Nintendo's Miis have existed for a while now - first introduced on their game-changing Wii console, the adorable little cartoon caricatures of your family and friends were one of the highlights of the late 2000s. Thanks to Miis, we've played tennis with Charmander, golfed with Hulk Hogan, and flipped penguins on an iceberg with legendary game creator Miyamoto, but aside from the quick-fire mini-games of Wii Sports and co, the Miis haven't really had a game to call their own. Quirky life simulator Tomodachi Life touched on the kind of madcap Mii-centric fun that could be had with a stable of created characters (and we certainly had fun with it when we took a look for our review), but it's taken some ten years for the Miis to get their own adventure, in the form of Miitopia - a title that's easily the weirdest game we've played for a while.
On the brightly-coloured, happy-go-lucky island of Miitopia, all the Miis live in peace and harmony - or they did, until one day an evil creature known as the Dark Lord decided to steal everyone's faces, sticking them on his army of monsters instead. Fortunately, one plucky young adventurer managed to escape their faceless fate, and decides to take it upon themselves to put a stop to the Dark Lord's schemes, battling the newly face-d enemies to return the visages to their rightful owners. Needless to say, it's a game that's silly and light-hearted, much like its predecessor-of-sorts, Tomodachi Life - and one that's similarly packed full of Nintendo's trademark quirky charm.
Surprisingly though, the novelty of Miitopia isn't so much in its story, as quirky as it may be, but in the fact that your Miis, whether they be of your friends and family, super heroes and celebrities, or Mario creator Miyamoto, are the stars of the show. Every single character in the game's story can be played by one of your Miis, from the party members that adventure by your side, to the supreme bad guy, the Dark Lord, to the random important characters you'll come across on your quest, lifting your Mii creations from the Mii Maker, friends list or your Tomodachi Life saves. Other more minor characters, like the folks you find in each town, aren't quite so customisable, however, with the game instead filling them in automatically using people you've SpotPassed - as an example, in the first town we visited, we were greeted by a cheery Joker, had an encounter with a rather sarky Miyamoto, and met with Cook'n Mama and her rather energetic kid, Freddie (Mercury, complete with moustache). Just your average day in Miitopia, really.
However, it's your party members that are the really special ones. Along with being able to pick your top friends to fill your slots, you can also give each a personality and a 'job' (think character class) to dictate their battle style. Given our tendency towards blonde moments and penchant for self-deprecating humour, we made ourselves an 'air-headed' chef - which manifests itself in battle as someone who can alternate between cooking up healing snacks mid-fight, and bashing around enemies with a frying pan - although she will sometimes forget which monster she was supposed to be smacking about thanks to her ditzy nature. Next we cast Editor Ian as a Warrior, your bog-standard sword-swinging battle class, and because we still want to get paid after this review, we gave him a 'cool' personality, which he likes to show off by performing powerful critical hits on enemies, or well-timed dodges. There was also the small matter of who should play the Dark Lord, the major antagonist in Miitopia. Scrolling through our Mii Maker list, we found the perfect candidate - a rather ill-thought out attempt at recreating our pet cat, Bessie. Given that she's totally black, and, well, not particularly humanoid, you can imagine how well that turned out - still, it made for a bit of a unique bad guy at least.
However, Miitopia is very much a game designed with the broader audience in mind, as it's comparatively light on actual role-playing. There's no dungeons to crawl, no vast open plains to traverse and no winding forests to explore - instead, travelling is streamlined to picking a point on a map to travel to, and watching your characters stroll across the screen, enjoying the banter as they go. The path may branch periodically, and you might come across monsters, but by and large you have little to do besides sit back and wait for your party to arrive at their destination.
Battles are also pretty simplistic, turn-based affairs, with you and your googly-eyed enemies taking it in turns to attack, heal and use special moves. The moves you have on offer depend on the character class you've picked - for example, alongside their aforementioned standard frying pan whack, our chef has an exceptionally useful 'Home Cooking' skill, which lets them fry up a healing snack for an injured party member. However, aside from your main character, you don't really get to control your other party members' actions, with the game itself dictating what characters use what moves and when, which can be a bit of an issue at first for magic-type characters, who will burn through all their MP with back-to-back flashy spells within a couple of turns. Fortunately though, you luckily don't have to wait for your turn to come round to be able heal your friends, as Miitopia's 'Sprinkles' let you heal a small amount of health or magic points via a brightly-coloured salt shaker item, which refills automatically each time you rest at a (regularly placed) inn.
Speaking of inns - these handy buildings crop up at the end of each path you 'explore', and serve as more than just a quick place to rest and recharge, safe from the monsters - and this is where Miitopia gets a bit more like Tomodachi Life. Within the inn, you can dictate which of your party members share rooms, with those sleeping in the same room earning a boost to their friendship, netting you the occasional funny skit between the duo. Boosting friendships to specific milestones will also unlock special co-op moves you can use mid-battle, perhaps a little pep talk to fire them up, or a comforting word to heal their wounds, meaning it's well worth playing musical bedrooms and getting everyone chummy.
Your party members can also sit down for a nice meal together, letting you choose which food item you want to offer up from a selection of spoils you've picked up in battle, including such tasty treats as goblin ham and slime jelly, with different delicacies boosting different stats. Every character has their own set of likes and dislikes too, and feeding someone something they like will confer a bigger stat boost than something they loathe. The inn is also where you can do a spot of shopping - although purchasing new equipment for your party is more akin to dishing out pocket money than a traditional shopping experience. While chilling in their rooms, your Miis will have thought bubbles appear above their heads, with a picture of what they want to buy - it's then up to you to divvy out the gold as you see fit. However, your Mii won't always come back with what you intended - as we found out when our air-headed character headed out for a non-stick frying pan weapon, and came back with a banana instead.
In all, then, Miitopia is a bit of an odd one really - as a novelty, it's fun and silly, packed full of Nintendo's quirky charm - after all, how many other games let you cast your cat as a bad guy, or dungeon crawl with Hulk Hogan by your side, while trying to rescue the face of Freddie Mercury from the bad guys? However, in terms of actual game to play, it's fairly light on content, shuttling you from battle to battle with next to no exploring or puzzle-solving required. In short bursts, its charm wins out, but if you're looking for something deeper to sink your teeth into, you may be better off looking at a more traditional role-playing game instead.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS