This weekend I had very little time to spend with the Wii U. I headed off on a holiday weekend, came back on Sunday afternoon, had a BBQ for family and friends, and that was it really. But something interesting happened during that BBQ. For the first time ever I got a chance to play the Wii U with a group of friends, with a mixture of people -- some who liked games, some who didn't, some who could take it or leave it. It was an interesting experience to say the least.
This is the tl;dr version of this story: everyone absolutely loved it. We played NintendoLand exclusively and people were effectively losing their minds.
The real magic of the Wii U and NintendoLand (probably the only launch title that actually uses the GamePad properly) is how well it allows players to recreate childhood games in a space where rules are easily comprehensible and consistent. I think that's the real magic of the game. Take Mario Chase for example. Mario Chase is essentially a game of tag. The player with the GamePad is the one getting chased, by up to four human players using WiiMotes. Mario Chase allows the runner a full view of the map, along with the position of all the players chasing him. The four doing the chasing have to communicate, head the runner off. They have to conspire and talk and chase. The runner gets to hide, use strategies, run frantically. Have that claustrophobic feeling of the walls closing in. It's so delicately simple, easily comprehensible, yet perfectly balanced.
And this goes for almost all the mini-games in NintendoLand.
I think it's fairly easy to be negative about the Wii U. The third party games (in my opinion) are heavily disappointing. New Super Mario Bros U is just way too familiar to genuinely feel like a 'killer app' and there doesn't seem to be much on the horizon. What you can't and shouldn't forget, is just how carelessly energetic and hilarious NintendoLand can be with a group of friends.
I know I had forgotten. NintendoLand, for me and my family, will no doubt replace Wii Sports, it'll replace Rock Band. It will be the new thing we do when we're together and we feel like playing video games. Make no mistake -- that's a hard gap to fill, and solid legacy to continue. And it speaks to the potential of the Wii U as a console.
So that's some of my early thoughts on the Wii U. Very keen to hear yours! Let us know in the comments below!