Game Review: Nintendo Land

"Wii Sports" was designed to show off the Wii's motion controls. Anyone could pick up the controller, swing it at a tennis ball and know exactly what the Wii was offering.

The equivalent for the Wii U is "Nintendo Land," which comes bundled with the premium kit. Since the tablet-like GamePad isn't quite as grok-able as a Wii remote, this is all the more necessary.

Fortunately, "Nintendo Land" aces its assignment. It's a collection of 12 minigames ganged together in the titular amusement park, each styled after one of Nintendo's more prominent properties and showing off a way to play with the new controller.

"Luigi's Ghost Mansion" pits one GamePad-wielding player as a ghost attempting to scare the living daylights out of up to four others with regular remotes. The ghost is only visible on the GamePad screen, so the other players can only guess at his location based on the vibration of their controllers.

Everyone works together in the "The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest," with up to three players armed with swords and the fourth using the GamePad as an archer.

Solo games include the tilt-controlled "Donkey Kong's Crash Course" -- one of the most frustrating and rewarding things I've played all year -- and "Takamaru's Ninja Castle," where ninja stars are flicked from the GamePad screen at the TV. Admittedly, they had to dig through the archives all the way back to the NES for the theme of that one, but the concept is awesome and fun.

Some of the attractions are so jam-packed with levels and content that minigame seems a misnomer. The "Zelda," "Metroid" and "Pikmin" events have a satisfying number of levels, and the in-game achievement stickers prolong the experience if you're a perfectionist like that.

Multiplayer is really the name of the game for "Nintendo Land." Yes, a lot of the games are fun solo, but they're better taking turns to compete against each other or playing together when you can.

Games like "Mario Chase" can get raucous as the four players with Wii remotes call out when they catch a glimpse of the player dressed as Mario, who has a bird's-eye view of the proceedings on the smaller screen.

The Miiverse integration, which populates the amusement park hub with Miis from other players, adds a great finishing touch. It's reassuring to see messages from other people hitting the same obstacles -- and it's fun to respond and lend a hand to a problem you've already solved.

If you didn't spring for the premium Wii U, make "Nintendo Land" one of the first titles you buy. And if you're on the fence about the whole console, try this out. It's a great showcase for the type of games that ought to be tumbling down the pipeline.

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