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E3: Hands-on with Project P-100

2:00 PM on 06.08.2012 // Chad Concelmo

Project P-100 (working title) from Platinum Games (creators of Viewtiful Joe and MadWorld) was one of the strangest Wii U games I played on the show floor at E3.

And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

In a way, it reminded me of Elebits, another odd little title that launched with the original Wii more than five years ago. Like Elebits, Project P-100 shows off what its respective console can do in an interesting, if slightly painful, way.

While not nearly as violent as MadWorld or polished as Viewtiful Joe, Project P-100 still has that weird, fascinating vibe that only Platinum Games knows how to create. It almost feels like a hybrid between Pikmin, Little King's Story, and old arcade classic Smash TV.

In the game, you play as a group of washed-up superheroes -- superheroes that, alone, don't amount to much at all, but, together, can almost do anything!

Project P-100 is entirely controlled with the new Wii U GamePad. The group is moved around the screen with the left analog stick, and all attacks are done with the face buttons.

In addition to these normal attacks, special moves can be performed with the GamePad's touch screen or right analog stick. On the touch screen, images of different things are displayed. In the demo, there were three special moves: a sword, a fist, and a gun.

By "drawing" a specific shape on the touch screen (like Okami!), the superheroes combine and form whatever power you are summoning. The sword is a great, powerful melee weapon, while the gun is good for long-range attacks. The fist can be used to turn cranks and solve puzzles.

Like Pikmin and Little King's Story, all of the heroes move around in a giant group. At certain points, and after defeating certain enemies, citizens can be rescued to join the group and make it bigger. The bigger the group, the more powerful the attacks.

It's a simple concept that is made more interesting in a few ways:

First and foremost are the somewhat odd controls. Moving around and attacking is easy enough (and really fun!), but accessing the touch screen is really tough to do while holding the GamePad. It just doesn't feel natural. If there was no time limit on drawing your shapes, this would not be as much of a problem. But you have to activate these special powers during some pretty intense battles. It was a stressful process and needlessly difficult.

The powers throughout the game can also be "drawn" with the right analog stick, but that is almost trickier, since the accuracy is tough when not using the touch screen.

The graphics in the game are colorful and polished, if a little simple. And, at times, some things even looked low-res, which was very strange. All in all, though, Project P-100 looks pretty good and uses a refreshing, bright color palette when compared to many other recent games.

My favorite part of the demo was a section when your superhero group enters a warehouse. After entering by turning a crank with the fist power to open a door, the leader of the superhero group runs inside the building.

Since the game is played in an isometric, top-down view, the insides of buildings are not shown (the roof blocks the view!). Because of this, the action moves to the Wii U GamePad's screen. Once inside a building, the leader of the group runs around in a third-person perspective as the player navigates him through some simple, yet fun puzzles.

The graphics on the GamePad touch screen are really great and it was fun and surprising to switch play to the GamePad and then back to the T.V. screen once exiting the warehouse. It was a great sequence and made me think about all the cool possibilities that could happen with the GamePad in the future.

Overall, I liked Project P-100, but didn't love it. I liked the interesting style and gameplay, but did not like the awkward, tricky controls. This could be remedied once the final game is released and players are not just thrown into the middle of the confusing action like the demo, but, as of now, I am hesitant if Project P-100 will be a must-buy when the Wii U is released later this year.

If anything, Platinum Games did a good job of surprising with such a different game.

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Chad Concelmo,
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