The Wonderful 101 Review - One Hundred Tiny Annoyances

Jonathan Bolding | 10 Sep 2013 13:14
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The game isn't afraid of changing up play on you, and will often pull you into Panzer Dragoon-style piloting sequences or bullet hell shooter bits. It's a good and fun decision - none of them feel weird or tacked on, and they break up the thread of action game monotony. The boss battles can be a lot of fun, though the bosses themselves can get repetitive - several fights are re-used in one form or another throughout the game. The problem with the bosses is that they are fantastically predictable. Most take the form of a stage where you fight either a single big enemy or an enemies as large as a building, so that different parts of it are separate creatures - for example, a giant octopus robot, whose eight arms each mount a different weapon and must be destroyed one at a time. Then, as you deplete the boss' (often far too long) health gauge, you're pulled into what is basically an extended cutscene interspersed with quicktime event-style button pressing. Admittedly, the quicktime events in The Wonderful 101 are a little inventive - they involve drawing shapes - but they're still a comparatively boring substitute for what could otherwise be a quick cutscene or fun gameplay. The real problem is that literally every boss fight in the game follows this formula: Fight the boss using your Unite Morphs and combos. Defeat the boss during a QTE. Every. Time.

The final basic problem with the game is the camera. It's not enough to ruin the experience entirely, but the way it zooms in when you're not in combat, showing only a tiny fraction of the area you're exploring, makes getting collectibles a challenge. Not in a good way, either, it's a false difficulty through frustration, not game mechanics or clever design. There are also the indoor segments, where you use the gamepad screen to move to a third person view from behind your heroes. Suffice to say that they're horrible, confusing, and rarely interesting. Not to mention it's deeply frustrating to draw shapes and summon when you're indoors and can neither trace on the pad, nor have a good angle to draw with the stick.

The Wonderful 101 is a good game, but it's definitely not for everyone. There's a lot of character here - from the ridiculous vinyl costumes to the overblown stereotypes of nationalities. None of that's even to mention the hilarious custom theme song ("The Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful ONE DOUBLE O!") that plays during epic action sequences. This game has a ton of potential, but it just fails to quite capture what it could have been. Parts of it are lackluster, like the camera or the boss fights, and others are unfriendly, like the tutorial sequence that just doesn't quite cut it.

Bottom Line: It's brilliantly wacky and unique, with awesome basic gameplay, but The Wonderful 101 doesn't quite live up to its potential.

Recommendation: A must buy for action games fans, Platinum Games loyalists, and lovers of the weird.

Game: The Wonderful 101
Genre: Action
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Wii U
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