamics on the way to the finish. It would be unfair to simply write this off as a derivative sequel, however as changes made beyond the graphical facelift provide additional challenge and make the game more accessible at the same time.

As with the first game there are different stages in each level (world), however there’s now optional checkpoints at the halfway point of each stage in the form of a gate operated by “Uncle Pickle” (don’t ask). Jump over the gate to get bonus points (and respect) or break through it to avoid starting over at the beginning if and when you slip up and run into an obstacle.

In addition to unlocking a bonus round by collecting all the gold bars you get to try to score extra points by launching CommanderVideo out of a cannon into a bullseye. Frivolous? Yes, but if you’ve got Wii U friends who are also playing (and I certainly hope you’ve got friends that cool) that extra dose of perfection can be what you need to get the top of the online leaderboard, so drop the attitude!

There’s extra stages to unlock by finding secret keys and a fabulous/bizarre looking world to enjoy narrated by the Voice of Mario himself, Charles Martinet. I don’t know what else I need to say to convince you to buy this game – how about DLC in the form of alternate characters including Quote from Cave Story and Dr. Fetus from Super Meatboy? BUY IT!!!!

Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper

After greatly enjoying Samurai Warriors 3 for the Wii I sold that game and bought this, foolishly thinking it would be a logical replacement for it on my shiny Wii U. After all the same characters are in it and the game mechanics are the same. With HD graphics on top it would tick all those boxes and then some, right? Well, no, actually, not really.

The Warriors Orochi series appears to be a way of making a bit of extra dough by re-using assets from other games. It’s a mash-up of two different series: Dynasty Warriors (an action spin-off of the classic Koei strategy series “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” based upon the same legendary Chinese work.) and Samurai Warriors. That’s a bit unfair given there’s new voice work and stages, but the fact is there’s a lot of character design re-use and duplication (compare Kotaro Fuma’s profile image from Samurai Warriors 3 with Ma Chao’s in this game if you don’t believe me). Couple asset re-use with the thinnest veneer of a storyline that serves as an excuse for this rather bizarre combination of characters from wildly different historical eras and you end up with something that doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense other than trying to sell an extra game on the back of two others to the same niche audience.

It might sound like I really dislike Warriors Orochi 3, but that’s not really the case. I enjoy the beat-em-up style, the over-the-top combat and mowing down a seemingly unending series of demon warriors, but it’s just not gelling for me in the same way that Samurai Warriors 3 did. The Warriors games at their heart are a dramatic re-telling of historic events. Dynasty Warriors covers the expansive journey of China toward a unified state, whilst Samurai Warriors deals with the Japanese period of civil war following the decadent Heian period into a new empire. Although it’s true that there’s a huge cast of characters in Warriors Orochi as a result, the fact is that you don’t get to know about these characters like you do in the separate series they come from and the weaker narrative interconnecting the battle sequences makes for a less-compelling game.

I still replay Samurai Warriors 3 (I’ve since re-purchased it) and despite the extra game modes in Warriors Orochi 3 (which I still haven’t finished even several months on) I expect I’ll end up continuing to play and enjoy Samurai Warriors 3 a great deal more in the future, simply because the re-imagined history it portrays is more compelling than the goofy mash-up story from Warriors Orochi 3 (and the horses cannot jump *sigh*).

If you’re a massive fan of these games then you’ll get some enjoyment out of it, but if you’re new to the Warriors games or the main selling point for you is the story and character development, I think you’re better off sticking with Samurai Warriors 3.

Wii U Round-Up 3

Chasing Aurora

Of the handful of download-only eShop launch titles I think that many would agree Chasing Aurora is possibly the weakest.

It’s a game designed around multiplayer using the Gamepad as a vehicle for asymmetrical gameplay a la the “tag” games featured in Nintendo Land, with a great visual style and controls that nicely convey the feeling of flying birds around an obstacle course. The problem is that despite the nice controls (which remind me of the excellent swimming mechanics in Sega’s classic “Ecco the Dolphin”) and beautiful origami-styled art design there just isn’t much game here. You have numerous game modes, but they all boil down to either tagging other players or playing keep away with an object which is carried by one player and sought after by others with a few subtle variations on each. Single player consists of flying around the courses a set number of times in the shortest time possible, which isn’t something you’ll want to come back to more than a couple of times.

