Ever since its announcement, the collaboration between Platinum Games and Nintendo has been met with great expectancy. At first glance, The Wonderful 101 seems like a crossover between Pikmin and the Power Rangers; upon beginning the game, the player is thrown to a frantic clash between The Wonderful 100 and a group of space invaders called GEATHJERK. While The Wonderful 101 features a story that is simple to digest, the gameplay mechanics provide a polarizing complexity that may turn off some players.
Developed by Platinum Games / Published by Nintendo Available on the Wii U *Review copy provided by Nintendo
Developed by Platinum Games / Published by Nintendo
Available on the Wii U
*Review copy provided by Nintendo
The Wonderful 101 puts the player in control of a pack of 100 assorted and colored heroes, the player being counted as the member 101. While this sounds similar to Pikmin, the frantic battles are reminiscent of other productions by Platinum Games, such as Bayonetta and Viewtiful Joe. This being said, the player can expect high-octane battles, flashy cutscenes and goofy hero comedy.
Cooperation is the core mechanic for The Wonderful 101, for the means of combat is having the pack of heroes act as a unit. While there is a button assigned for jumping, another for a basic group attack and the Gamepad’s screen is used for managing items, the game’s unique design relies on the player drawing lines that turn into weapons: drawing a circle brings forth a gauntlet, drawing a straight line summons a sword, drawing an S produces a whip, and so on. While the player can use these weapons, he or she can also choose to draw and have the heroes attack on their own accord in a timed attack, targeting near enemies. Additionally, the more units are used for drawing, the more powerful the attack of the weapon will be. The group of heroes grows as the players save citizens across the operations, and as attacks are used, they grow in ranks, allowing the player to chain longer combos.
As interesting as these mechanics sound, they don’t always work in favor of the player. For starters, some battles take place in confined spaces that make it difficult to the player to effectively draw. Additionally, enemies can be brutal and attack in masses, making it arduous to draw and attack your enemies in time. Another issue with the drawing design is that the game may sometimes misunderstand the drawing command given by the player. While the player can draw directly to the Gamepad’s screen, there is also the alternative option of using the right analog stick. The best option, at least in my case, was to draw using the right analog stick, for drawing into the Gamepad’s screen required me to take my eyes off the TV screen onto the Gamepad and handle the Gamepad with one hand, thus breaking the flow of the fast paced action.
The game’s difficulty is moderately high. Even though you’re offered various difficulties, the game’s learning curve is steep, if not hazy, for the learning ropes are left entirely for the player to figure out and grasp as the game progresses. While I found the learning curve to be relatively easy, figuring out what to do in certain missions was tricky, leaving me intrigued enough to find the correct tactic for each situation.
Combat is not the only action packed feature of The Wonderful 101, for the player is also assigned to sometimes command vehicles, as well as picking up weapons left over by the enemies, and even flying small saucers. In addition to combat abilities, The Wonderful 100 are able to learn skills that enhance their jumping and dodging abilities; for example, I upgraded my dodging ability to a morph ball, which allowed me not only to dodge, but to also hastily roll away to safety in the shape of a ball. These are acquired through a shop that opens to players in between starting a new operation, and can be purchased with in-game currency. It is highly advisable for the player to reach for the blocking and dodging abilities since the start.
Apart from some tedious gameplay mechanics, there are other mishaps that are worth mentioning. One immediate flaw is the blurriness of the game’s backgrounds. While The Wonderful 101 features an isometric view, the blurring lines between the immediate battlefield and the background narrows too close to our hoard of heroes. This didn’t pose a problem until I had to help my team glide from one building to the next: as I glided, the battery refills suspended in the air seemed to be far away when in fact they were to be glided through next. This detail hinders the sense of proximity and the sense of where the player is supposed to go next. Another issue with the game is the Game Over. This is not necessarily a problem, but for those who are looking for a challenge, it might pose to be disappointing: when a player loses and goes to the Game Over screen, the option of continuing is offered, thus allowing the player to return to the game and finding everything like it was before he/she lost, including the health bar of enemies and bosses. This is not without consequence, since your score suffers at the end of the mission.
The Wonderful 101 also features a multiplayer mode for up to 5 players. The mode makes use of up to four Wii U Pro Controllers or Wii Classic Controllers, and the Gamepad. This cooperative mode throws players into a series of missions, which are executed in a shared screen.
With all its flaws, it is difficult to get discouraged when playing The Wonderful 101, for it packs a punch with its steep, yet intriguing learning curve, challenging and addictive battles, and creative controllers schemes. Players will be able to set technical issues aside and unite with the team to save the day.