Price: $60 (free with deluxe Wii U bundle)
On the surface, Nintendo Land looks like another mini-game collection, but these dozen mini-games are killer representations of what the Wii U’s unique hardware is capable of. Games are based on Nintendo properties, with both core and obscure franchises well represented in ways that make sense for each. For example, there’s a physics-based Donkey Kong maze exploiting the GamePad’s gyroscope functions and a Legend of Zelda with an on-rails bow-and-arrow-based shooting gallery. A majority of them are playable solo, but half are multiplayer-friendly.
Each game is plenty addictive in its own right and there’s a ton to see and do, but my stand-out favorites are Pikmin Adventure, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle and Donkey Kong’s Crash Course. Pikmin’s strategy elements and isometric camera angle kept a smile on my face and my eyes glued to the GamePad screen while forcing me to frantically send my diminutive warriors into battle by tapping on targets with the stylus. Ninja Castle made me hold the GamePad perpendicular to my TV, its movements sending the target reticule this way and that as I flung throwing stars at ninjas with a drag of my finger. Crash Course nails the “one more try” experimentation aspect of navigating a very fragile vessel around a labyrinthine board, titling the GamePad and blowing into the microphone to manipulate levers and rods.
Each game made me do something entirely different with the GamePad and held my attention long enough to make hours disappear before I realized it was 1.30 AM and I still had writing left to do. Nintendo Land alone is worth spending the extra $50 it costs to upgrade from the basic to deluxe Wii U bundle.
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