Hands On With The Wii U

Nintendo’s latest console isn’t too far around the corner. Next month, in fact, is when Nintendo fans will be able to link one up to their televisions. Not that you’ll need to use a television for some of the games, mind; the console’s GamePad comes with a built-in 6.2 inch touchscreen, which can be used to play some of the games without needing your TV in the equation at all.

That GamePad, then, is actually quite clunky. Perhaps the attached wires played a part in this (something that won’t be there on the retail version), but it felt rather heavy, though it’s not something to be too worried about. Despite the weight it’s not at all uncomfortable, with smartly placed buttons and useful handholds on the back along with the curved design making for something much better to hold with two hands than a standard tablet.

[drop]Holding it with one hand isn’t a challenge, which is good as you’ll need to go solo whilst using the touchscreen – you have to take one hand off before tapping around the menu, map, or whatever else lies upon the screen. You might think that the second screen is pointless since you can’t play whilst using the menu, but you should be still able to move around with one hand and it’s extremely useful when you need to glance at a map or some stats.


The GamePad isn’t the only method of input, however – you can use any Wiimotes you have or the new Pro Controller; essentially an updated Gamecube controller with a more symmetrical design, not too different to an Xbox 360 pad. It feels good, with solid build quality and comfortable buttons, but the ZR and ZL buttons aren’t as responsive as Microsoft’s pressure sensitive triggers.

The console itself is essentially a longer, more rounded version of the Wii; it’s smaller than Microsoft and Sony’s current home consoles – even the slimmer new PS3. We didn’t get a chance to see the home menu, Miiverse or much of the other built-in system software, but the 360 panoramic view was on show, in which the GamePad could be moved around to reveal more of the demo video – something that could be a great game feature if integrated well.

Darksiders II showed off just how useful the GamePad’s screen could be, allowing easy access to the much needed map and quick changing of equipment without an overlay, removing any disruption from the flow of the game.

The GamePad’s screen is going to be absolutely brilliant for RPGs where you’ll need to access the menus quite often. Apart from the GamePad functions, it appears to be very much the same game, with no other new features on show and graphics on par with the PS3 and Xbox 360 version.

Next up is New Super Mario Bros. U, and it’s great to finally see, after all of these years, Mario and friends in all their HD glory. The game has crisp, clear visuals with minimal aliasing and artefacts – something the Wii could never achieve with a component cable. Nintendo have finally brought Mario into the HD world.

[videoyoutube]The game itself is a great mix between 2D and 3D visuals, featuring fun and exciting co-coperative enabled gameplay for up to five players. That’s right, five; four players on Wiimotes or Pro Controllers and one player assisting with the GamePad.

The four standard controllers will have a blast with frantic sidescrolling platforming gameplay, bouncing off each other, collecting coins and costumes – including a new gliding suit – as well as mushrooms and stars.

The GamePad player, however, simply assists by placing blocks for the other players to jump on – something that’s useful for other players but not entirely fun if you’re the one doing the placing.

Nintendo Land is the Wii U’s answer to Wii Sports – a collection of themed mini-games that show off the console’s capabilities, most of which are multiplayer and all of which involve the use of the GamePad in some way.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest was one of the mini-games on show, featuring tunic wearing Miis battling through a forest area. Players with Wiimotes hacked and slashed, naturally, whilst the GamePad player could move the pad around freely to aim his bow – even off screen, if needed.

The second mini-game on show was Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, which is a bit like the classic Pacman, with four Wiimote players running around a maze collecting treats. As well as treats being strewn across the map, they could be knocked out of trees. The aim of the game is to get fifty treats combined before the enemies – controlled by the GamePad player – catch all of you.

Third up was Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, another Pacman-esque game where four players have to shine their torch at an invisible ghost antagonist – once again controlled by the GamePad user – to lower its health before it catches them all. Players could revive each other and collect power ups for better torches, making for another fun multiplayer game.

It’s all good fun, but nothing groundbreaking – hopefully there’s more than one level of each mini-game and hopefully the games that aren’t entirely focused around multiplayer, as the three on show were, are just as good fun, with more challenging gameplay and leaderboards included.

Formerly known as Project P-100, Platinum Games’ Wii U title, The Wonderful 101 is a very interesting title indeed. Controlling a group of superheroes, the player can band them together to destroy bigger, robotic foes. You’re able to use touch gestures to group these heroes together into different weapons – a single line makes a giant sword, a circular shape makes a powerful fist and an L shape creates an effective gun.

It’s a fun idea, which works well, with many different heroes to collect along the way.

Visually, The Wonderful 101 is bright, cartoony and colourful – it’s certainly different, anyway, and should appeal to children and adults alike. There are colossal bosses which are really impressive, and each section ends by displaying your high score, with combos and damage all taken into account. It’s a brilliant little fighter, then, with some unique gameplay elements, including indoor sections which show up on the GamePad’s screen.

However, even the ten minute demo started to get somewhat repetitive, so this could be an issue with the full game.

Rayman Legends, to put it simply, is the reason you need a Wii U. Beautiful visuals, incredibly fun gameplay and great use of the GamePad make for what appears to be the Wii U’s killer app.

It plays just like Origins, you’ll be glad to know, though the refined art style is even more beautiful than before – it appears to be more 3D, with mystical dragons flying around at sections and some great use of layering that makes the game really pop.