I honestly only picked this up because it was on sale and I’ll give anything a go for a fiver. The most fun is the end credit sequence where you fly a bird through a moving background of forest and mountains reading the staff names that appear as obstacles to fly around. It’s okay as a multi-player game, but you’d be better off with a more varied mini-game collection like Game & Wario or Nintendo Land.

Little Inferno

One of the pricier download-only titles that launched the Wii U eShop. Like Chasing Aurora it’s a title I was curious to check out and bought when it was on sale (one of many advantages of the Wii U eShop over the old WiiWare store).

It’s an interesting “non-game” where players buy things to burn in a home entertainment device which is basically a fireplace. There’s loads of not-so-subtle commentary on watching TV or sitting in the house playing games instead of socialising or going outside to play and a narrative which is gradually revealed as you burn your way through several catalogues of flammable mail-order items. The visuals and controls are great (I preferred the more kinetic Wii Remote interface) and it’s quite satisfying burning items and observing the effects without the usual hazards associated with pyromania.

If you like a little philosophy with your gaming entertainment then this “virtual toy” is worth checking out!

New Super Mario Bros. U

Read any of the Mario game reviews on this site and you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of Mario games (other than the original arcade Mario Bros.) or platforming games in general.

My primary motivation in picking up this title was wanting something besides Nintendo Land to play with my daughter – who has become a more keen player of video games over the past couple of years – and this was the most appealing of the launch titles in the eShop that fit the bill.

Like New Super Mario Bros. Wii you can play with up to four on-screen characters, oddly limited to Mario, Luigi and two “toadstool” inhabitants of Princess Peach’s Mushroom Kingdom. As with the rest of the series you’re trying to rescue Peach from Bowser; as with the last game in the series players can help or hinder each other. In multiple-player games instead of controlling a character the player using the Gamepad can add temporary blocks or freeze enemies – it’s a great way for less-skilled (or less-interested) players to participate and one of the things I hope we’ll see more of in Wii U games.

The HD visuals bring more detail to the party and there’s new suits and enemies, but anyone who’s played a 2D Mario game since Super Mario Bros. 3 will know what’s what. This is the first 2D Mario game I’ve played all the way through since Super Mario Land on the Gameboy over twenty years ago and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed it. Unlike Super Mario Bros. 3 this feels like a game Nintendo wants everyone to enjoy, regardless of skill (though I’m happy to say I resisted the temptation to use the green “walkthrough” blocks which appear in locations after you die a number of times a la New Super Mario Bros. Wii). A safe purchase for the kids or anyone who hasn’t played one of these games in a while and wants a nostalgia jolt and a beautiful game to watch in action if nothing else.


This was originally a retail release of an arcade game, but rather than simply make it available for download as-is, Namco decided to use this title as a pilot for in-game purchasing in the European eShop. TANK! TANK! TANK! is free to download, but other than a couple of levels that serve as demos, the various game modes must be unlocked by spending a little cash before they can be played. The price doesn’t turn out much different than buying the game disc at retail if you buy all modes, but if you’re like me and don’t want everything, you can get a couple and have some fun for a budget price.

Story Mode offers a pretty basic 3D tank game where you blast a bunch of robot monsters and occasional giant bosses. There are different tanks to unlock and upgrades to purchase to keep you replaying levels for better scores. These can also be played co-op with another player, using Gamepad and TV to give each player their own display rather than using split-screen on the TV. It’s a great use of the Gamepad and something we’ll likely see more of in multi-player Wii U games.

The other game mode I opted for is “My Kong” which sees the Gamepad player controlling a rampaging giant robot gorilla (featuring a face decorated using the Gamepad camera) and other players controlling tanks on the ground trying to destroy it. This is loads of fun; especially with a group.

