Release Date: November 18 (North America), November 30 (Europe)
Platforms available on: Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo Land is to the Wii U what Wii Sports was to the original Wii, providing a demonstration of all of the different ways in which the system could be enjoyed by its users. However, while Wii Sports was offered for free to all buyers, Nintendo Land is a standalone release, unless, of course, you pick up the more costly Premium pack. Does Nintendo Land justify the price tag, or is it nothing more than a glorified tech demo?
Nintendo Land features a total of 12 different games, three of which are multiplayer only, three of which feature single and multiplayer and a further six for individual users, although the majority feature minor Wii Remote support for a second player. It all takes place in a Nintendo-inspired theme park, which can be fleshed out and decorated with Nintendo statues and models won by playing a primitive, albeit addictive, Pachinko machine.
The games themselves are of varying quality, but are all good enough to justify their inclusion. What's particularly impressive about them is that they each offer a different demonstration of how the Wii U GamePad can be used. The multiplayer games can be played in multiple different ways and feature a selection of game modes, whether playing with the Wii Remote or GamePad. This is exactly what Nintendo means when talking about asymmetrical gameplay.
'Mario Chase', for example, is like a dynamic game of hide and seek, with GamePad users having a ten-second head start to run and hide, while the Miis attempt to hunt them down. Playing as either hider or seeker is equally enjoyable, with games accompanied by lots of shouting and laughing.
Seekers must communicate with each other when searching for the elusive Mario, yelling when they see him or arrive in his zone. Our only gripe is that there aren't more than three courses, something which could affect replayability.
'Animal Crossing: Sweet Day' is possibly the pick of the bunch, pitting a couple of analogue-controlled hunters against players searching for sweets. Picking up a select amount of sweets ends the game, although the more you carry the slower you become, making you more vulnerable. It promotes teamwork, risk and reward, and is another game that's just as enjoyable whether hunter or hunted.
Meanwhile, the three single and multiplayer games probably offer the most depth, featuring upwards of 20 levels apiece, alternative control methods and game modes.
With its cloth-based visuals, 'The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest' really taps into the fairground motif, playing almost like an on-rails adventure ride. Players can use a sword and shield or the GamePad as a crossbow, tackling enemies and bosses in Zelda-themed levels.
The crossbow controls take a little getting used to, and it's hard to imagine the attraction offering much in the way of replayability once the levels have been completed. Playing as a five-person team with a shared life bar is far from a walk in the park, however, while scores and secrets add longevity.
Likewise, 'Metroid Blast' also takes some getting used to, in particular the airship controls, which seem overly complicated and awkward. Outside of the challenge levels, which include huge bosses and missions where the aim is to collect tokens, there's also a deathmatch mode, pitting bounty hunters against a GamePad user in a ship. Unfortunately, the balance isn't quite pitched right, favouring the on-foot players. Regular multiplayer battles are much more fun.
The highlight is undoubtedly the battle mode, however, in which the aim is to collect as much Nectar as possible within a time limit. It's incredibly simple and offers a tasty glimpse of the potential of Pikmin 3.
The single-player attractions are definitely the weakest of the bunch, lacking the same amount of depth and feeling more like tech demos, although each does a fantastic job of highlighting the Wii U's strengths.
There are a number of hidden gems, such as the deceptively addictive 'Balloon Trip Breeze', in which the aim is to guide players past obstacles with the stylus, all the while collecting balloons and scoring points. Out of all of the single-player games, 'Balloon Trip Breeze' is the one with the most leaderboard potential.
Reminiscent of Super Monkey Ball, 'Donkey Kong's Crash Course' is another one of the stronger single-player games. Players tilt the GamePad to guide a trolley through a huge Donkey Kong-themed platform level. With lots of levers and pulleys, not to mention an extremely fragile cart, the game provides an enormous challenge. It's just a shame that there aren't more courses.
'Captain Falcon's Twister Race' also uses the tilt feature to guide vehicles through 12 different zones, but is hampered by a bland visual style, although we like the way you have to view the screen while going through tunnels.
'Yoshi's Fruit Cart', which would make a great 3DS title, is one of the more unique games on the collection, and certainly one of the more playable. Players use the GamePad to draw a route for Yoshi, making sure to collect the fruit and avoid traps.
The twist is that the obstacles can only be seen on the television screen, meaning that players are constantly having to flit between TV and controller. As entertaining as this is, it might lack replayability once completed, although we're not entirely sure how many levels are included - there are definitely more than a dozen.
Finally, 'Octopus Dance' is the sort of thing you'd find on Rhythm Paradise, forcing players to copy dance moves with the analogue sticks and gyro sensor. Some routines require players to look at the TV and others the GamePad, which gets very confusing (in a good way), and is a great example of what the Wii U is capable of.
Nintendo Land is a completely unique game unlike anything else available on other consoles, combining the way the Smash Bros. series tapped into Nintendo's history with the innovation of Wii Sports.
While it's true that some attractions are better than others - especially the multiplayer games - each individual offering provides a strong look at the Wii U's capabilities, whether it's hunting down familiar hero Mario as a team of four, or gently floating through the clouds by yourself.
> Read our review of fellow Wii U launch title 'New Super Mario Bros U'