Platinum Games has proven to be quite the versatile developer, giving Nintendo fans the brutal, tongue-in-cheek violence of Mad World as well as the incredibly deep and complicated sci-fi RPG Infinite Space. For Wii U, the revered studio is continuing their tradition of delivering crazy and creative experiences with Project P-100, which is actually just a “working title”.
When I first laid eyes on P-100, I immediately thought of a strange mix of Pikmin and Viewtiful Joe. The reality of the game is actually a lot more straightforward from a gameplay perspective, but conceptually and aesthetically it’s no less wacky. The visuals don’t have the comic-like flair of Viewtiful Joe, but the style is still beautiful, adopting a bright, clean approach that is somewhat reminiscent of Pixar’s The Incredibles.
The art is executed all the better with the horsepower of Wii U, the pulled out camera view allows for lots of great detail to pop out of the levels, including plenty of great little effects, like smoke, particles, and some really great depth of field. All the shiny metal and super hero spandex also has an amazing sheen to it.
The gameplay is all about being a hero who recruits new heroes from the population of a city under siege by invading aliens and their robots of various sizes. Heroes are recruited by drawing a loop or circular shape on gamepad, which your followers then emulate, surrounding civilians and empowering them with super hero masks and suits, causing them to join in on the fun. This mechanic is rather Pikmin-esque, but from her it deviates, because instead of throwing your followers, you draw certain shapes on the gamepad screen to get them to form weapons the main hero wields. Your followers default to a large fist, but drawing a straight line creates a sword that can grow longer and stronger with more followers and adding a curve to the line creates a giant, follower shooting gun.
The Demo itself is structured rather uniquely. Players are given a series of timed objectives, either involving getting from point A to B, or defeating a bunch of small baddies or a giant enemy. Running and jumping is as expected with a pulled back, isometric view, and combat is surprisingly simple, largely playing like a rather typical hack and slash. Things are complicated by a battery meter that drains with each attack, but it recharges fairly quickly and batteries are spread throughout the map for a quicker option.
Actually playing the game, however, things feel a little overly hectic. The pulled back view makes your character small compared to the mass of heroes around him, so that takes some getting used to, and the HUD, including the battery meter and life bar, is surprisingly cluttered. What’s more, some of the context sensitive actions, turning knobs or throwing trucks out of the way, require action on the gamepad, but what exactly is necessary isn’t all that clear. Also, going inside structures brings the action to the gamepad, showing a traditional third person view of your character, and controlling him here also feels just a little off.
Some of this might sound a little harsh, but remember one thing, this game probably has a ways to go before launch. The visuals are gorgeous, the gameplay features a nice mix of unique and traditional elements, and Platinum Games has a stellar record for creating amazing products. All the weird quirks I didn’t really like are relatively small problems that could either be fixed quite easily, or maybe they are just things one could grow used to over time. Regardless of all that, the creativity throughout the rest of demo at least makes Project P-100 a game to keep your eye on.