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32 Reviews

Review: The Wonderful 101

By Alex Dale on Sunday 18th Aug 2013 at 9:00 AM UTC

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While the right stick is more accurate (director Hideki Kamiya has identified it as his control system of choice on his personal Twitter account), it can also be harder to gague the size of your drawing, so you pays your money and takes your choice. But neither input is foolproof, and in designing its combat around a concept built for Wii U, The Wonderful 101 finds itself hamstrung to its core; unable to replicate in full the speed, ferocity and precision of Platinum's best works, such as Bayonetta or Vanquish.

As a Wii U exclusive, The Wonderful 101 is also keen on making use of the second screen, and this is something that meets with mixed results. Some we loved - such as the section where the screen fills with toxic gas and you have to switch to the GamePad screen to look around. Others were a little too chaotic for their own good - such as the bit where you have to steer a ship on the TV screen pressure pads on the GamePad - while you're being attacked on both screens.


It's probably no coincidence that The Wonderful 101's bumpiest bits dovetail with its Wii U functionality, but when the controller gets out of the way it's as smooth a ride as we've come to expect from Platinum Games.

It's a funny game, for starters - while saw of the stereotyping is a bit much, it's packed full of witty exchanges and pantomime villains - from the freshly bisected demon who holds his head together just long enough to call shenanigans, to an enormous robot who towers over out heroes and looks suitably imposing - until he loses his footing and falls unceremoniously on his backside.

Yet amidst the comedy there's room for dramatic flair, too. In its unquenchable first for variety The Wonderful 101 has you do has you do battle against no end of unusual backdrops - from the back of a huge mechanical dragon to the inside of a rolling aeroplane fuselage which disintegrates around you.

As you'd expect the boss fights impress through sheer force of scale - but they feel quite mechanical at times, and there are certainly plenty of enemy types that had us rolling our eyes when they spawned (we're rolling at you, armoured tank things). In Bayonetta fighting for fighting's sake was the reward, so fluid was the game when in full flight, but there isn't the same sublime harmony between input and impact here.

The Wonderful101 is an imaginative, vibrant and playful game that occasionally stumbles over itself in its quest to offer something different, and you can't really hate on it for that. It's a real gamer's game, in that it has a logic all its own, and that's refreshing in this world of cookie cutter AAA titles with homogenised controls and linear paths.

The developers' claim that this is a game that only really begins on the second playthrough does somewhat ring true; like Clover's Viewtiful Joe before it, the cartoony visuals mask thoughful and deep mechanics that only grow as you clean out the Wonderful Mart store and experiment with the Custom Blocks and bespoke Unite abilities.


But yet you can't ignore that, uncharacteristically for a Platinum title, it has noticeable lulls in the action and there are segments that seem artifically inflated - drawbacks that'll have the less dedicated thinking thrice before hovering over the restart button.

Fans of the developer's work will once again find themselves richly rewarded once they get over the initial hump, but Platinum's titles are an acquired taste, and this one requires more swilling than most.

If you're in a forgiving mood however - of both the limitations of input method and some of the quainter aspects of Japanese design - you'll find the stare-to-care ratio is off the charts.

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The verdict

Lacks the mesmerising fluidity of Platinum's other work, but The Wonderful 101 puts on a real show for the eyes all the same. Hack and slash connoisseurs with both the patience to learn a new way to play and a thirst for high-score chasing will be well-rewarded for their investment.

  • A funny game, packed full of charm and wit
  • Deceptively deep combat which evolves as you play
  • Great variety and epic set-pieces
  • Could be snappier with its storyline
  • Prone to lulls in the action
  • Clumsy controls can occasionally frustrate
Nintendo Wii U
Platinum Games
Sim / Strategy, Action