ALWAYS WITH THE RED RANGER
The patience and enjoyment sustained for the Wonderful 101 is largely dependent on how the tone of the game sits with each player. Not a fan of Office-style humor? Awkward cinematics can unnecessarily drag out. The tongue in cheek jokes and knowing asides can at times become predictable in the game’s largely homogeneous style.
When the jocular intermissions work the levels glide from one to the next without friction. When they fail to click it’s a brutal reminder that the enthusiastically colored universe was never given anything more than clichéd story lines and characters to work with. The otherwise minimal gameplay problems get spotlighted as well.
Inexplicably, 101 decides to mix up its core gameplay by forcing the player to solve puzzles inside of buildings to progress in some levels. Showing its zealous commitment to 4th wall breaking, the isometric camera cannot follow the team inside. The player is forced to angle and move the Wii U pad to navigate inside these structures and see around his army of followers.
Wonderful 101 seeks to answer two questions that strike directly to the heart of the Wii U’s novel playability.
WONDERFUL #1: CAN DRAWING ON THE WII U PAD MAKE QUICKTIME EVENTS MORE FUN AND ENGAGING?
The answer is no – ultimately nothing can make up for the interference posed by quicktime events. Especially so in 101’s case, where the interruption usually comes on cut scenes during boss fights, which feature the flashiest action. Remember that this is the same director as Bayonetta – at least there you could keep your eyes on screen and simply mash a button.
In their defense: some of the cheeky 4th wall breaking moments that play after failed quicktimes are cute.
WONDERFUL #2: IN A GAME OTHERWISE WED TO FACE BUTTONS AND DUAL ANALOGUE STICKS, DOES SWITCHING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE TOUCHPAD WORK?
Maybe 101’s tea leaves can’t reach that far into the future, but it’s a decidedly mixed bag for the new IP. Another way to phrase the question: would 101 be more appealing if the player simply held a trigger to toggle different face button functions, as opposed to drawing anything?
Using the touchpad was, in alternating instances, fun and somewhat frustrating. It’s telling that I never opted for its use when the same action could be easily performed with the right stick. I would also usually just hit ‘A’ to reform a lesser version of my last weapon when finishing off enemies, not bothering to use the touchpad and unlock my team’s full potential.
Are more precise or sophisticated touch screen gestures the answer for future Wii U games? Could these implements work outside of puzzle games, boosting action titles on the Wii U? How far are we from a game that creates a perfect harmony between the TV, second screen, and touchpad?
Wonderful 101 is a telling but still preliminary step towards answering these questions.