Delaware County Daily Times
DEARBORN, Mich. — The Nintendo Airstream Tour made a stop in Dearborn recently, and I tried out some of the upcoming games for the 3DS and the much-hyped Wii U console releasing on Nov. 18.
I first tackled the next title in the Professor Layton franchise: Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask for the 3DS. In this game, Layton travels to Monte d'Or to investigate a series of incidents and search his past to stop a mysterious villain. The main action takes place on the top screen, and you use a magnifying glass (controlled on the touchscreen) to comb your way around different areas for clues and hint coins. The graphics are nice and the 3D effect looks real good.
I solved one puzzle, which I'm ashamed to say took me a couple tries. Along with being loaded with puzzles, additional ones will be available for download once a day for an entire year. That's a whopping 365 new puzzles to master.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask will release Oct. 28.
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is scheduled for release Nov. 18 on the 3DS, and is a side-scrolling platformer using the paint and thinner mechanics from the original Epic Mickey for the Wii. As you play through levels, certain spots will have you use the touchscreen to paint items into existence. The performance of these items is all depended on how well you trace them, which is a neat twist. The goal of the game is to have Mickey save Minnie and other "illusion" characters trapped in a castle.
Power of Illusion is releasing alongside Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for consoles.
I also played a little bit of Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!, a great title for a video game. It's scheduled for release Nov. 13 on the 3DS and DS. The plot is already explained in the title: The Ice King has stolen everyone's trash, and it's up to the heroes Finn and Jake to save the day. This is also a 2D side-scroller (a top-down view when you explore the Land of Ooo) where you find a bunch of loot and beat up on enemies.
After months of watching other people online play the Wii U, I finally was able to tackle a few games coming out for launch and afterward. But first, I had to get a feel for the controller - dubbed the GamePad - for the first time, and it felt great. I had no problems with the placement of the dual analog sticks or the buttons, and the 6.2-inch touchscreen looked crisp and clear.
The first game I played was Nintendo Land, one of the flagship titles for the Wii U. Taking place in a theme park, it features 12 mini-games based on various Nintendo franchises. It's pretty much the Wii Sports for this new console, serving as a way to demonstrate all the unique functions it has to offer. I tested out several of these mini-games, including Takamaru's Ninja Castle, where the touchscreen is used to launch shuriken at waves of enemy ninjas. With quick, effortless swipes from the GamePad, I was mowing down ninjas left and right.
Luigi's Ghost Mansion has one player controlling a ghost on the GamePad while other players must search for it throughout a maze with their normal Wii remotes. The twist is the player who's the ghost can see where everyone's at on the GamePad, while the ghost hunters on the television have to navigate through the darkness with their flashlights. Victory is achieved by either having the ghost knock down all the players or survive being caught until the time expires, or the players can win by catching the ghost a certain number of times. I played as the ghost, and it was intense fun scrambling around the level and surprising my fellow players.
In Donkey Kong's Crash Course, the GamePad is used to tilt a trolley on an obstacle course influenced by the Donkey Kong arcade game. This was the most difficult of the mini-games I played since I kept falling off while attempting to hop a gap. The analog sticks are used to activate levers and switches, and that takes time to get used to. I made it about halfway down the level before I ran out of tries. I'll need a lot more practice on this one.
Finally, there was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, which I teamed up with others to fight off enemies in this on-rails mini-game. Players can either use the regular Wii remotes as swords or use the GamePad as a bow and arrow. While my companions were looking at the TV, I was focused on the GamePad, moving the controller in all directions to find enemies on the touchscreen, then plucking them away with arrows by pushing the analog stick down and releasing it. Teamwork is key since there's a shared life bar.
Wii Sports was a huge part of Wii's initial success that led to constant sellouts. Nintendo's making a big push for Nintendo Land to be that kind of game again. I was a bit skeptical if the audience would be there to make that happen, but after playing a few of the mini-games I can see this being a big hit. Nintendo Land is shaping up to be a great game for friends and family.
New Super Mario Bros. U is another big launch title, and should no doubt be a system seller. I played through a couple levels, trying out the new Flying Squirrel power-up where you glide across long distances or slowly descend downward. I also grabbed a baby Yoshi, which inflated in midair. One thing I was impressed with was the amount of detail in the background art. I'm a sucker for things like that and am looking forward to what other levels have to offer.
In multiplayer you can use the GamePad to place blocks on the screen to help others. Boost Rush mode makes a level automatically scroll and increases the speed as more coins are collected, and Challenge Mode offers up various objectives to complete.
I also played Rayman Legends, expected to be released in the first quarter of 2013. It's a sequel to Rayman Origins, a game I adored. If you've played it, you'll know the art style is very creative and the controls are easy to understand. Using the GamePad my companion controlled Murfy, who was able to cut through rope, stun enemies and activate mechanisms on the touchscreen to help me progress through a level. There was also a musical rhythm section that was a blast to run through.
Besides games, other features on the Wii U include Miiverse, Nintendo's social networking service allowing people to chat with others. Nintendo TVii is a free television-based service giving users access to Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and their cable network, and they can watch their favorite shows on the GamePad. While watching on the TV, you can use the controller to get information about the show and comment on it on Facebook and Twitter. The GamePad can even be used as a universal TV remote.
The Wii U will release in two packages: The basic model will cost $299.99 and the deluxe version costs $349.99. The basic model comes with 8 GB of storage, GamePad and stylus, an HDMI cable and sensor bar, while the deluxe version is bundled with Nintendo Land, a boost in storage to 32 GB, a Nintendo Network Premium Subscription, and stands for the controller and console.
Jeff Hoard writes about video games for The Oakland Press. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHoard921. His blog is www.yay4videogames.blogspot.com.