As I said in my preview of The Wonderful 101, Platinum Games has developed a batshit crazy game that is a glorious mashup of Pikmin and Power Rangers like no other. How often can you say you shot down a giant metal beast from the back of a moving train car, only to jump into the air, slice off its head with a gigantic sword and then use said head to destroy the rest of it’s body? The Wonderful 101 lets you do all of this and so much more, which is how it managed to sink it’s hooks into me during the sixteen hours I spent with the game.
The Wonderful 100 is an elite fighting force made up of 100 chosen heroes from across the globe, each with a specific skill that aids them in battle. An alien force known as the GETHJERK are invading Earth, and our tiny heroes have been called upon to save the day. It’s a predictable story with minimal twists and turns, but it’s the combat mechanics that really sell the game.
You fill the role of Wonder-Red, a school teacher by day, Wonderful One by night who has the power to morph into a giant red fist. In order to morph however, Wonder-Red will need to recruit ordinary citizens to help him fight. These citizens will march into the front lines of combat to help you complete your mission, however they serve a far more important purpose as they morph into special attacks. Drawing shapes on the GamePad will morph your citizens into giant weapons, such as swords, fists and guns to lay waste to enemies in furious combos.
During the opening hours of the game, I found myself taking a huge amount of damage as my focus was taken away from the action to make sure I was drawing the right shapes. I soon found that I was more proficient at ordering in my sword, my fists and guns, but when it came to more advanced shapes such as the hammer, I was often left standing there with nothing as my input failed to be recognised.
This is the crux of what stops The Wonderful 101 from being a fantastic game. The accuracy of the GamePad is simply not good enough, especially when in the middle of a frantic battle to survive. While it’s also possible to draw these shapes using the right analog stick, I found that to be even more inaccurate, so I found myself struggling with my lacklustre drawing abilities.
While The Wonderful 101 presents a colourful and shiny world to explore, don’t let the presentation fool you. This is a hardcore game, one that demands quick reflexes and even quicker attacks. Even on Normal mode I was dying over and over again, and when I bumped it up to Hard I was devastated. Each section of a mission is graded on your combos, damage and time too, so for those who want to get all the collectibles and perfect scores, The Wonderful 101 will surely keep you busy for a long time.
Every time I sat down with the game, I started my session with a giant smile on my face. Destroying enemies with gigantic weapons is ridiculously satisfying, but I soon found myself walking away from each session feeling tired and weary. While the general gameplay of each mission is fun, the boss fights are another huge problem with the flow of the game.
Epic battles await with a number of humongous robots and aliens filled with personality, yet the battles themselves drag on, and on, and on to a point it becomes frustrating. When you’re dodging the same attack patterns for close to ten minutes as you slowly plug away at a health bar that seems to go on forever, it takes away from the enjoyment of the path travelled to reach this point. It doesn’t break the game, but it certainly took away an element of enjoyment from the final product for me.
By the time I finished The Wonderful 101 I was satisfied with the experience. I lost the immediate love I had for this quirky brawler when I first booted up, but I could forgive it’s problems for the amount of joy I experienced playing it. For all it’s misgivings, The Wonderful 101 is one of the most unique experiences I’ve played all year, and a huge surprise from Nintendo’s catalogue. It’s not a system seller by any means, but if you own a Wii U then there is no excuse for not checking it out.