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.
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.
TANK! TANK! TANK!
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.