Wii U Reviews O-R

Pikmin 3
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2013)
Reviewed: 2013/10/15
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild cartoon violence)

screenshotAt first I wasn't too enthused about Pikmin 3. Sure, I enjoyed the original Pikmin (GameCube, 2001) but never even bothered with the sequel. That said, I fell for this third edition hook, line, and sinker. Pikmin 3 is a family-friendly combination of real-time strategy and arcade action. You play a diminutive astronaut exploring a gorgeous, lush planet inhabited by plant-like life forms called Pikmin. These adorable little creatures obey your every command, and it looks hilarious to watch a group of them follow you around.

You can grow Pikmin, toss them at creatures, and have them haul giant pieces of fruit back to your spaceship. Pikmin come in several varieties, including red ones that are impervious to fire, black rock ones that can shatter crystal walls, and yellow ones that conduct electricity. Multitasking is what makes the game fun; it's satisfying to put groups of Pikmin to work on parallel tasks like breaking down walls and building bridges. Upon locating your fellow crewmates you can toggle between them to further divide the labor.

The game is played one day at a time, and sunset is usually a source of tension as you frantically try to collect up all the scattered Pikmin. Once your ship takes off those left behind fall prey to scavengers, which may be the most heart-wrenching thing I've ever experienced playing a video game. A typical "day" only lasts about fifteen minutes, after which the game auto-saves.

Pikmin 3 is easy on the eyes, and even my wife commented on how beautiful it looks. There are two control schemes - one that uses the control pad and one that uses the Wii-mote/nunchuck combo. Neither is perfect. The thumbsticks on the control pad aren't very precise, but the second stick comes in handy for adjusting the camera. Using the Wii-mote makes it easier to aim, but the camera control is limited.

Despite some occasional awkward moments, Pikmin 3 is the most captivating game I've played in recent memory. There's some ramp-up required, but the payoff is huge. The sense of progression is terrific, and you'll always want to play "just one more day" to investigate some new hidden passage or mysterious new fruit. Charming and fun, it's not a question of if you'll like Pikmin 3, it's whether you'll love it or not! © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Rapala Pro Bass Fishing
Grade: D+
Publisher: Activision (2012)
Reviewed: 2014/7/23
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI liked to fish when I was younger and during hot summer months I still enjoy partaking in this relaxing activity from the comfort of a recliner in my air-conditioned game room. Sadly, good fishing games have become hard to come by and Rapala Pro Bass Fishing feels like a showcase of missed opportunities.

The stiff character models look like they belong on the Wii, but the lush foliage and shimmering water look attractive enough. Rapala forces you to use the control pad for everything, which is a mistake. Sure the pad functions great as a fish finder and tackle box, but it makes for the worst fishing rod ever. I feel pretty stupid "flicking" the pad forward, and adding insult to injury the game constantly complains I'm doing it "too fast".

You get a clear view of your bait underwater, and the muted sounds of bubbles and churning water are appealing. You can manually rotate your view, but it would have been nice if the camera automatically aimed at the closest fish. When you get a fish's attention, a song that sounds like Sweet Home Alabama starts to play, which is quite clever. It abruptly cuts off when the fish turns away, like the needle sliding off of a record. If you get a bite, you'll want to note the size and type of fish on the lower left of the screen. In most tournaments only one type of fish counts, so don't waste your time on anything else.

You "battle" fish by tilting the control pad left and right to keep the fish in the center of the screen. Needless to say, these maneuvers do a lousy job of mimicking the feel of a real fishing rod. Still, the pacing of the game is good with tournaments that clock in at 17 minutes. The scenic locations have a pleasant atmosphere with variable weather conditions. When I started my first tournament I was startled when I heard the narrator booming over the control pad and TV. The man's deep, resonating voice sounds exactly like the "Ghost Host" of Disney's Haunted Mansion! The disembodied voice tosses out interesting facts ("Lake Lanier is a man-made lake in the northern part of Georgia...") but repeats himself constantly.

The two-player mode doesn't give you much to see (a small window for each player), but as my friend Chris pointed out, you don't see much while real fishing either. Rapala Pro Bass Fishing tries to toe the line between arcade and simulation, but the controls feel contrived. This is one game that could have benefited from a custom fishing controller. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Rayman Legends
Grade: A-
Publisher: Ubisoft (2013)
Reviewed: 2013/11/24
Rating: Everyone 10+ (comic mischief, mild cartoon violence)

screenshotIt's a shame to see a game this sensational undermined by poor marketing. I'm probably not the only one to mistake Rayman Legends for a Wii U version of Rayman Origins (Xbox 360, 2012). Not only is this game completely different, but it represents some of the best 2D platform action you'll play in the modern era.

