Anyone under the preconception that Nintendo Land is the Wii U’s answer to Wii Sports should perhaps take a moment to consider the Wii U’s distinctive controller. The GamePad doesn’t possess the same get-it-instantly accessibility of the Wii Remote, rather it’s a multifaceted device of which the gameplay possibilities are suitably broader.
That’s perhaps why Nintendo Land boasts twelve attractions across its makeshift theme park – rather than Wii Sports’ scant five – each based on an existing Nintendo property often distilled to its most base incarnation. There’s no denying that the majority of mini-games utilise the pad in a unique manner, but the unfortunate truth is that too few actively enhance the gameplay experience.
Captain Falcon’s Twister Race is Nintendo Land at its most troublingly cumbersome, insisting players gaze at the top-down viewpoint of the GamePad and twist the race car down the winding track; while Takamaru's Ninja Castle fares better, using the GamePad to fire paper shuriken at ninjas; And after Nintendo Land exhausts every other inch of functionality out of the device, dull rhythm game Octopus Dance doesn’t bother doing much with it at all.
Unsurprisingly the game works best with a few playing partners along for the ride. Mario Chase, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion are an unadulterated blast, employing the GamePad as an independent screen for aggressive multiplayer action that pits one player against up to five competitors. Each is a variant on playground tag to some extent, but GamePad’s unique perspective on the action ramps up the tension magnificently.
These are the best that Nintendo Land has to offer; the party game experience delivered in inimitable Nintendo fashion with all its charisma and fluidity. While the GamePad is put to effective use elsewhere (even in one or two worthwhile solo pursuits), the game truly springs to life the moment a few friends get involved. It might not hold the instant gratification of Wii Sports, but as with any good theme park Nintendo Land has its ups and downs. Nevertheless, you’ll walk away smiling.
Reviewed by Bryan Murray