For those wanting a slightly more leisurely multiplayer affair, however, then The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest will be right up your street– especially since Link seems to have taken a few pointers from Kirby’s Epic Yarn in this instance and made his entire on-rails adventure a glorious patchwork of fuzzy materials and stringy thread.
It’s also stitched together a few different gameplay concepts as well (if you’ll pardon the pun), as those armed with Wii Remotes must show off their accumulated skills from Skyward Sword and Wii Sports Resort‘s “Swordplay Showdown” challenge with their Wii Motion Plus-enhanced swords and shields, while the GamePad player will act as group archer, taking out foes from afar and hitting switches other players can’t reach with a swipe of their finger across the screen.
But unlike the other two multiplayer games I saw in Nintendo Land, you’re all working toward a common goal in Battle Quest and you all share the same number of hearts too, meaning you’ll need to co-operate with your fellow players much more than the frenzied shenanigans of Sweet Day and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion if you want to get to the end and defeat the boss. As a result, it’s slightly less exhilarating than the others, but it’s gorgeous to look at and with each player being on a much more equal footing, it’s also more satisfying when everything comes together.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses for Nintendo Land, as the two single-player attractions on show didn’t quite measure up to the same standard as the multiplayer games. The first, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, boasted the same strong visual appeal as the rest of Nintendo Land‘s attractions– this time being entirely made out of paper and cardboard– but the idea of throwing ninja-stars at a series of moving targets soon starts to lose its charm compared to the adrenaline-rush of Sweet Day and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion.
The GamePad itself is very responsive, and flicking the stars at different strengths on the screen will alter their speed and power, but there were also problems with its calibration, and toward the end of the three-part stage, I often had to hold it at an angle just to keep the cross-hairs in the centre of the screen. Hopefully this kink will be ironed out before its release, but it certainly marred what was a pleasant, if slightly pedestrian, attraction.
Thankfully, the second single-player game, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, was a much stronger offering, even if it was about ten times more frustrating than anything else we’ve seen so far. All the action’s focused on the GamePad (with the TV screen merely showing a larger view of the overall map), and the aim is to guide a small two-wheeled cart contraption along a series of Donkey Kong-style girders and levers while desperately trying not to smash the glass bubble on top. It sounds simple, but when the cart’s powered by the GamePad’s gyro-sensors, one wrong hefty tilt and it’s goodbye glass bubble.
The thing is, the physics are so spot-on that it’s always your own fault if you go hurtling off the rails, and the sheer amount of room for human error makes it a surprisingly addictive and compelling experience. It’s a very delicate game, too, considering its namesake is a great, hulking gorilla, and it perfectly captures that feeling of “just one more go” when you meet with yet another untimely death.
I had quite a few goes on this game myself, but I never even came close to the end, even with three lives at my disposal and an abundance of checkpoints keeping track of my progress. There are ways round this, as a sneaky tap of the Y button will take you back to your last checkpoint without losing a life if you find yourself in a spot of trouble, but when it’s a race against the clock, you’ll be wanting as few restarts as possible to get the best scores.
That said, I fear Crash Course will end up losing much of its appeal if there aren’t more courses to complete once it’s finally over. Much like Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, its replayability value will depend entirely on whether these attractions have anything else up their sleeve when Nintendo Land is released. If not, it’s easy to see them getting sidelined for the altogether more riotous multiplayer games like Sweet Day. But even if they do end up being slightly short-lived, that’s not to say they don’t still offer plenty of fun while they last.
Overall, then, Nintendo Land is shaping up to be delightful bag of tricks with a wide variety of ideas to get stuck into come launch day. Its single-player games may be slightly underwhelming in the long-run, but its true strength lies in its asymmetric multiplayer games, with Sweet Day alone being more than enough to knock Wii Sports out of the park. It may have had a rather lacklustre showing at E3 this year, but Nintendo Land really has to be played to be believed. It’s all very well telling you how great it is in writing, but it’s not until you have a controller in your hand that you really appreciate its unique charm. I went into this game feeling just as sceptical as you probably did after it was revealed at E3, but it really is shaping up to be one of the top attractions in Wii U’s launch line-up.
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