Rayman may lack a body, but his hands and feet pack a wallop. As he treks through enchanted forests, haunted castles, and voodoo swamps he'll kick enemies, smash obstacles, vault off walls, and collect glowing fairies. The controls are right on point and the layered, illustrated scenery is a feast for the eyes. You can select your stage and new areas are constantly being unlocked.

Each stage brings something new and imaginative to the table. In one you're gliding on winds between beanstalks, in another you're hopping between roasting food items, and in another you're trying to keep above the fray as structures collapse all around you. The stages tend to be dynamic, and sometimes you need to keep moving just to avoid being crushed. There's never a dull moment and there are plenty of surprises, including some astonishing musical stages.

The only parts of the game I didn't care for were the tedious "bonus" stages, which I actively tried to avoid. You set your own difficulty by how you play. If you prefer to breeze through each stage you can ignore extraneous passageways and hard-to-reach items. Of course, you can always go back and replay any stage.

What separates Legends from other Rayman games is its touch screen stages. Some may regard these as annoying, but I found them to be a refreshing change of pace. Instead of controlling a character directly, you clear the way by sliding platforms, cutting ropes, and smushing enemies with your finger. It sounds like a gimmick but it's actually a heck of a lot of fun. Shooting down dragons with catapults is especially satisfying (in an Angry Birds kind of way). I did get stuck at one point due to an apparent bug, but a handy "restart stage" option is available on the pause menu.

The soundtrack ranges from happy-go-lucky whistling to an expansive Pirates of the Caribbean-style orchestrated score. This is the kind of game you pick up for a quick romp and end up playing for hours on end. Rayman Legends packs so much platform goodness, my only question is: how can Ubisoft possibly top this? © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Resident Evil: Revelations
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (2013)
Reviewed: 2013/8/8
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, language)

screenshotResident Evil: Revelations provided superb survival horror fare for the Nintendo 3DS and it looks even better on the big screen. In many ways it's a throwback to the original Resident Evil trilogy that appeared on the Playstation in the late 90's. The story is cheesy, the dialogue is ridiculous, the puzzles are familiar, and the controls are stiff. The game also happens to be a heck of a lot of fun, with a slow, deliberate pace that allows suspense to properly build.

Despite having previously played the portable version, Revelations still scared the living [expletive] out of me. The story takes place at sea on a luxurious abandoned ocean liner with a lot of narrow hallways, lush cabins, and dark service areas. The story makes no sense but it doesn't even matter. Freaky white zombies come out of the woodwork and you'll reduce them to goo with knives, shotguns, and decoy bombs.

The main heroine Jill Valentine is a knockout in high definition (and low for that matter), but these graphics aren't exactly state of the art. The audio has problems with lip-syncing, and certain sound effects are just plain wrong. In one "flashback" mission you trudge through snowy mountains yet it sounds like you're stepping on clanking metal.

This Wii U version feels rushed. There's no manual and the control pad isn't integrated very well. It's nice to have a map at your fingertips, but when you hit "menu" you're directed to the television to do the rest. In addition, the overly sensitive analog stick controls have an annoying all-or-nothing quality. The act of aiming a gun or adjusting the camera feels clumsy, and you can't even tweak the sensitivity via the options menu.

Even so, this game is too good to be ruined by some wonky controls. It feels like classic Resident Evil except with all the modern bells and whistles like high definition graphics and the ability to save at any time. I have a soft spot for the 3DS edition, but once you begin playing Revelations on the Wii U, it's hard to stop! © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Rodea the Sky Soldier
Grade: F
Publisher: NIS America (2015)
Reviewed: 2019/7/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis game begs the question what the [expletive] is going on!? Rodea the Sky Soldier pairs incomprehensible gameplay with bewildering controls. It borrows several elements from other, much better games. Its arcade-style stages call to mind Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast, 1999), and the flying mechanics are reminiscent of Nights into Dreams (Saturn, 1997). There are even giant statues that could feel at home in Shadow of the Colossus (PS2, 2005).

Of course, when you emulate the best it tends to magnify your flaws. The graphics are bright but simplistic, resembling a Wii title. The landscape is strewn with floating islands, pods to collect, and crystals to destroy. I'm not sure what the point of all this is, and don't bother consulting the manual because there is none. You are a robot defending the land from invading flying fish. The anime-style characters are appealing but the control problems are glaring from the outset.

It's really hard to get a handle on the flying. The manner in which you lock onto targets feels like a slow-motion version of Sonic's homing attack. When you strike something in mid-air the camera goes nuts and it's completely disorienting. Running out of energy sends you in a freefall, hoping there's someplace to land below. The controls are punishing enough but having to restart an entire level after dying at the hands of a boss is soul-crushing. The Wii version of the game is included on a separate disc, indicating to me that Rodea has been in development for some time. I suspect the publisher knew they had a loser on their hands but pushed it out anyway to recoup some of the costs. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, YouTube, Moby Games