Pokkén Tournament has attempted to break into the fighting game genre with a bang, and it has done just that. It brings freshness and new life to a notoriously stale genre that's difficult to develop, whilst stripping out the unnecessarily complex controls that have plagued many games before it. Like Super Smash Bros. it's easy to pick up, but the skill ceiling appears to be as high as you'd like, meaning there's a cacophony of enjoyment to be had for both relaxed and hardcore gamers alike. It has a few areas that feel like a missed opportunity and the fuzzy visuals keep it from being truly perfect, but these are grotesquely outweighed by the sheer polish and replayability of the core gameplay. As the first of what we hope is a series of fighting games, Pokkén Tournament surpasses our expectations.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is an excellent addition to the Wii U library. We do acknowledge that it's a series entry that has its critics, with them often citing a lack of revolution from the Ocarina of Time template, in particular. Those that feel that way have little incentive to revisit it on Wii U, but this writer certainly feels that it stands on its own as an accomplished game - opinions, when it comes to a series as immersive and demanding as The Legend of Zelda, are everything.
Beyond that, what we have here is an attractive remaster with some nice additions, encompassing improved controls, visuals and enjoyable extras for fans. It's a deep, involving 30+ hour adventure, which draws the player in with plenty of honesty and soul; we're certainly glad this one has come to light.
Ultimately, it's a pity to see so much effort going to waste in projects like these - sure, some games exist for the sole purpose of generating income to the license, while others are the training wheels for small studios that want to grow big. Brunswick Pro Bowling is a bit of both, a mediocre licensed title developed by a relatively small studio with little experience. Sadly this one was doomed since the day it got greenlit. Brunswick Pro Bowling did things to our head… unspeakable things.
LEGO Marvel's Avengers is a mixed experience on Wii U. In solo play there's plenty of content and typical LEGO-style fun to be had, with the extended Avengers cast well used for a variety of gameplay styles, combat moves and environmental puzzles. The Wii U version suffers from poor performance in co-op, however, with some dips and rough edges also to be found in solo play; these factors take some of the shine away. Fans of LEGO games and the Avengers movies will find plenty to like, but technical shortcomings mean it falls short of its full potential.
Kung Fu Panda: SLL has many strong qualities, including a great amount of loyalty to the franchise and real thought for how the characters would fight and move, but suffers from an overall lack of gameplay content. The fact that it draws so heavily from the Super Smash Bros. series is both a blessing and a curse. It would be easy to think of this as a negative; if you want to play a fighting game of this type then there is no reason to choose this over Super Smash Bros. itself. But Kung Fu Panda: SLL isn't trying to compete with a genre defining game – it's bringing that style of play to a brand new audience. Fans of the film franchise that want this game purely because it has their favourite panda in it will be treated to an experience way beyond what is usually expected for a movie tie-in, and one that can provide a fun time.
Just Dance: Disney Party 2is a party, with stipulations. If you're interested in getting an honest workout, this game is for you. If you're keen on challenging yourself to some tough choreography that'll take some memorization, it's also a game for you. If you want to have a dance party with your friends and don't care that you may all look silly trying to replicate dance steps, then this is the game for you too. If you have no idea who the current Disney stars are from their various shows, then it becomes a 'maybe'. It depends on whether or not you can get past hearing overly sugary and saturated pop songs you've likely never heard of before. Your definition of fun may vary, and Just Dance: Disney Party 2 definitely delivers to some degree; it just might not necessarily be the form of dancing fun you're looking for.
Monster High: New Ghoul in School is a mixed bag. It's a game for a particular audience which includes some RPG adventuring and platforming elements to it, while maintaining its fashion doll sense. In a lot of ways it fails to do anything incredibly interesting, with the repetitive actions of fetch quests being one of its biggest offenders, and gameplay can become dull as it takes the most drab parts of RPGs and fits them in. The multiple narrative threads do make integration into its world fleshed out and interesting to a degree, though it should be noted once more that this would only be interesting for its specific target audience. Is it a downright terrible game? Not exactly, but it's definitely ghastly in various ways.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is as sprawling, diverse, complex and entrancing as we hoped. It utilises the Wii U's capabilities not only to produce a beautiful world, but shows how something as simple as a map on the GamePad screen can be invaluable. What's most impressive is the dynamism and impression of freedom in play - level caps and grinding are naturally part of the equation, yet they're managed within a structure where even small missions or Affinity quests greatly enhance the narrative and sense of place. To truly experience the story of this human colony and the vast planet Mira requires exploration and patience, and Monolith Soft has found an impressive balance in bringing its vast range of gameplay systems and mechanics together.
Occasional bottlenecks are infrequent and easily overcome in the broader experience, and overall Xenoblade Chronicles X delivers a hugely impressive RPG adventure. It's an enormous accomplishment for Monolith Soft and an irresistible part of the Wii U library.
Amiibo have only been around for a year, but there are already several examples of how the toys can add value to a game (or vice versa). Unfortunately, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival does not seem to have learned from them, and brings questionable to downright annoying integration. Were all of amiibo Festival as clever and engrossing as the Desert Island Escape minigame then this package would be the real deal. However, that simply isn't the case. The central board game is slow and plodding, and is tough to recommend to anyone that isn't already a die-hard Animal Crossing fan willing to put up with it. That leaves the minigames, of which seven out of eight aren't compelling enough to continue playing for more than a week.
For the money you ultimately get two figurines, three cards and a game package with snippets of fun and charm - it's ultimately up to you whether that's worthy of your cash.
