Eight is great as Mario Kart gears up to save Wii U
REVIEWED: Mario Kart 8; Child of Light; The Wolf Among Us - Episode 3, A Crooked Mile
WILL this be the game to save Wii U from ignominious failure? Nintendo blamed the console’s poor sales last week as it slumped to its third consecutive annual loss – even hinting it was thinking of bringing out new hardware within two years.
So is the Wii U doomed? Hardly, as long as Nintendo can produce software of the pedigree of Mario Kart 8. The trouble is that it’s a shining light among a very barren release schedule, whose only other stone-cold classic is the recent Super Mario 3D World.
Mario Kart 8 follows a familiar narrative, with Nintendo grabbing a much-loved franchise and shaking it up for a new generation. At its hearts, though, lies the same gameplay that’s served it well since the series’ inception in 1992. If you didn’t enjoy it previously, you won’t find anything fundamentally different here. Go play elsewhere.
Initially, it’s hard to suppressive an instinctive sigh. Yes, it’s all very familiar, even though wrapped in glossy high-def visuals. Many of the courses are merely remakes of series stalwarts, such as Rainbow Road.
But a few hours of chaotic kart racing later you’ll appreciate MK8 as the pinnacle of the franchise, a subtly tuned version of everything there is to love.
Several new courses introduce mindwarping shifts in gravity and laugh-out loud moments of multi-dimensional audacity while extra power-ups (including piranha plants munching on opponents and a shockwave to ward off the inevitable blue shells) inject fresh strategies.
Even Nintendo’s traditional online weakness gets a polish, with 12-player races and MKTV offering hilarious highlight reels in-game and on YouTube.
MK8 represents another triumph of Nintendo’s meticulous design, balancing fun with frustration, spectacle with speed and strategy with silliness.
Almost worth buying a Wii U for…
Download for PS4/XOne/PC/X360/PS3/Wii U
LET us count the things to love about Child of Light: a strong female lead, a breathtakingly gorgeous sweep of painted landscapes, a subtly evocative soundtrack, an innovative turn-based battle system.
Using the same graphics tech that powered the brilliant Rayman revival, Child of Light spins a tale reminiscent of Studio Ghibli by way of Final Fantasy. A princess awakes to fight an evil witch and restore light to her land. It’s standard stuff maybe but folded into beautiful vistas and an active-time combat system of surprising depth.
The princess explores the land with the help of a firefly accomplice, who can also be controlled by the player or, better still, a younger family member. This co-op play copperfastens the family-friendly ethic at the heart of Child of Light.
It’s never difficult - in fact it’s too easy most of the time – and the RPG levelling system feels a bit pointless. So older gamers may tire of breezing through the adventure.
But Child of Light appeals to the child in all of us and even the stoniest of hearts will be melted by its lead character and her picturesque world.
Download for PC/Mac/X360/PS3/iOS
THIS third slice of a very moreish concoction deepens the noir mystery of fairytale characters stranded in a downbeat 1980s New York. The previous instalment left town sheriff Bigby Wolf chasing down the prime suspect in a series of grim murders.
But inevitably things are never so simple as they seem and A Crooked Mile spends its surprisingly short running time upending our expectations. It culminates in a suspenseful and dramatic confrontation with the fantastically violent Bloody Mary that suggests a hidden puppetmaster was pulling everyone’s strings all along.
Via a script that crackles with wit and its distinctive neon-lit visuals, Wolf Among Us always weaves a compelling yarn. Less surefooted is its integration of gameplay elements, with the branching dialogue and quicktime button prompts scarcely altering the story arc in any meaningful way.
Still, the 90 minutes you spend with these memorable characters for a price of a pint will not be forgotten. Crooked Mile also sets up a tantalising conclusion in the remaining two episodes – let’s hope they can pull it off.