- Nintendo Wii U / Rated T / $59.99 / released September 2013
- OFFICIAL SITE: thewonderful101.nintendo.com
- PURCHASE LINK: Amazon
- FINAL: You should TRY this game. 3 out of 5 stars
Borrowing heavily from the Power Rangers tradition, “The Wonderful 101” is about a team of super-heroes in brightly colored costumes who must battle an invasion of off-the-wall aliens. The game is deep into its cheese, occasionally breaking the fourth wall without ever breaking character, but it’s difficult to enjoy the beautifully bizarre setting when the core gameplay is such a mess.
The main gimmick is that you control all one hundred (give or take) heroes at once. You run around as one of the team’s leaders and the rest follow you like a flock of baby ducks in funny hats. You can swap through multiple extravagant attacks by drawing shapes on the screen, either via the Wii U GamePad touchscreen or with the right analog stick. Most levels have you running from one arena-style killzone to the next, choosing weapons that will have the most effect on the handful of oversized enemies.
The problem is that neither method of “drawing” weaponry is precise, resulting in the game giving you the whip when you wanted the hammer or the claws when you wanted the whip, for example. The visual gag is that your team actually transforms into the weapon, Voltron-style, as you draw it (“TEAM! UNITE UP!”). However the experience is so untrustworthy that you’re left wondering why the game bothers with such a clunky mechanic.
Unfortunately, “Wonderful 101” has even more problems. It has very little interest in telling you what to do next, or even why you just died. Perspective problems make the jumping sections obnoxious, and the camera only has two settings: too close and too far away. Plus, there’s some uncreative stereotyping (An overweight guy who likes to eat! A woman who worries about her nails!) and some unnecessary leering at female characters.
To be fair, the game does not penalize you for your repeated failures. You never run out of lives, and the checkpointing is fantastic… except that you’re already paying for it with the dual fun-killers of confusion and frustration. Multiple difficulty settings mean you can dial it down to “very easy” and actually have a shot at making it all the way to the credits. However, if you’re looking for a game that refuses to hold your hand at “normal” or harder, this is the 101 to get.
Visually, it’s amazing to see in action, even if it’s easy to lose track of what is going on. The hilarious hero designs and the massive attacks, combined with the shiny metallic polish that seems to coat everything in sight, make for a game that’s more fun to watch than to play. Nevertheless, there’s a downside, as most of the game’s dialogue takes place in boring lower-third-screen talking portraits rather than with actual animated cutscenes.
“The Wonderful 101” starts off as a 2-out-of-5 game and ends up just barely a 3-out-of-5. It’s almost impossible to recommend except to the grittiest of gamers who adore a severe, punishing challenge. Try the free demo before buying to see if the game seems Wonderful to you.
This review is based upon product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America.