Welcome To Nintendo Land
Imagine a theme park based around Nintendo characters old and new, where instead of tea cups and roller coasters, you had "attractions" themed around Nintendo games of years gone by, and instead of eerily dressed characters wondering around sneaking up on you when you least expect it, you had an LCD TV screen bearing a minimalistic face. This is Nintendo Land - a virtual theme park with so many nods to Nintendo's long history, it'd make your head fall off. Kind of like the Wii U's answer to the 2006 Wii launch title Wii Sports, it's a collection of games that have been designed to familiarise yourself with the new controller, each one based around some of Nintendo's best known franchises (as well as a couple of more obscure ones). But unlike Wii Sports, it's not necessarily a pack-in game, with only the black Premium Pack coming bundled with the game. But if you're yet to pick up a Wii U yourself, or if you've bought a basic pack and are considering taking the plunge, is the game worth the £40 entrance fee? Let's-a go find out!
Your game begins in the brightly coloured Plaza, the circular centre of the Nintendo Land universe, where you meet up with your tour guide, Monita (sigh), who takes you through the basics. And the not-so-basics. And pretty much anything you could ever want to know (and plenty you don't). Once you're finally free from her molly-coddling (and it takes a while), you're free to wonder around and try out the twelve games in whatever order you choose, as all are unlocked from the beginning. Each game you complete earns you a certain amount of coins depending on how well you did, and these coins can be spent on Prizes - memorabilia from the games which will litter the Plaza, music tracks and more - but it's not just a simple shop to peruse. Instead, you need to touch the central Nintendo Land tower, which will launch a minigame you have to play to unlock things. Dropping coins from the top of the screen to the bottom, the aim is to hit all of the dark blue spots on the board to win, bouncing between the board's pegs on the way down - if you've ever played Peggle, it's essentially that, in 8-bit form. For every stage of this you complete successfully, you earn a question mark block which opens to reveal your newest decoration.
This being a hub in a theme park, you'd expect it to be bustling with people, and Nintendo Land doesn't disappoint. Once you've connected your Wii U to the internet, downloaded the console (and game's) updates, you'll soon find your theme park is inhabited by Miis from all over the world, all strolling around shouting out any "MiiVerse" posts they've written (MiiVerse is Nintendo's take on a game-themed version of Twitter, but with more doodles, and less privacy). But rather than just helping the theme park atmosphere, the baying crowds occasionally become involved in a game, too, as every so often there's an opportunity for a game of find the Mii, with a handful of people's pictures appearing on the left of the TV screen, with each one you hunt down rewarding you with a few bonus coins.
Considering the Wii U was meant to represent Nintendo's first foray into the world of now standard online features, though, it does seem a bit of an oversight (actually, make that a huge problem) that there's no way to compare your scores with friends who don't live inside your house. A friend with a Wii U will have no idea how awesome you are at Octopus Dance, and conversely, you'll never know how far they've got on Donkey Kong's Crash Course, as there are no leaderboards what so ever - it feels like the antithesis of the 'always connected' feeling the MiiVerse integration tries to instill. And while we're on the subject of the people who wonder round your park, how come your friends don't take up permanent residence in your own Nintendo Land? Knowing what other people are up to is all well and good, but knowing how your friends are getting on would be so much better.
Broadly speaking, you can split up the dozen mini-games into three groups depending on how they play - Team Attractions have all the players working together to complete a common attraction, while Competitive Attractions let you battle it out to see who's the best, and finally there's a bunch of Solo Attractions for the lone Nintendo Lander to work through - although even they can be played with friends if you know how. There's also the Attraction Tour, accessible from the train that circles your park, which lets up to five people compete in a tournament of sorts passing a single Wii Remote and GamePad around in a one versus one competition across shorter versions of the games. Nintendo seem to have done their best to cover all eventualities, group sizes and players - so without further ado, it's onto the games themselves.