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Marek’s Mind: Test driving the Wii U GamePad


I was rabid last week.

I foamed at the mouth 11 days ago and went out to get my hands on a copy of the new Wii U (Don’t know what that is? Check out my preview). Things went pretty well.

At 10 p.m. I went to America’s largest insane asylum, Walmart, to snag a copy of the Deluxe Set.  Walmart’s website listed the item as in stock, so I figured I’d be in and out in five minutes.  After reaching the electronics department at the back of the store, I sprung at the case next to the Wii U.

There was no Deluxe Set.

So I called every nearby gaming store to no avail.  After giving up and going to sleep after an hour of calling, with my mouth still watering for the console, I sprung out of bed early the next day.  Fearing that Nintendo really did have a shortage of consoles, I called nearly every store which carried electronics.  Luckily enough, my hungry mindset was satiated with Kmart’s tasty assistance.

I got it.

About an hour of box-hugging and console setup later, I got to try out the system.  It came with Nintendo Land, which is only packaged with the Deluxe Set.

Oh boy, Nintendo Land is fun.

I donned the next-gen GamePad as I played with my brother and my sister’s boyfriend.  Surprisingly, I found myself having a blast with most of the multiplayer games involving the Wii Remote players against the GamePad master.  Nintendo showcased the GamePad’s abilities in about every way it could.

In many of the games, it had the Wii Remote players use the TV to navigate while the GamePad was a different screen for their opponent.  For example, the mini-game Luigi’s Ghost Mansion had me sneaking up on my opponents as a ghost while they tried to flash me with their flashlights.  They only saw themselves on the TV, while I saw everything on the GamePad.

The GamePad’s gyroscope and touch-screen capabilities were also showcased in various mini-games, and they worked seamlessly.  Things were fun for everyone, even if the GamePad wasn’t passed around the room all the time.

As for single-player, Nintendo Land offers a lot.  It has a mini-version of a Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, in which the player must use their GamePad to kill enemies with arrows.  Nintendo’s big franchises have single-player modes, with Metroid and Pikmin getting a nod for an in-depth mini-game.

It’s safe to say that Nintendo Land is the perfect game to come bundled with a system.  I’ll rate it at the solid score of 8.5 out of 10.

A few days later, I nabbed the Wii U’s hottest game, New Super Mario Bros. U, for free.  Thanks to a few hours in line and a fantastic Black Friday deal by Old Navy, I got a copy with a purchase of a few discounted jeans and my newest go-to cardigan.

NSMBU hasn’t disappointed with a prettier Mario (Nintendo games in HD are freakin’ sweet) and a handful of new, immersive worlds.  It also has a few new addictive game modes that’ll keep you up late at night trying to best your fastest time in a world.  When you want to play and Mom is nagging you for the TV, you can just play on the GamePad.  It still looks and runs great.

Mario Bros. is at its best with multiplayer, once again.  The only downside to multiplayer is, ironically, the GamePad.  When you’re playing with five people, NOBODY wants to be stuck with the GamePad.  Sure, you can rescue your friends’ lives by building blocks, but that’s about it.  There isn’t much that’s fun about the GamePad other than placing blocks to help reach a One-Up at the end of a level or creating a massive amount of blocks so your friends can jump on them to extract virtually infinite coins.

Overall, NSMBU doesn’t bring anything that’s actually new other than the punishment of having to play with the GamePad in multiplayer and a few new game modes.  It’s a Wii game on the Wii U, at best.

That being said, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to play.  It is worth the waiting lines, for me, for the $60, or you ($45 on eBay!).

8.8 out of 10 for Mario.

Outside of Mushroom Kingdom, the console itself is impressive.  Nintendo’s photo-based Mii-making process is fun and creative.  The eShop finally ends the Wii’s era of a God-awful user-interface and confusion.  The Wii U’s menu is a manageable return to the Wii’s channels, with a cheetah-fast internet browser and a community-filled social system aptly named Miiverse.  The only thing that got on my nerves while jumping between menus is load times, which feel like they last forever in a world that works on multitasking and time-saving.  Ten seconds to about half a minute feels like eternity for gamers, but whatever.  More time to eat snacks.

As for your future with the Wii U, Nintendo is once again doing what it has always done.  Rather than slugging it out with Sony and Microsoft to have the most powerful console, it’s using innovation by sending a new, radical system into the wild. As they did with the Wii, Nintendo won’t sell to consumers until they try out the system themselves.  Once they do, they’ll grow rabid just like I did.

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Marek Makowski, Author

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