Think of the new Wii U as a ginormous DS. The TV is your top screen, and the touchscreen controller is your interactive bottom screen.
Ease of Use: 7.5
Overall Score: 7.8
Pros: Games in HD; GamePad can play games without using TV; plays Wii games, too.
Cons: Heavy GamePad is hard to learn and needs constant recharging. Games have long load times. Promised online apps aren’t there on launch day.
Cool, right? Well, sometimes. There’s one thing you should know about Nintendo’s brand-new Wii U: It’s definitely not as easy to use as the Wii.
When the Wii hit in 2006, the world took notice. Everyone played: You, your brothers, sisters, mother, father, even your grandparents. That’s why Nintendo was able to sell nearly 100 million consoles around the world.
But the Wii U is different. Say you pick up the Wii U and play a game without checking out the tutorials. My guess is that you won’t be able to figure it out. I couldn’t. There are so many buttons on the controller, it can be confounding.
Does that mean you shouldn’t buy the Wii U?
No, not at all. It’s a pretty decent machine.
WHAT MAKES IT COOL
You’ll see your games in HD. The processor is faster, so you’ll enjoy graphically beautiful games without the constant jaggies of the Wii. It can play your old Wii games, too.
And there’s more. It connects to the Internet much more easily than the Wii (although all the apps weren’t there on launch day).
You can take snapshots of the game you’re playing. In the MiiVerse application, you can show off the shots you’ve taken to the world.
The Wii U comes with an iPad-like controller called a GamePad. It lets you play games on it if someone — like your parents — wants to use the family TV.
The GamePad, even though it has nice-sounding speakers, is the thing I have some issues with. The six-inch touchscreen is fun to fling, say, ninja weapons with your finger. And its gyroscope lets you race by tilting the controller.
But it also has a ton of buttons for you to get used to. And it’s pretty heavy. In some games, you have to move the GamePad around a lot, sometimes over your head as a shield. If you used the Wiimote and your arms hurt sometimes, this is going to be worse.
And, after a week of playing around with it, I’m still not exactly sure how to use it. Yet I understand it more than when I first played with it because of one particular game.
A LITTLE HELP
Nintendo Land, a virtual amusement park full of mini games, helps you comprehend the Wii U’s many intricacies. And some of the games are very good (but some aren’t).
In it, there’s a fun robot that gives you humorous tutorials. You’ll find out when to use the triggers on the GamePad, when to press the buttons and triggers, and when and how to use the touchscreen.
Think of the GamePad as a kind of Swiss Army Knife. It has a lot of tools, some of which you’ll not use. But if you familiarize yourself with everything it offers, you’ll have a leg up.
The GamePad itself gives you an advantage over players who are using the Wiimote or other controllers in co-op play. For example, you’ll see the direction from which enemies are coming — even when they’re not on screen. But the folks you’re playing with won’t.
All said, the Wii U takes some getting used to. You want it to be an easier experience, especially with the more complex games. And yet you’re happy to have a new console, one that showcases your favorite Nintendo characters in high def and one you can play without the TV on, possibly in your room. You’ll be rewarded by putting in the time to learn — even though it’s kind of a pain.
THE BEST WII U GAMES
Nintendo Land (Nintendo)
A must have! This isn’t essential simply because of the many mini games. Robot Monita teaches you how to use the GamePad, which is invaluable. The most intriguing games are the single-player offerings, like the fast-paced Takamaru’s Ninja Castle and Captain Falcon’s Twister Race. Play enough and you’ll become a Nintendo Land master. And you’ll build up your amusement park from nothing, too.
Scribblenauts Unlimited U (WBIE)
Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older
Maxwell goes to the city to help heal Lily, his twin sister. You’ll think hard and then you’ll laugh hard when you come up with creative solutions to puzzles. You’ll also make some really weird things with the object editor. Scribblenauts Unlimited offers some really quirky fun with the bonus of collecting Starites. But don’t expect every word you type in to work.
New Super Mario Bros. U (Nintendo)
This is an insanely challenging game, so don’t get discouraged. It’s also one with which you don’t have to be too concerned with the intricacies of the GamePad. Yes, you’re still trying to save the abducted Princess. But since the levels are so lovingly (and deviously) designed, you’ll keep going back for more … to win.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Disney)
Former Scout Warren Spector saved the best version of Mickey for the Wii U. The latest grand adventure with Mickey and Oswald is graphically intense with a heroic story. The bonus? Lots of funny songs. At first, the GamePad is a little confusing. Be careful jumping, too, as the ledge might be father away than you expected. But once you get the hang of things, it can be real fun. And there are no camera-angle issues this time.
Rabbids Land (UbiSoft)
In a kind of Mario Party for the Wii U, the Rabbids irreverently take over a wacky amusement park. Here, the GamePad is useful in winning elegantly designed (and super funny) mini games you play to get trophies. Then try to get to the center of the board for the win. It’s ingenious stuff that’s best played with friends.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Sega)
Think of it as Sonic meets Mario Kart — with Danica Patrick as a special character. With locations based on Sega games like Super Monkey Ball and Nights Into Dreams, you’ll find racing familiar and enjoyable. Race as your Mii, too. And when your vehicle transforms going from land to water, it’s definitely a “wow” moment. You just want to keep playing, either online or off. Definitely check out the Monkey Ball mini game.