Wii U Review: In-depth playtest of Nintendo gameing console
We give Nintendo’s fun new console a proper home trial
We tried out the demo model back in October but now we’ve got our mitts on Nintendo’s Wii U, with all the features up and running it’s time to give their latest console a serious test drive. The GamePad really does add a new element to gaming, actually sitting down and playing for extended periods you soon realise what looks bulky and weighty is wonderfully ergonomically designed and is as good as any controller the PS3 or Xbox has to offer. And that’s before we get to grips with all the bells and whistles it offers that truly set the Wii U apart from every other games machine on the market. At its simplest you can use the GamePad’s inbuilt screen to continue playing if someone else wants to watch TV (as long as you are in range of the Wii U console). Perfect if you are deep into the really rather wonderful New Super Mario Bros U, the rest of the household can watch television while you carry on gaming with no interruptions. The screen is bright and perfectly sized for single player while the touch screen is nicely responsive, particularly when using the stylus. However it does need regular charging, after every two or three gaming sessions.
Another launch title, Nintendo Land, really shows off the GamePad’s inventive possibilities. Each of the multiple party games on offer highlights one of its clever features. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course uses the gyroscope as you tilt the pad to tilt the on screen world; on Metroid Blast you use the screen as a view finder and aim by moving the pad itself; in Octopus Dance you follow the onscreen movements switching between watching the action on the pad and the TV depending if the Octopus flips you around. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using the second screen in your hands, Yoshi’s Fruit Cart is a very clever and incredibly fun mini-game which shows you the many hazards you must avoid and the fruit you have to collect to finish the level on the TV screen but you have to draw your proposed route on the GamePad using the stylus, then sit back and watch in trepidation as Yoshi sets off, hoping your spatial awareness has matched what you saw on the TV accurately. Overall there are twelve different games that comprise Nintendo Land, inevitably the quality varies but they all have their own quirky charms.
Unlike the test machine you can now go online. Fantastic for multiplayer (as on the aforementioned Nintendo Land which really is a heap more fun with friends than single player). Nintendo have also created a lovely little community, the Miiverse where you can post messages and pictures, which is all very friendly. The touch screen also means typing and web searches are far easier than on any other console. The interface on YouTube is particularly pleasing using the GamePad to search while playing the clips on your television. Unfortunately a few bits and bobs still haven’t been launched (Nintendo TVii for example) but the Wii U has only been available for a couple of weeks so we’ll cut them some slack.
This is Nintendo’s most powerful machine yet and the first to use HD and it really shows, the graphics look fantastic. However the question of how it will compete for the affections of hardcore gamers with the launch of the PS4 and Xbox 720 over the next couple of years remains. In the meantime Nintendo have once again played to their strengths upping the fun factor with yet another innovative console.