Barbie and Her Sisters Puppy Rescue is full of repetitive actions which bring down the novel idea of a series of mini games that make up its DNA. It's too simple, even for a younger target audience who may get some enjoyment from this exercise for a very short period of time. Simplicity is one thing but these actions are not even fun and the gameplay will show that. Quick time actions aren't so quick, button prompts are too dull to be engaging and the mini-events themselves are not very interesting. While the environment looks nice enough, and bicycle riding is neat but limiting as to how far you can actually explore the town, there's not enough that's appealing in its presentation to warrant how bland the gameplay is. Not even the feel good act of saving puppies can rescue this game, and it doesn't help that the little pups aren't even endearing.
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is an odd game to score or recommend. The basic gameplay is strong, has slick performance and handsome if basic visuals; as a multiplayer game it can be enormously enjoyable, too. With options to ignore newfound gimmicks in simple matches included, fans of the franchise that want a HD / 60fps entry to play with friends - or some random opponents online - can find entertainment.
Those are positives, but we cannot emphasize enough how phoned-in and thin the content offering is, nor how throwaway Mega Battle is as a tentpole feature. Frankly this shouldn't be a retail game at $49.99 and regional equivalents, as it is at launch; it should be a budget retail game at best. Presumably out of desperation for a Holiday release this has been sent out with barely any content, and all that saves it is the fact that the gameplay remains as pleasing as ever.
We can't recommend Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash at its launch retail price, and certainly not to anyone looking for enjoyable solo offline options. For those that are willing to pay, however, there's fun to be had in random online matches and most certainly in local multiplayer. Excellent, enjoyable gameplay clashes with a shoddy and lazy set of features. It's up to you whether that's worth your money.
Movie and licensed game tie-ins may suffer a reputation for being half-baked, quick cash grabs. There's always the concern that originality of source material would be unjustly represented; after all, Snoopy's Grand Adventure was a simultaneous release with the Peanuts movie. The movie was one that was marketed hard before its premiere, even transforming the cast of NBC's The Today Show into creepy human counterparts of the Peanuts' characters. Luckily, the Snoopy game doesn't feel like a money grubbing attempt to cash-in on the hopeful success of the movie. It's actually a decent platformer, with collectibles and costume changes which add variety to backtracking and a drive to unlock all areas with new, fun powerups. That said it certainly isn't immune from some issues such as somewhat stiff controls, which keep it from being a great game. Still, as a game for younger crowds it's a fun and welcome option to further embrace the world of Peanuts.
Rodea the Sky Soldier is an interesting game. When it comes to unique gameplay and classic Yuji Naka charm the title truly soars. Unfortunately it also suffers from frustrating camera problems, a steep learning curve and some frequently aggravating combat. Players planning to taking to the skies with Rodea will likely enjoy most of their journey, but they are in for a bumpy ride.
Just Dance is the sort of title that most players will already have feelings about. For some, this game is their worst nightmare, being the centre of attention and dancing in front of a room full of people is a very different experience to sitting down for a night of snacks and shooting things. But this game isn't aimed towards that audience.
It may not have ground-breaking graphics or a heart-string tugging storyline, but that doesn't matter. It achieves its purpose extremely well, allowing people to spend a night in together and have a great time. The soundtrack and the new features introduced this time around make Just Dance 2016 the definitive version of the series so far, meaning that it would be a great time for newcomers to the franchise to jump aboard, and also worth it for serious players from last year to upgrade.
The Just Dance Unlimited Premium package seems a little stingy compared to other recent music releases such as FreeStyleGames' , which doesn't force you to spend a penny, but other than that this is a very strong party game which does the job of being fun.
If you own a Wii U and like to rock, Guitar Hero Live is your best bet. Not because it's the only game in town, but because it's actually a wonderfully addictive rhythm title with plenty to offer. With GH TV and a snazzy new controller players will find themselves happily diving head first into the best solo guitar experience since the series' inception. Break out the leather vest and fingerless gloves, Guitar Hero is back.
Although it suffers from some hiccups in presentation and a nearly needless combat system, Adventure Time: Jake & Finn Investigations plays to the strengths of the show by concentrating on its appealing world and characters. While it might prove too basic for more advanced players, younger players and families should have a fun time questing with dog and human. Big fans of the show, of course, should not feel so afraid to give this one a try, either.
Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water has been put through a wringer of doubt and speculation in the run up to its release, but manages to come out the other side still just as drenched with atmosphere and intrigue as ever. Innovation should give fans that spark of renewed excitement, while newcomers are eased into an excellent horror adventure with plenty of time to learn the mechanics. A bit too much repetition and a few rough edges do mar the experience a little, but that absolutely shouldn't stop you from taking the plunge regardless. The water is lovely.
LEGO Dimensions is well worth consideration for those happy to invest in a new toys-to-life platform. The core content of the Starter Pack gives you plenty to do, though tolerance is required for occasionally overbearing in-game promotion of expensive add-ons. There are moments of brilliance, a few modest levels and some disappointing sections where design is questionable and performance struggles. The positives do outweigh the negatives, though, and in addition to some high points this also sets a new standard in how toys-to-life can bring NFC portals and a video game together in new ways. These toys actually come to life, which promises much for the future.
Assessing a game like Skylanders is always difficult. Different players will get different things from it. This year the combination of the articulated vehicles, the kart racer mode and the sensible approach to backwards compatibility create a game that is a lot of fun and great value. This isn't just another update to the Skylanders series, it's the moment the game properly comes of age both from the perspective of top notch gameplay as well as offering families exactly what they want in terms of value. Also, those amiibo-Skylanders are fantastic.
Despite those load times, Disney Infinity 3.0 is a very strong addition to the franchise. The Star Wars content is handled well and the Toy Box additions will open game-making to a wider audience. While Disney could have rested on the knowledge that this year's brands would sell themselves, it's good to see that it's taken the game forward in substantial ways.