This month, New York City had its annual injection of hardcore geekery in the form of the glorious New York Comic Con. Since it happens in our backyard, those of us here and BLHQ always make it a point to pay our respects. This year it happened to be sandwiched between two weddings, but we didn’t let that stop us! … Well, okay, it stopped our camera man, but that just means fewer photos and more words. Everybody loves words, right?
What with our video game focus, our staff was in agreement that the biggest story of the show was the Nintendo booth. It was busting at the seams with its latest 3DS offerings, as well as tasty morsels of Wii U goodness. The Wii U was a big question mark for us coming into the convention. Once again Nintendo is presenting us with a console featuring a controller that asks us to change the way we play. The Wii’s Remote and Nunchuk eventually proved themselves to be not just functional, but worthy of imitation by the entire rest of the game industry. Does this mean that in two years Microsoft and Sony will be cramming 3D displays into the handsets that they’ve been so vigorously trying to eliminate in favor of motion controls, or does it mean that Nintendo is going to cram a clunky “Baby’s First Tablet” into our hands and shoehorn some touch screen nonsense into a generation of games? Well, let’s see what there is to see.
I personally played the Wii U edition of Scribblenauts called Scribblenauts Unlimited, and it instantly made me realize something I’d somehow overlooked; Nintendo doesn’t have shoehorn touch controls into games. They’ve been honing their touch gaming skills ever since the DS came out. This just means that those games that worked best on the DS and 3DS can now move up to the big screen and enjoy some (relatively) serious hardware. In the case of Scribblenauts Unlimited, this means a few things. You’ll play it primarily on the screen of the controller, since text entry and item placement both require a fairly large amount of fine adjustment and item selection, both of which are best achieved with the stylus. This time around, the game is much more of a sandbox than before, allowing you to roam freely and mess around with your unholy powers of summoning without all of that pesky structure. The demo we were treated to had us helping a group of boy scouts to earn merit badges. Need to chop up a tree? Summon an ax. (That’s right, guy next to me during the demo. You can spell ax without the final ‘e’. The games knows it, too!) Need to put out a fire? This one was tricky. First I tried to summon a hose, and I got one, but it didn’t have any water. So I attached it to his face and summoned a bucket, but again, didn’t have any water. So I tossed it aside and moved into the future, producing a fire extinguisher. One of the boys needed something to do his sharp-shooting merit badge, so I decided to give him a bazooka. It turns out the kid wasn’t quite ready for heavy ordinance, but he eventually hit the target… along with nine other things…
At this point, he recommended we try the new “object creator”. You see, the Scribblenauts makers have evidently acknowledged the fact that they can’t possibly think of EVERYTHING in your horribly deranged mind. (Sure, you can make a flaming zebra, but what about a flaming zebra who likes to bite mailboxes?) To solve the problem once and for all, they gave you the very tools they use to make their own stuff and allow you to make their own. I decided to make a tiny car with a built in flame thrower. I then made it sentient and instilled within it a burning need to destroy trees. A few flicks of the stylus, and my nightmarish flame-car was unleashed upon the forest, where it rammed down two trees before getting its tiny wheels stuck on a slight hill. What a miserable creature I created… Suddenly I understand how we ended up with the platypus.
Through all of this, the new controller fared pretty well. It isn’t as clunky as I’d imagined. Only about the size of a slate/tablet, it was nice and light, and the screen was clear and responsive to touch. I did spot a bit of an issue with the touch entry though, but it is nothing that I haven’t had to deal with before. Basically, the navigation controls, as we expect, are on the left thumb stick. This frees up your right hand for the stylus, which is great if you are right handed. If you are a lefty? Not so much. The DS and the Wii have both suffered from this issue, and I’ve no doubt that the more savvy of game makers will toss in a handedness mode.
There were plenty of other games there to showcase the Wii U’s strengths. ZombiU was there to fill out now mandatory zombie quota, for instance. Unfortunately, I never made it to the front of this line, but from the looks of it, it involved a lot of holding a backpack over your head… strange. Naturally there wasn’t going to be a Super Smash Brothers launch title, but there was something… oddly similar to it, in the form of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U edition. This was possibly the most psychotic demo on display. Imagine Tekken, but with the option of suiting up all of the fighters in costumes from the Nintendo franchises. Everyone from Bowzer to Zero Suit Samus can lend their outfits to the game, and there were even Smash Brothers-eque power ups like the mushroom to make combatants king-sized. Tank! Tank! Tank! is a game as fundamental in concept as the name would suggest, giving you the controls to a tank and sending you to shoot your buddies, team up with one buddy against two others, or team up with all of your buddies against a super mega monster of doom. I’m told by my more patient correspondent that Wonderful 101 is the killer app for the system, but I’ll let you take his word for it when he posts his thoughts.
I also flitted around the 3DS kiosks and tested what they had to offer. New Mario Bros. 2 was there, and as you might imagine, it was more of the same, which is good if you like New Mario Bros. 1 (I did) but bad if you are a fan of innovation.
I also spent a few minutes with the new Adventure Time game, and honestly? At first blush it was pretty darn good! It has a lot in common with The Legend of Zelda 2, with top down overworlds and side scrolling towns and battlegrounds. Mix in some more RPG style inventory and leveling, along with some Banjo-Kazooie style take team maneuvers and you’ve got a pretty decent game going. Might have to pick it up!
That’s enough NYCC talk for today. Join us again soon when we take a look at some of the non-game stuff that caught our eye.