The Wonderful 101 Review
Cart: The Wonderful 101
Cab: Wii U
Coin: Platinum Games
Imagine, for a moment, that game developers of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s were magically given the technology and instant knowledge to be able to develop games to the same level as modern developers.
Would they create Call of Duty, or Gears of War? Well, although we can never really know, it seems unlikely. I would like to think that they would produce something like The Wonderful 101, a game that uses technology to create gameplay from a vision, rather than let tech and graphics drive the design like a lot of games currently do.
The result is something truly special, a game that is captivating from start to finish, that will live long in the memory, and one that is made all the sweeter when you realise how rarely these types of games get big retail releases.
From Bayonetta creators Platinum Games, The Wonderful 101 looks a bit like Pikmin, but actually plays a lot like the combo based output of Platinum. In many ways, it is like an isometric version of Bayonetta, but with a hundred characters under your control. You don’t always play with 100 heroes, as they must all be found as you play through the game, but you can recruit rescued civilians and others to bump up your numbers when you need to, and rescuing civilians accounts for many of the puzzles and set pieces within the game.
The combo system is a joy
The basic idea is to draw shapes on the touch screen, which orders the 100 to ‘unite’ and create many different offensive, defensive and traversal shapes, such as a massive fist for basic fighting and turning keys, a gun and even a ladder to climb up the sides of buildings. The more of the 100 that make up the unite form, the bigger and more effective it can be, although you can split up your force to create separate forms to deal with tricky situations. Once in a unite form, the game plays like a world-class combo-based beat ’em up, with dodges, parries, shields and you can even link together attacks using different unite types, leading to some incredible combos.
There is a wide variety of enemy types in the games, some absolutely massive and they all offer something different to test you, and when the game mixes it up with enemy types, you need to be on top of the combo system to have a chance on the tougher difficulty settings. The fact that you have to keep track of and manage your 100 troops mid battle, means that this offers a little more than games like DMC do, challenge wise.
The theming of the game is great, with a 50’s vibe running through everything and it nails the classic Saturday morning cartoon script and characters without ever being cheesy. The little touches are what make the game, with some brilliant references to be found, none of which I will spoil for you here, but suffice to say, you will be smiling a lot throughout the course of the story mode, as well as in the excellent extra, multiplayer missions. To be clear, you will need a Wii U Pro controller to play the coop mode, Wii Remotes will not work.
This is how you repel cannons. Obviously.
There is a good 20 hours of content here, which may be surprising to some, expecting a throwaway title. The game does have its issues, such as the camera angle, which can let the action get hidden behind tall buildings, and the game really is let down by the frankly poor touchscreen, which is more suited to stylus use, leading to situations where you are trying to gather followers but instead draw a unite form. There is the option to use the right stick, but this is only helpful with certain shapes.
Don’t let those two problems put you off; if anything they add to the chaotic feel of the game. Another good reason not to score reviews.
If you are a Wii U owner looking for the perfect companion to the system’s best game, Pikmin 3, then this is it. A superb realisation of an incredibly cool concept, The Wonderful 101 is a joyous celebration of everything we used to love about gaming and ranks up there with Platinum’s best, and I would hope the sales reflect this, as it is all Platinum deserve.
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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.