No mention of the multiplayer mode, and I still have tons of questions after reading that :) Next ND is Friday, fame is out in about 2 weeks in Europe, I can'twait!
If Pikmin 3, Nintendo's great summer hope for its beleaguered Wii U console, has you directing a herd of miniature helpers, The Wonderful 101, the company's leftfield, summer sleeper-hit-in-waiting, puts you in control of an angry mob. In both games you sweep through the landscape as a hustling cluster of bodies. In both games you use this crowd's wisdom and strength to create pathways to your objectives, and to eliminate the foes and obstacles in your way.
But only in The Wonderful 101 can you, with a delicate swipe of the finger, arrange your swarm into a giant pink spiked whip used to tear the armour from your opponents, or a pea green handgun used to launch your minions as a kind of fleshy ammunition, or even a Soviet hammer that pounds the concrete in a thick Russian accent. If Pikmin 3 is the Gardener's World of ponderous strategy games, The Wonderful 101 is police helicopter footage of a sweltering Los Angeles riot.
The premise and styling is as wild-eyed as anything to come from Platinum Games, the most boisterous of Japan's contemporary video-game developers. The titular 101 is a group of topflight superheroes plucked from each of the world's nations. Each individual has his or her own unique styling and ability, but this is a game about the power of co-operation, not individual might. The swarm might be composed of individuals, but it must act as a single entity. Using either the Wii U pad's touchscreen or one of its stiff analogue sticks, you can shepherd your mob into esoteric tools and weapons by tracing shapes. The larger the shape you draw, the greater the number of superheroes who add their bodies to its formation.
Platinum's talent for the set piece is brought to the fore by way of the game's chosen style, that of the 'Tokusatsu' – the genre of special effect-heavy Japanese TV shows and films that include Godzilla and Kamen Rider. In this way, play is routinely interrupted for an outrageous and delightfully inventive gameplay intermission as you, for example, fire giant baseballs into an alien's face on a baseball field, or use your mob to tickle a 50-foot robot's underarm, or morph into a giant hang-glider and tear through the whipping wind collecting upgrade tokens.
It's in these moments that Platinum displays a mastery of the Wii U hardware hitherto unseen, even in Nintendo's homegrown titles. One especially memorable section has you controlling a giant spacecraft on the television screen by marshalling the 101 onto directional pressure pads in a cockpit that's rendered on the Wii U pad's screen. If this weren't enough to juggle, you must simultaneously battle enemies in both the cockpit on the pad and in the skies on the TV screen. It is a genuinely novel gameplay invention and gives a true taste of the Wii U's untapped potential and promise.
But all of this unbridled creativity comes at the cost of some refinement. The scrappiness of the action extends upwards and outwards throughout the entire game, which struggles to marshal its ambitions and ideas into a perfectly coherent whole. An alchemy system allows you to create new items from collected pieces of fruit, although its workings are left unexplained; each of the 101 you collect can be levelled up individually, although its unclear what benefits this brings to the whole. New moves and attacks unlock seemingly at random and the means of exposing the game's intermittent in-situ bonus levels is opaque.
Finally, the game's tall difficulty belies its accessible aesthetic: make no mistake, this is a far more demanding proposition than its Pikmin cousin. And yet, these are the hallmarks that make Platinum's output some of the most exciting work in contemporary video games: scruffy invention in a playpen that allows for player mastery. In the midst of this riot of ideas and unrefined energy we can perceive some of the Wii U system's idiosyncratic wonder. It may not be a game to sell a system, but The Wonderful 101 provides ample justification for Nintendo's eccentric hardware.