Two things that would have made it better would be more tank-like dual-stick controls and online play. The fact that you’re prompted to take a photo which is then displayed over your tank during play makes it seem obvious that you’d have other players with their photos, but Namco apparently didn’t want to spend the money for that – shame! Having said that this an easy title to recommend to fans of simple arcade fun.

Wii U Round-Up 2

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge

The original Ninja Gaiden is a game I only remember from the arcades: a brutally difficult side-scrolling beat-em-up in which the “dragon ninja” pummels an array of hockey-mask-wearing weirdos in some bizarro near-future America. Most shocking was the animated continue screen showing your struggling hero strapped to a table whilst a circular saw slowly decends against a backdrop of ghoulish faces in the shadows(!)

Reborn on the Playstation 2 as a 3rd-person action game with a reputation for brutal difficulty, this port of the latest outing that originally graced the PS3 and Xbox 360 is one of the goriest games I’ve ever played and very much deserves the 18-rating it’s graced with. Players will guide the super-ninja Ryu Hyabusa (and his pink-haired buxom female counterpart Kunoichi in some interlude chapters made special for this “Razor’s Edge” version of Ninja Gaiden 3) through a number of stages in which he’ll be engaging in some serious limb amputation on a variety of suicidal baddies who just keep coming back for more like extras from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

It’s very much the heir of the original and not a game for casual players as even the most basic of enemies will clobber you if you don’t bother doing the odd bit of dodging and blocking between the hacking and slashing. Despite the brutal difficulty even the most impossible of boss battles can be bested if you can summon a bit of patience and focus on the array of attack patterns employed against you (and you’ve been successful at remembering and executing some key combo moves). I have to say I haven’t played a game this challenging since No More Heroes and I felt a real sense of accomplishment in not accepting the offer to dial down the difficulty until the final boss fight.

If I wanted to sum up my feelings about this game in one word it would be “satisfying.” The story is ludicrous and silly just like the original arcade game and the combat is visceral: the use of extreme close-ups and crunching sound-effects when pulling off killing moves delivers some serious impact. The difficulty is balanced on a knife edge such that you know you can overcome your enemies, but that the wrong move will mean defeat. It’s been a long time since I played a game that provides this kind of adrenaline rush and many were the boss encounters that found me actually sweating afterwards!

If you like a bit of challenge and don’t mind a bit of the old ultra-violence then this is a must-have on the Wii U.

The Cave

Another multi-platform download-only title for the eShop, The Cave is an interesting platform game that takes cues from point-and-click adventure games of yesteryear.

The writing is quite amusing; which you’d expect from one of the creative minds behind the Lucas Arts classic “Day of the Dead,” but the gameplay isn’t your standard run and jump affair. Players guide three characters through levels patterned after their darkly humourous stories within the titular cave (which talks). This involves doing typical adventure game stuff like finding and using items to trigger events that open doors or otherwise progress the story. For the most part these are pretty obvious, but as with many adventure games you will occasionally get stuck and need to find a walkthrough online.

It’s generally good fun, though it can be a bit trying if you’re playing with people who lack basic platforming skills or don’t follow direction well since you’ll often need to put different characters in different locations – often not all on screen at the same time. Since focus will automatically shift to whichever of the three characters is selected last you can end up trying to perform some task with a character only to have focus shift to another character mid-step because a teammate accidentally pressed a button. You can’t die so there’s nothing game-ending about it, but it can get quite annoying!

It’s a worthwhile diversion for fans of story-based games who can appreciate a darkly amusing yarn and in the early days of the Wii U’s eShop it’s a decent and unique offering. Potential buyers should be aware the visuals haven’t been optimised for the Wii U’s HD output and there are a few game-breaking bugs that will force you to restart at your last checkpoint; given how long this game has been out I wouldn’t expect an update any time soon to address these issues.

Zen Pinball 2

I have an unnaturally strong love for pinball and pinball games were my main motivation for buying the Wii: namely Farsight Studios’ Pinball Hall of Fame series. Although their new virtual project The Pinball Arcade is apparently en route to the Wii U as I write this, the only pinball action to be had on the console at present is probably the most recognisable video pinball out there: Zen Pinball 2.

