For such a potentially awesome game, I had a really difficult time playing The Wonderful 101, a recent release from Platinum Games and Nintendo for the Wii U.The game’s environment is very colourful and full of hiding spots for treasures, enemies and puzzles, a typical Nintendo formula. The premise of the game is that a band of unlikely heroes must save Earth and its citizens from an onslaught of giant mechanical aliens, whose name, by the way, is an acronym puzzle. Teamwork is a necessity for our heroes, as it takes their combined effort to formulate weapons and tools in order to move through the game world. True to form, each hero has his or her own super power, mundane identity and colour, a la Power Rangers – enabling our valiant fighters to form fists, bridges, swords, guns and more.
There are many elements to this game that were very good, and many review sites have given The Wonderful 101 very high scores, but I don’t like button-mashers with a lot of sequence combos to remember and bad camera angles – both of which regularly occur in this game, as does trying to figure out exactly what I’m supposed to be doing to defeat the multitude of bosses met along the way. I found that I spend a lot of time running around trying to gather my troops, which the bosses seemed to have an incredibly easy time scrambling, or trying to launch a Morph Unite weapon in a hurry. These two elements could often lead to frustration.
In many ways, this game is unique, and while I’m not the type of gamer who needs much hand holding and step by step instructions, I just feel that the developer could have done better in ease of play, mechanics and experience advancement. The voice-acting is done quite well, as is the soundtrack. The environment is very pleasing to the eye, and except for the odd tricky camera angle, works well with the level design. I think that this is one game you will have to try for yourself, and let your own experience lead your impressions of the whole package. Nintendo does offer a demo version through the eShop, so you can give it a spin before making a final purchase. There is a local multiplayer component that allows up to 5 players at once, but as I don’t play well with others, I did not give this feature a try.
I wanted to like the Wonderful 101, I really did – but in reality I found moments of frustration outnumbered the moments of enjoyment, and I think that this may be a real breaking point for those newer to gaming. I had a hard time getting the shapes to manifest properly and found myself using the sword and the fist more than any other weapon, which often resulted in some really long boss battles. Fortunately, one does not really die in game – you lose some points, but you pick up right where you left off upon respawning. Trying to figure out how to put out fires or rescue isolated pockets of citizens took up lots of time, and really jolted me out of the fluidity of moving through the game defeating the aliens and solving puzzles. There were times when I knew the solution to a puzzle or obstacle, but trying to get the Morph Unite power to activate was difficult because you had to be standing and morphing at an exact spot or the motions would not work.
I do like that, as with other Wii U titles, you can play The Wonderful 101 entirely on the game pad. If you are playing on both the TV and game pad, you can peer into potential hiding places to see any treasures have been secreted away. As you advance through each level, you are graded on your performance and length of completion time. The cinematics and special effects are extremely well done, and they are definitely one element of the game that I completely enjoyed. Of course there are a plethora of support personnel to assist our superheroes – both military and citizenry can be recruited to help – you can even get the aliens to defect and assist you in defending our fine planet against the equally large invading force of aliens. Hint – the bigger your posse, the bigger your weaponry (or ammo supply).
Throughout the game you can also collect O-Parts, the in-game currency that you can spend on upgrades and skills. They can be rather pricey, and they don’t come with the best of descriptions – or instructions. I feel that the slow learning curve for The Wonderful 101 horribly detracts from how truly great this game could be – and that is regrettable. I am sure that as I spend more time learning the moves and getting the morphs to work properly, I will experience a better sense of enjoyable game play, but in the meantime, download the demo and give it a whirl – you may disagree with my thoughts entirely – and in truth, I hope you do.