Starting a new game and being greeted with controls which don’t work never gives a very good first impression and unfortunately this is what I experienced with Platinum Games The Wonderful 101, the latest and probably greatest hope so far for the ailing Nintendo Wii U. Platinum Games have never let me down before, however initial impressions of this title was that it was completely broken. Things got worse before they got better, not only couldn’t I draw the circles and lines required of me to complete the initial tasks, but later on my characters all fell into a black hole, causing me to reset the level.
All of these issues had me thinking that this game was The not so Wonderful 101, however after the reset the issues not longer appeared, therefore allowing me to see just why this game is being billed as Nintendo Wii U’s latest big hope.
Let’s take a back step for a minute and discuss what The Wonderful 101 is. Basically the world is being invaded by an Alien force and it’s up to your group of superheroes to sort it out. The game starts with Wonder Red, who can summon a giant red fist and crush the enemy, although there is so much more to him and the other heroes who’ll soon join you on your journey, be it Wonder Green, Wonder Blue or the many others who all add their own unique ability to the fold.
Based on stages which then comprise of individual levels, your characters will wander through the land, fighting increasingly difficult enemies, while rescuing the general public who’ll then join as part of your team.
Combat is fun enough as you draw the relevant symbol on the screen using your finger or the right thumbstick to help take these enemies down. Doing so will see you summon a gun, fist, sword, claws and more, although as you get more choice, drawing the right symbol can be quite awkward. There was many a time that I wanted a gun only for the fist to appear; perhaps it depends how stead your hand is during the heat of battle?
Problems aside, what’s most interesting about your special attacks is that they can become more powerful depending on the number of citizens you have rescued. In other words, the bigger your crowd, the bigger your weapon. Combining these weapon with the various attack types will see you create big chain attacks, which in turn will allow you to score high - essential if you’re aiming for the Platinum medal at the end of the level.
Combat is certainly unique, which is no doubt helped by the various attacks and abilities, as well as the colorful and powerful enemies which vary quite widely in appearance and strength. If it wasn’t for the flaws it would be even better, but perhaps some of these are more down to the hardware than the game itself.
The Wonderful 101 isn’t all about combat. There are puzzles too, such as using your giant fist to turn dials in order to pass through to different areas, or using your gun to absorb giant batteries before shooting at buttons with precision timing. You’ll also have to use your drawing skills to get past various obstacles, be it drawing a glider to glide through the skies or using your citizens to bridge gaps or build ladders. These parts of the game are pretty clever, certainly unique and a whole load of fun to figure out.
One of the most Wonderful things about this title is the presentation. The Wonderful 101 is bright, colourful and fantastically designed. It honestly feels like a superhero comic come to life thanks to the bright and bold colours and the thumping soundtrack. The levels are also pretty well designed, giving you plenty of room to fit your ever growing army into as well as giving plenty of areas for your to explore. As usual, when it comes to presentation Platinum Games cannot be faulted.
Unfortunately, for all the action and wonderful design there are certainly plenty of disappointments. leaving aside the game breaking bugs which I personally encountered, often there also lulls in the action and even though The Wonderful 101 is not a particularly long game, often it feels like the levels have been stretched out just for the sake of it. The screens can also get too confusing during battles, making it difficult to find your chosen hero.
Moving on from the single player, to mix things up a little, The Wonderful 101 also includes 5-player local multiplayer with one person on the Pad, and everyone else using Wii Motes. The Wonderful Missions are free-play in nature, providing players with objectives to complete. These missions can also be played against an enemy, which due to the nature of the design is often better than playing with friends.
The fact is, The Wonderful 101 will not be for everyone. Those who enjoy Japanese-style action mixed with a frantic arcade pace will no doubt be in their element. But this is not a mainstream title; it’s not going to be Nintendo Wii U’s great big hope. That may be disappointing to hear, but for all the fun that you can have with Wonderful 101, there are other’s who’ll take one look and never turn back. To me this is because upon first look the action can be so confusing, often there is just too much going on in front of your eyes that it can be hard to make sense of. Play Wonderful 101 long enough and you’ll start to understand just what’s going on, however my worry is that not enough people will give it that much time.
Flaws aside, I have a soft spot for Platinum Games latest. I quite like it, although I’m still struggling to see why people think this game will turn the fortunes of the Wii U around - it won’t. That task is for the Mario Kart’s and Zelda’s of this world. Those buying The Wonderful 101 won’t regret their purchase, equally those passing it by probably won’t regret much either.
(Version Tested: Wii U)
+ A Little Different
+ Action packed
+ Great presentation
- Game breaking bugs
- Feels drawn out in places
- Lulls in combat
- Won't be for everyone