Game Review: The Wonderful 101

Platinum Games has delivered another over-the-top yet charmingly unique title to a Nintendo console. But will its heroes unite as the champions of the Wii U or fall at the hands of touch screen control?It’s been a while since any superhero has provided more than a pure sense of fun. Christopher Nolan’s darker Batman films blazed a trail for several Hollywood franchises to follow suit, grounding our big screen superheroes to a relatable realism seemingly essential to box office success. The Wonderful 101 ignores this trend.You play as the 100 colourful superheroes known as the Wonderful 100, charged with defending planet earth from the Geathjerk alien invasion. While individually powerful, by working together the Wonderful 100 can form larger than life weapons, defences, tools and objects called ‘Unite Morphs’ to overcome any situation. The simple storyline familiar to any superhero fan effectively facilitates the game’s mission-based structure. No one was aiming for complexity here, yet the game maintains its value through the quirky and often funny interactions between its relatively two-dimensional main characters.Starting off as the by-the-book, rookie-turned-leader, Wonder Red, your troop of Wonderful Ones quickly grows as you encounter them throughout the story. Before long you have the cocky yet obviously flawed Wonder Blue, the pompous Frenchman Wonder Green, and their Pink, Yellow, White and Black counterparts in tow. Each sport a uniquely flawed personality the others are more than willing to point out as often as possible. It makes for excellent banter between the characters and adheres to the deliberately light-hearted animation present in its cut-scenes. I found myself laughing almost too regularly throughout the game’s 8-10 hour campaign—a welcomed effect given how punishingly difficult the game can be.True to Platinum Games’ style, the game offers little explanation when it comes to controlling your character or besting enemies. Even as a seasoned gamer playing through the ‘Normal’ difficulty setting, I found myself dying multiple times and having to settle for a ‘Consolation Prize’ mission rank on more than one occasion. Most apparent is the developer’s desire for you to play through the game’s campaign more than once. The first run through is a learning experience that ensures you have the ability to snag that platinum ranking on your return visit. While this approach can be incredibly frustrating for a modern gamer, it gave me an instant and genuine sense of accomplishment when defeating even the most basic enemies and was reminiscent of times spent struggling through Mega Man 1 & 2. Moreover, it provided a level of satisfaction that transcends any achievement or trophy-based award system.Much of the game’s difficulty came in mastering the character’s Unite Morphs. Drawing various shapes with the gamepad or right thumb stick quickly was a steep learning curve. The difficulty is compounded by a need to manage your Unite gauge and accommodate for enemy positioning, to ensure you’re able to complete Morphs. Despite what other reviews may indicate, while by no means perfect, the control systems work very well. The game’s action slows down immensely from the moment you place your finger on the touch screen, affording you plenty of time to input your command. With a little practice, this unique method of control becomes second nature and astoundingly immersive.      I’ve had more fun playing The Wonderful 101 than any other game in a long time. Its action is always adrenaline inducing, its music is suitably epic and its characters are instantly lovable; but more than anything else, it provided me with a sense of community. With none of my real world friends playing the game at the time, Miiverse became a more than suitable substitute. The gamepad’s ever-present Miiverse icon can be hit at any time to capture your current screen shot and immediately post it with a note for other community members to read and offer help.While admittedly not for everyone, The Wonderful 101 is an extremely rewarding game for those willing to persevere through its steep difficulty and unique controls. The lack of animated cut-scenes during dialogue, and some minor control and camera issues, are the only things holding this excellent game back. A revised control system would also go a long way in roping in a greater audience. But the flair of its characters and its expert Miiverse integration had me drooling at the recent suggestions for a sequel in this new franchise and expecting big things from Platinum Games’ second Wii U exclusive; Bayonetta 2 is coming in 2014.by Mark SantomartinoCourtesy of Radio Respawn, SYN Media

October 9th 2013
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