This past weekend, I was able to attend the Washington DC Wii U Experience event, which basically had every Wii U game currently announced for domestic release on display.
That list includes Project P-100, Just Dance 4, ZombiU, New Super Mario Bros. U, Game and Wario, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Ninja Gaiden III, Nintendo Land, Rayman Legends, and Pikmin 3.
Are you curious as to what the event had in store for me? Of course you are!
After checking in at the station, I opted out of the ability to instantly post all of my pictures to Facebook, and walked into the room. Immediately, I had E3 flashbacks, as the event was basically a tiny Nintendo booth, taking place in a room roughly the size of a High School cafeteria.There were two rooms, both reserved for ZombiU and Just Dance 4, a middle section with couches for Nintendo Land, and a number of kiosks set up for every other featured game. Naturally, I immediately gravitated towards New Super Mario Bros. U.
Without beating around the bush, New Super Mario Bros. U was probably my game of the event. It controlled extremely well, and it was basically New Super Mario Bros. Wii with a bit more flavor, and in HD. In short, I’m completely sold. Players were able to not only engage in four player coop fests, but a fifth player could also be added to the fray with the new GamePad, utilizing the touchscreen capabilities to stun enemies or build new blocks. While it isn’t utterly Earth shattering, the ability to opt in an extra player is always appreciated.
ZombiU was basically Left 4 Dead and Dead Island, with a mixture of some Resident Evil survival horror elements built in. As the demo was played by a number of people in a line, I had the opportunity to go after the person in front me, who died a horrible death.
In ZombiU, every dead player character becomes a violent zombie — when you respawn, you play as someone else. After an event host showed me the ropes, I was on my way, ready to recover the other player’s items, as well as complete the goal he failed to finish. Immediately, I noticed that playing an FPS with the giant Wii U GamePad would take some getting used to, which I’ll get to a bit later.
After heading through the first room, I ran into a number of zombies, which I easily took down with a combination leg shot and head stomp. After running out of ammo, I was able to switch to another weapon using the touchscreen, which I felt was highly unnecessary, given that I had to look down at the screen to ensure I was selecting the right item, then look back up.
But this real life strategy of looking down and up constantly wasn’t unique to switching equipment. In order to scan, check your inventory, pick a lock, open a keycoded door, or pretty much anything ancillary related, you have to look down at your GamePad.
Not only does the field of view on the main TV screen utterly shrink to the point of uselessness, but it can hurt your neck after a while. I understand that as a planned launch game, Ubisoft probably wants to show off the tech, but I hope that in the future they don’t go overboard with the technology.
But GamePads and Wiimotes aren’t the only way to control the Wii U. I was also able to test the Wii U Pro Controller with Rayman Legends — it was just as comfortable as the old Wii Pro Controller, and functioned in pretty much the exact same way. Just like NSMBU, the touchscreen player was able to interact with the environment, but on a much bigger, necessary scale that was part of the core gameplay.
Everything was stylus controlled, from cutting ropes, to triggering traps, to holding up hazards, and it was incredibly easy to do. In fact, a few times I showed my wife (who was playing as Rayman) extra areas by highlighting a cave with my character, like an interactive stylus pointer in a PowerPoint presentation. Like NSMBU, it was all done extremely well, and felt like a fully fleshed out mobile game in itself — which I’m sure is the full intent of the developers.
While everything else, control wise, was great, my main letdown was the Wii U GamePad itself. It certainly feels ergo-dynamic, and it’s not that it’s uncomfortable to wield per se, but the concept of constantly looking down and up is very jarring. As previously mentioned, ZombiU was the main culprit of these issues.
While holding up the GamePad to the screen, and using the built-in gyroscope was a neat idea, it basically just feels like a bulkier Kinect function, having to wave your arms around in the arm to perform a basic action.
All in all, I came away satisfied from the event, and my decision to purchase a Wii U at launch hasn’t wavered, mostly due to the strong presence of first party Nintendo games. I sincerely hope that too many games don’t require the Wii U GamePad unit as the sole method of control. With Wiimotes, Wii U Pro Controllers, and touchscreen options readily available, I hope developers can be on point come this Winter.