The games I played, very few new releases (I think Alien Isolation was the only big release I wanted to play) so lots of catching up. The list of games I now own and haven’t played (mostly thanks to Humble Bundles and Games With Gold) is probably longer than the following lists.
- Lollipop Chainsaw
- Walking Dead S2
- The Wolf Among Us
- The Cave
- Lego Batman 2
- Assassins Creed 2
- Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine
- Killer Is Dead
- Dark Souls
- Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
- Super Mario 3D World
- Assassin’s Creed 3
- Wind Waker HD
- Mario Kart 8
- A Link Between Worlds
- Thomas Was Alone (Completed)
- 2 Dots (Ongoing)
- Five Nights At Freddies (Abandoned)
- The Spookening (Abandoned)
- Blackbar (??)
- Gone Home
Lego City Undercover was one of the games that made me decide buying a Wii U would be worthwhile. The game just looked like lots of fun and making good use of the new technology. This week I finished the story, which makes up less than 20% of the game, and I’ve had a great time. I’m hardly the target audience but I have strange tastes. The game may be simple and quite repetitive but a great script, voice performances (from Adam Buxton and Peter Serafinowicz) and lots of film and game references hold it all together so well. I laughed out loud on many occasions and was impressed that one level managed to reference (every?) Arnold Schwarzenegger film – so much is wasted on children.
There are problems, the loading times are horrendous but fortunately not that disruptive once the game has started. It’s not helped by really stupid things like having to press about 5 buttons to start a game. Eliminating loading times is one of the few things I want to see in the next generation of games, or at least some form of interactivity during the loading (even more so on the Wii U controller). It’s a shame more isn’t made of the controller, the scanning shown in early trailers is put to limited to use and not that effective when it is utilised – it could have done with non-motion controller like ZombieU. It is great having the map and video calls come through on the controller but unfathemable why the astronaut simon sequences don’t use the touch screen – not that it matters too much.
I had an issue with the pacing and save points, chapters are of varying length and it’s never clear when would be a good time to stop playing because the chapters flow into each other and saving restarts you back at police HQ , breaking the flow and requiring lots of unnecessary back tracking. It’s also a shame some of the game mechanics aren’t explained in the game, I had to figure out the multiplier (and still not sure quite what it does) and having to purchase the unlockables back at HQ completely passed me by until after I finished the story.
I’m unsure how much of the rest of the game I’ll explore, there always seems to be something else to do and despite the repetition it is still fun. One annoyance might be some of the side missions don’t clear from the game once you’ve completed them, a few times now I thought I’ve found something new only to realise later that I have already completed it and gained the reward. I hope to play, perhaps aiming for 50% or so but I also want to play Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and the older Max Payne 3 and Tomb Raider I picked up in the Xbox Live sale the other month.
I was looking forward to playing New Super Mario Bros on the Wii U but when I started it didn’t really pull me in. I wanted to like it but it was more frustrating than enjoyable, a few weeks ago I felt like I’d had enough and thought I’d never play it again. I gave the game one more chance and everything clicked into place and I started having fun. At my low point I tweeted it was ironic that the games biggest flaws were using old fashioned techniques such as lives. My main cause of annoyance was failing and been made to replay full levels that I’d previously completed. I’ve said it before but there really should be no need to make a player repeat something they’ve already completed – we don’t have time for that crap.
Once I realised that lives were important it did alter how I played and I started making progress and having fun. However it struck me that for a game that is praised as perfecting it’s 25 year old format there are some serious flaws. The game is hard, really hard in places and that’s okay but one of the problems is it get’s harder when you fail. As a suited up Super Mario you make a mistake and are thrown back to the start as regular Mario making everything harder. Bosses, I hate bosses and the Mario ones are no exception. The bosses in Mario are always dispatched off with three bounces of the head but finding out when to attack of spot the pattern is often a case of trail and error. Trail, error and then repeating the lead up to the boss again – not fun. Another small annoyance is running up the staircase to fight the boss every time, it may only take 15 seconds but it’s another annoyance when you have to do it over and over (and over). Oddly enough when you complete the game you get the option to save at any point, I really don’t understand why this was present from the start.
I shouldn’t moan so much because ultimately I had a good time but I was dangerously close to giving up and never touching the game again.
So Nintendo’s new Wii U is a really nice piece of kit with quite a few problems. I had no issue with the concept or the price of the hardware although £50 games seems quite high. The controller is lovely to hold most of the time, it sometimes feels awkward when twisted in to various positions for gyroscopic action but on the whole just feels nice in your hands. It may be slightly too wide but that’s only to allow a larger screen, this means that even with my big hands your thumbs can only touch the edges of the screen without letting go. In Zombie U the quick access icons are positioned down the side of the screen and can be reached but touching the rest of the screen requires you to release your grip and hold the controller with one hand, it’s light enough to be able to do this but doesn’t seem ideal.
The operating system feels great and was even better on day 2 when the plaza started to fill up with what other people were playing. I’ve been really surprised how good the online community is and Miiverse is a fantastic social network. I’m unsure quite how it’s moderated, your own posts appear immediately (but perhaps only to yourself) but it makes such a change to be in a nice friendly online space. I don’t really have an issue with the moderation but hope negative comments aren’t blocked.
Of course there are issues and the big one is how to handle the two screens, it isn’t always clear and I feel it could have been handled better perhaps with some additional hardware tweaks. It seems pointless having the same display on both screens and the lack of brightness control and no easy way of turning off the controller screen is a mistake. Even with little use you see “look at the other screen” messages far too often and it seems odd (but nice) focussing on the controller with a huge display duplicated on your TV. I think the controller should have a light and rumble to draw your attention away from the TV screen. If the displays are duplicated then a button should allow you to switch between either screen or cloned screen. This would also give software developers a common approach on how to handle the two screens. It’s great being able to cue up a video or web page on the controller and then broadcast it to the TV, the problem is that it’s then not clear what actions are going to interrupt the TV display and what you can carry on doing on the controller. At the moment the Lovefilm app only shows a brief overview on the controller about what you are watching on the big screen, it would be great to be able to continue to navigate or when watching Youtube videos see the comments on the controller. Hopefully as developers understand the Wii U more these features will be built in but it would have provided consistency if Nintendo had provided a common way of controlling things.
Another slight problem is the battery life of the controller, it’s only about 3 hours and one assumes that will drop with time. It’s not hard to see why the battery drains so quickly the screen is lovely and bright, things look fantastic but if I’m only showing a map and inventory then I’d happily dim the brightness to extend the battery life.
Of course the real reason for the second screen is to allow other people in the room to enjoy a different experience from the main controller. This is highlighted in Nintendo Land where most of the action takes place on the controller screen but the main TV has a spectator mode. I’ve yet to experience Wii U with other people so it’s hard to comment how well this works which I always knew would be an issue for me as a sole player. Similarly it really doesn’t feel like I’ve seen the best of Nintendo Land, hopefully that will change over the holidays.
Those are my first thoughts on Wii U, largely positive and it really feels like the potential to do great things is there. I’m really looking forward to TVii which has just launched in the States although to be honest just having iPlayer would be great. The TV remote function is fantastic even in it’s limited form, again I hope this is improved to allow me to control multiple devices. The best thing as with all the great Nintendo products is that it is just a joy to use and that is the most important thing.