Nintendo Land has 12 separate games, but I'm not going to cover all of them in-depth. Some are solo-only, others cooperative and/or competitive. Some are surprisingly lengthy and detailed, others simple. All of them make interesting (though not always great) use of the GamePad.
This may be a collection of tech demos, essentially, but Nintendo Land's presentation -- an amusement park you're free to walk around in that's packed full of references -- doesn't feel as shallow as it should. Plus, several of the games are real, real good.
Playing them earns you coins, which you're then able to spend inside a pachinko-style game to unlock items for your park. You'll also see folks' Miis wandering about as guests, complete with speech bubbles saying things that, wow, that really made it past Nintendo's censors, huh?
My favorite "attraction" in Nintendo Land is Pikmin Adventure. It's obviously not as deep as Pikmin 3, but it's surprising just how far it goes. One player is Captain Olimar and as usual, must fling Pikmin at creatures until they're dead -- but you don't have to worry about your troops dying, and everything is mechanical (this is a theme park, after all). It's super cool, aesthetically.
Other players will use a Wii Remote and appear as a larger Pikmin, which can move around independent of Olimar to smack foes or be picked up and thrown onto enemies' weak points for extra damage. Levels are highly detailed, there's quite a few of them, and some even have full-on boss battles. Really, this feels like a miniature Pikmin game. Don't miss it.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is like a more fleshed-out take on the Motion Plus sword games in Wii Sports Resort. You liked those, right? The person using the GamePad wields a bow and arrow, which is a novel experience with gyro controls. I think I'd like it more if it weren't so on-rails, but as with Pikmin Adventure, the art (in this case, fabric-esque) is wonderful.
Metroid Blast, the third and final of the "team attractions," has the GamePad player flying around in Samus' Gunship, blasting away at waves of aliens from above as everyone else helps on-foot using Wii Remotes and Nunchuks. I still haven't perfected the controls for the former setup (which uses both analog sticks for movement, plus gyro for aiming) but I'm getting there. It's also nice to be playing something, anything Metroid-related as we wait for the next installment.
Mario Chase and Luigi's Ghost Mansion are perfect for more casual players, provided you have enough spare Wii Remotes to accommodate. Both are one-versus-many games in which what's displayed on the television and what appears on the GamePad screen vary.
In Mario Chase, a tag game, everyone's trying to catch the GamePad holder in maze-like areas, but their view is limited. On the GamePad screen, there's a special top-down view of the map, providing opportunities for the runner to hide and make daring escapes. It's tense.
Even more tense is Luigi's Ghost Mansion. Here, the GamePad player, a ghost, is going after everyone else. It's like Pac-Man Vs., if you played that gem -- the ghost doesn't show up on the TV, but players' Wii Remotes will vibrate when the apparition draws near. Turn around, fast!
The ghost wants to sneak up on and attack the other players, who have multiple lives, while they want to shine their light on it for long enough to drain all of its health. If you're playing with a full group, someone will yell, guaranteed. These asymmetric attractions are ideal for get-togethers.
I'm less into the single-player games on the whole, with notable exceptions being the stylus-controlled Balloon Trip Breeze and the tilt-controlled Donkey Kong's Crash Course.
The former is self-explanatory, as it sticks to its Balloon Trip roots, but the latter game is this gigantic obstacle course resembling the arcade classic. It's deceptively challenging -- just reaching the end is a feat, much less getting there quickly for a top leaderboard spot. Music's amazing, too.
So, yeah -- all told, I'm quite pleased with my purchase. You don't have to love every included game or even most of them to dig Nintendo Land. If you were thinking of getting it right now for the three-day weekend, it is no longer downloadable from the Wii U eShop, but you can find it for under $30 at online retailers. That's a totally fair price.
Once you get past the annoying tutorials -- be warned, there's a ton of 'em -- you're in for a mostly good time. Though, I should say, the more Wii Remotes, Nunchuks, and Motion Pluses you have at your disposal, the better. Nintendo Land is meant to be shared.
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