Previews

Nintendo Land: A Wii U classic in the making?

Wii U's got a luvverly bunch of minigames, diddle-dee-dee

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RIDLEY'S RAPIDS

Asymmetrical play, if you don't know, is the idea of two different styles of gameplay existing simultaneously. Nintendo tried this first with Pac-Man Vs back in 2003 and it was brilliant. However the significant monetary investment required to sample multi-man Pac (one Gamecube, four GBAs, four GBA-GC cables, a TV, friends, food etc) means it remains criminally under-sampled.

With Nintendo Land, the Wii U is bringing that genius to the masses, and our first taste was Luigi's Ghost Mansion. This one-vs-four multiplayer game casts the GamePad player as an invisible spook stalking four torch clutching Mii's around a Cluedo board. The four 'humans' play on the TV and can only see the ghost when he's illuminated by a light source, but they can always feel his proximity through their controller's rumble. Ghost wins by catching the humans, humans win by eliminating the ghost. Simple.

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Only it's not that simple. Playing the sneaky, all-knowing ghost and toying with your enemies' nerves is entirely removed from the almost survival horror tone of the human role - all worrying, cowering in corners and scrabbling for extra torch batteries. The asymmetrical set up creates something surprisingly tense and considered.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is asymmetrical showcase number two, trading ghosts and torches for hollow animal mannequins, over-sized fun-hating cutlery and mountains of sweets. It's like a nightmare straight from Willy Wonka's formative years.

Here the tablet player controls a knife and a fork, one with each stick, and is tasked with grabbing three animals before they snaffle 50 sweets between them. Animals play on the TV and have a limited field of view, cramming their heads with candy while keeping an eye out for the heat at all times. It's about the chase - spotting incoming cutlery creates anarchy, and trying to predict and outsmart each other is brilliant fun achieved through GamePad vs. TV asymmetry.

Nintendo also showed icons representing the other attractions. Pikmin, Metroid, Mario, Yoshi, F-Zero, Balloon Fight and, erm, Game & Watch Octopus. What's being done with that last one is anyone's guess but if even one is half as brillo-tastic as Luigi's and Sweet Day then sign us up for an annual pass.

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So after a few hours of ghost hunting, sweet pooping and Mii rolling, we're willing to make an exception. We're going to put that bungled first impression out of our minds and accept Nintendo Land for - and we've got our serious faces back on for this - the Wii U classic it's shaping up to be.

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