[drop2]The GamePad player controls Murfy, Rayman’s little green, flying friend who is able to move objects and cut ropes depending on where the player touches the screen, in order to assist the first player. It’s a lot more of a hands-on role than New Super Mario Bros. U’s GamePad gameplay, and works very well – players can even tilt the controller to move a wheel around as the platforming player runs around a wall; timing is essential.

Rayman and friends have to free Teensies from cages this time around, which are dotted about the level and will usually require the help of Murfy – let’s just hope we don’t need two players across the entire game to collect everything. One section was absolutely brilliant, playing like a frantic platformer for the standard controller player and a rhythm game for the GamePad player – touching the screen at certain points to release lums.

Legends could be a great hit for Nintendo – it’s a fully expanded sequel to Origins from the looks of things, with some nifty platform-exclusive features.

Nintendo have taken their successful DS formula – two screens, one with touch – and replicated it as a home console, which is an impressive achievement indeed. We’ll have to wait to see if it can replicate the success of both the DS and the Wii, but with solid hardware, a good controller and a decent enough launch line-up, it should do very well indeed.

We’re still not sure this is quite next gen but it certainly could be a step up from the current generation of consoles and finally an HD Nintendo console.



  1. The question is, would you buy it Blair, honestly?

    I’m currently happy with my ps3, mario & zombie U ain’t enough to make me buy this even so, zombie U will be zombie V eventually wait & see

  2. I’ve got mine preordered already! Rayman Legends, ZombiU and New Super Mario U will do nicely at launch – I might get Assassin’s Creed 3 as well, rather than on my PS3…

    I think the exclusives it’s got lined up so far are exactly aimed at me, with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Bayonetta 2 and Dragon Quest X on their way. Whether it’s truly next-gen or not the controller is apparently great (according to a journalist friend who went to Eurogamer), and as the article states it’s an HD Nintendo console – something many of us have been waiting for for about 7 years!

  3. Dragon Quest X is really the big draw for me on this. I’m uncertain on whether to actually buy one though – it depends how many other RPG titles are revealed. Sony need to up their game on quality RPGs for the PS – they’re woefully lacking this gen.

  4. I know Nintendo have been criticised for using their “core franchises” too much, but without a fully fledged Metroid, or Zelda game etc… , you can count me out for now. It’s the only reason I bought a Wii, the rest of the games, more casual, have never really appealed to me. Here’s hoping to some great games that appeal to me further down the line, in particular I’d love an HD version of Wind Waker, that would sell me the console immediately.

    • Actually Nintendo was criticized a lot for forgeting their “core fans” in the early days of the Wii. Besides Zelda, which was a Gamecube game turned into a Wii game, how long did it take to have a good Mario or Metroid Game? Way too long in my opinion. At least they are relying on Mario this time, let’s just hope that Zelda, Metroid, Donky Kong, Kirby and others are not so far away, as they are *THE* reasons to buy a Nintendo console.

      • nintendo catered to the core more than sony or microsoft did

        they PANDERED to the core and they were ungratefull assholes

  5. Pointless, I’m not getting one. Until they release a Zelda game and I have no choice *sobs.

  6. My kids might beg this for Christmas, going to be hard to steer them away of Toys’R’Us the next few months. But, personally, I don’t see too much value on the WiiU to justify the purchase. With the exception of some Nintendo exclusives (out of which I’d play only Mario), there’s not enough to make those who owns a PS3 or a 360 to jump aboard. Maybe they’re banking that most people who owns a Wii still don’t have a proper current gen console. But even for those, the PS3 and 360 are a better (and less expensive) choice, with more games available and most of the WiiU’s lineup already on the way to the bargain bin for Christmas (Arkham Asyslum and Mass Effect 3 says hello). I’ll hold up and see how it looks like the next Christmas.

  7. I’m surprised not all Wii U games will be playable on the Gamepad instead of the tv, i thought it was a standard feature regardless of the game. Still, i’m sure they’ll have plenty that will have that option.
    I figure i’m going to have similar enough gameplay experiences with my current PS3/Vita setup so i’m in no rush for another console atm and when i am ready it’ll be for something a bit more powerful. No worries for Nintendo though, Wii U is practically sold out already anyway!

  8. Reading this has made up my mind on this, it sounds like thebhardware will be good for single player games, but multiplayer is literally just a hd wii… Reminds me of when player 2 could control tails in one of the sonic games, bit of an afterthought.

    Sure Nintendo will sell loads of these, but I think MS have the right idea with the 2nd screen thing, vita is cool as a standalone, but support is going to be lacking

  9. I’m stuck thinking “how much do I want to keep looking down to the touch-screen when playing a game?”. Either way, my eye’s off-the-ball as it were. Sure, it’s nice for maps and menus, etc, but we’re in a high definition age with decent-sized televisions so it’s never been a problem for me. Ever!

    Anyway, the interesting part is to see what they continue to do with the second screen and if the public embrace it at breakneck speed like they did the original Wii.

    • Can’t see the non game playing public taking to this like they did the wii. The ‘casual’ (apologies for anyone this term offends) already have their wii and in many cases the novelty has worn off so don’t think the wiiU will offer them enough to justify forking out for a new console. It will sell and sell well but it’s not going to be the revolution (use of that term well and truly intended) that the wii was and I hope Ninty understand this. I’ll stick with my current gen consoles thanks.

      • they know more about gaming than you do

      • Good give gaming back to the nerds. *raises warflag*

  10. Usually I can’t resist a new console, but I just can’t get that excited about the wii u. I want to, as its always nice to have a new gadget to play at Christmas, but I just can’t see how this will beat my PS3! Maybe when a new zelda game comes out ill be interested.

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