nlandlogoI never initially intended to do a Nintendo Land review, I figured there was enough out there already. But people keep asking me for one. So here it is.

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It was Nintendo’s inconceivably monumental challenge. To deliver a game that showcased what their new console had to offer as effectively as Wii Sports showcased what the Wii could do back in 2006. And with Nintendo Land, they’ve met and exceeded that challenge.

A collection of 12 mini games (yes, they are mini games) presented as attractions in the Nintendo Land theme park. All cute and bright, colourful and crisp, and all based on Nintendo franchises.

As with all mini game collections, some are more fun to play than others. Some will keep you coming back time and time again, others will not. That’s what makes reviewing and scoring Nintendo Land so difficult. The attractions have nothing directly to do with each other, all standing alone as individual experiences. So surely as a package, Nintendo Land is simply a sum of its parts, right? It’s hard to say.

What Nintendo Land does better than the rest though, is provide an engaging hub world. It’s called The Plaza (what else), and it’s where you can run around as your Mii and interact with other real life players. See what they’re saying about Nintendo Land, see what trophies they have and what levels they are at for each game, and even look them up on Miiverse or add them as a friend.

It’s fun to run around and just see what people are saying, and who’s as frustrated by Donkey Kong Crash Course as you are.

The main point of The Plaza though is to choose a game, you can run into one of twelve gates that represent each attraction and it will begin- or you can jump on the train that rides through the park and head to a championship consisting of multiple attractions.

The good news is you don’t have to run around The Plaza if you don’t want to. You can skip it altogether and choose what attraction you want to play by a touch of the gamepad on a traditional menu. A smart and welcome move by Nintendo.

The attractions in Nintendo Land are certainly varied and exciting. Twelve in total. I’ll say from the outset that it’s a huge shame Nintendo didn’t include multiplayer in the single player attractions and vice versa. It’s also a shame there’s no online multiplayer at all.

Of the twelve, there’s fun to be had in all of them except Octopus Dance. A poor rhythm/memory game that requires you to repeat dance moves by moving your Mii’s arms in different directions with the thumb sticks. It’s as mundane as it sounds. The best of the single player is DK Crash Course, a devastatingly difficult physics based obstacle course you need to navigate by tilting the gamepad. Challenging and addictive- it’s what you want a mini game to be. Incidentally, I have asked the people of Miiverse for advice on DK Crash Course many times, and each time someone delivers with a great tactic to get past the most troublesome of obstacles. Of which there are plenty. You will scream in frustration. And then you’ll go back for more.

Of the multiplayer attractions, my favourite is Animal Crossing Sweet Day. Players with the Wii remotes need to collect and hold sweets scattered around the course while the gamepad player hunts them down with two guards, controlling them both with the analogue sticks. How this works needs to be seen (or played) to be appreciated, and it’s a concept that seems daunting at first, yet feels completely natural after the second or third play.

I’ve compiled a list of the attractions, best to worst. Have a look at it here.

Second best on the multiplayer list is Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. It’s tense, nerve wracking and addictive. Again, all things a mini game should be. The gamepad player is the ghost, hunting down the Wii remote players who watch the TV and try to fry him with their flashlights. Naturally the TV players can’t see the ghost, and it makes for the best example of “asymmetric gameplay” Nintendo has been spruiking since Wii U’s announcement. My friends would have me believe Luigi’s Ghost Mansion alone is worth the price of admission to Nintendo Land (which for me was zero, it came with my machine). But I can’t agree. You see there is one thing sorely, sorely missing from Nintendo Land, especially in Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. And that’s analogue control.

You can’t use the Pro controller, or the nunchuck. This means players using the Wii remotes are stuck with thumb numbing and badly responding d-pad control. There’s been countless times we’ve been playing Ghost Mansion and the ghost player has come up right behind us and caught us. We knew he was there (the Wii remotes rumble when the ghost is near you) but we were unable to turn around and zap him in time. Not because our reflexes were slow, but because the d-pad simply didn’t respond fast enough. Unable to turn around in time. This happens time and time again. Why Nintendo couldn’t have included at least nunchuck support is really disappointing. Believe me when I say I’d have gladly paid $70 for Luigi’s Ghost Mansion by itself. If I could use the nunchuck and Pro Controller.

I have written more about what Nintendo could do to improve Nintendo Land. Have a look here.

While there’s a lot about Nintendo Land as a package that doesn’t make sense, there’s certainly a lot that does. Nintendo has put thought into incorporating the gamepad into an already existing Nintendo multiplayer experience. It’s so easy to select your Mii, change games or settings in Nintendo Land. A touch of the gamepad’s screen can do everything seamlessly. It’s a joy. But most impressive is how swapping the player with the gamepad is handled. At the end of each game, you are asked if you will continue to use the gamepad. No? Then press the Mii who take the gamepad off you. Then swap controllers with that person and away you go. No “Are you sure?” no “Press OK” screens or any other rubbish like that. It’s so smooth and effortless, even non gamers who played with me commented on how impressed they were. Nintendo really got this right.

It’s difficult to judge a mini game collection. It’s true to say Nintendo Land takes the concept to new heights in terms of quality and replay value. Heaps of game modes. Heaps of things to unlock. Heaps of trophies (and stamps) to strive to achieve. And just the sheer amount of content spread over the twelve attractions. It should be, and will be, the benchmark by which all future mini game collections will be judged. It’s incredibly fun, sometimes surprisingly so. Despite the lack of analogue control for non gamepad players which brings it down, you’ve got to think of the game as a showcase for the potential of a new machine. Wii Sports did it well, Nintendo Land did it better. It’s Wii U’s only must have game right now. 9 out of 10.

What did you think of Nintendo Land? Was it a worthy Wii Sports follow up? Leave a comment! You can follow me on twitter: @rustyshell or Miiverse: zinger_AU