Unlike the pinball games that Farsight produces, Zen Pinball 2 is of the video variety, meaning that the tables have features you’d be unable to implement in a real pinball machine like animated figurines or warp zones wherein the ball is transported to another mini-table.

On the whole I prefer the real thing or an accurate simulation of same, but many of the tables on offer are quite entertaining; especially the licensed ones based upon Plants Versus Zombies and the Marvel super heroes, with my favourites being the Blade and Spider-Man tables. Around half of the tables are original and whilst none are that bad I only found myself wanting to buy the sci-fi themed ones Mars and Earth Defence. The physics engine is pretty good and the visuals are extremely pretty.

My primary gripe with this title is the table purchase mechanism in what is an initially free download. Some of the issues with in-game purchases are down to Nintendo since you’ll find that no eShop games allow you to make a purchase in-game as you would on an iOS device. Presumably this is in the interest of security: selecting the option to buy will simply launch the eShop and annoyingly you can only purchase five add-ons at a time.

What I can lay at the feet of Zen is the fact that although it’s nice that you can play time-limited demos of all the tables, you’ll need to download them individually via the eShop with the above-mentioned five at-a-time limitation attached. Given all purchasing a table does is remove the demo time-limit this isn’t optional even if you were happy to buy a table without giving it a free play. It took me over an hour to be in a position to test drive all the tables; having a fat initial download wouldn’t have delayed my play time any further and it would have been a lot less aggravating.

If I have a complaint about the game itself it’s that some of the table designs aren’t up to much and the voice samples can get quite repetitive on tables where it’s easy to hit the same loops over and over again, but there’s enough pinball action here to satisfy me until Farsight can bring their magnum opus to the stage. If only the initial set-up were less of a pain!

Wii U Round-Up 1

Nano Assault Neo

Shin’en have wowed gamers in the past with what they achieved visually on the Wii in the teeny-tiny storage footprint of WiiWare and here they are doing something similar on the Wii U. For a download-only title of this size there is some pretty amazing stuff going on.

Spiritually descended from arcade games of the past, Nano Assault Neo sees players controlling a ship on what is supposed to be a cell, moving over the surface and blasting enemy microbes(?) that are encountered before hitting a kill threshold and going to the exit.

It’s fast-paced, has a varied techno soundtrack to put you in the zone and looks gorgeous. This was my second eShop purchase and if you’re a fan of good old-fashioned arcade action it’s a must have.

Nintendo Land

My first eShop purchase, Nintendo Land wasn’t something I was initially interested in, but the more I read about it the more it sounded worthwhile. Some compare it with the Wii Play collection: an assortment of mini-games that showcased the Wii Remote+Nunchuk controls of the Wii. To a degree that’s true, but the games in Nintendo Land are more fully-formed than those of Wii Play and they cover a broader range of gaming styles.

I won’t go into detail on the games themselves (you can find that information easily enough elsewhere), but suffice it to say it’s a great way to sample some of Nintendo’s biggest franchises and give you an appetite for more – just make sure you have some Wii Remotes and Nunchuks around for multiplayer.

Trine 2

Possibly the most beautifully detailed game on the Wii U thus far. Trine 2 is an action-platforming puzzle game – at least that seems like a comprehensive enough description – in which you use three different characters to work through a fantasy story about a princess and jealousy and, well, I don’t want to give it away.

It’s really geared for multi-player since some of the puzzles (largely of the “how do I get that door opened?” variety) work better with two players working in concert. If you’re on your own, don’t fret because online multiplayer complete with voice support via the Gamepad allows you to enjoy the multiplayer goodness without having someone present in your living room. I’ve enjoyed local multiplayer with my daughter and online multiplayer with a fellow Nintendo Life forumite and I think playing with others is the best way to enjoy this title. Nice to see 3rd parties supporting Nintendo’s notion that gaming should be a social activity!