Review: The Wonderful 101
Earlier this year I fell in love with two games. The first was Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a superb game despite it’s stupid title. The second, Vanquish, was originally released in 2010, although I had regrettably ignored it until a couple of months ago. Both these titles were made by Platinum Games, and this got me excited for their upcoming release; The Wonderful 101. It’s finally here, but sadly it’s not quite as wonderful as the title might suggest. Whilst certainly not a bad game, anyone use to the high quality experience Platinum Games usually deliver is likely to be disappointed.
Although bright and colourful, The Wonderful 101’s presentation isn’t great. The box certainly looks nice, but that’s about the best compliment I can give it, as the in-game interface is a complete mess. This is something you are likely to notice even before you get to the gameplay, and things get even more problematic when you start unlocking upgrades and new abilities. Everything that should be simple isn’t, even unpausing the game in an unnecessarily long process. It’s unintuitive and doesn’t make sense.
To a certain extent this carries through into the gameplay, although I should point out that for the most part The Wonderful 101 is quite fun to play. It’s a reasonably unique game, and whilst your character might resemble Viewtiful Joe, and the game itself might look like Pikmin, it’s not similar to either in the way it plays. You run around beating up enemies and using your superpowers to turn an army of civilians into a large sword which you use to cut up giant robots. It’s quite chaotic and can sometimes be hard to understand what is exactly going on, but at the same time the large amount of stuff all happening at the same time is what makes it fun.
However, the game has a few major flaws, and these are likely to get in the way of your enjoyment. Firstly there’s the controls, which are plagued with problems. Your army of people can be controlled using either the touch screen on the Wii U Gamepad, or the right analogue stick. Unfortunately it’s not simply a case of choosing which of these two methods you’d rather use, as neither work very well. Drawing a line on the touch screen makes your followers form a line, which you can then turn into a ladder/bridge to solve puzzles or a sword to fight enemies. The problem is that the touch screen usually isn’t wide enough for you to draw a big enough line, so this is much easier to do with the analogue stick. But then drawing a circle (necessary for recruiting new followers) is nearly impossible with the stick, so this must be done on the screen. I found myself swapping between these two methods constantly, always unsatisfied by the lack of precision they gave me.
On top of this a lot of the game’s puzzles are very unintuitive. At one bit near the start I was stuck for a good twenty minutes because I didn’t realise you could change character mid level, and my own hero didn’t have the ability I needed. One puzzle required me to rescue civilians from a fire. I was running around looking for a source of water but it turned out the solution was to push some crates off the top of a building. These landed on the flames and put them out.
With it’s colourful graphics and superhero inspired story, The Wonderful 101 looks like a game great for kids. But it’s confusing interface, unintuitive puzzles and steep difficulty make it something most children are likely to struggle with. Unlike Platinum Games other titles, this is one I had no desire to master, and no intention to replay. Pick up Vanquish instead, it’s under £5 these days.