Play Expo Manchester 2012 – Report
This weekend saw the Play Expo roll into the beautiful city of Manchester bringing with it a ton of retro consoles, pinball machines, merchandise a host of new games and of course the Wii U!
The Wii U games available to play were ZombiU, New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land, Rayman Legends, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Darksiders II and Batman Arkham City. The upcoming Nintendo eShop title Trine 2 was also meant to be there but appeared to have a technical issue stopping anyone from playing it. Below is a brief run-through of the titles I got to play.
ZombiU was quite possibly the most popular game at the Nintendo Wii U stand, even having its own queue. I duly stood in line and got to play through a bit of the Tower of London level. I found the game itself to be a great addition, not only to the Wii U, but to the first person shooter genre as a whole. The way it plays is really intuitive, I know you can play it with the Pro Controller but I think you’ll really get the most out of this game by using the GamePad as the way the controls have been implemented is incredibly clever and immersive. For example, all of your inventory is on the GamePad screen including your backpack which you need to get out to move around your weaponry, ammo and items, this frees up the main screen completely leaving you with just yourself and your dark and dingy environment.
The game’s aesthetics are incredibly atmospheric and it’s made all the more eerie with the brilliant use of lighting throughout whether it be from your torch or the fixed lighting in the level itself. The way you move also adds to the experience, you walk quite slowly for a first person shooter; this allows you to take in your environment and can also scare the living hell out of you when a random zombie appears from out of nowhere! Little things like that really boost the atmosphere of the game.
I have to say I wasn’t particularly brilliant at the game and it took me a while to get used to. I died quite early on but luckily I sweet talked the girl into letting me have another go! Second time round I got a little further but still didn’t get that far. You do get the feeling that this is a hardcore title and you’ll need genuine skill and practice in order to complete this game. You won’t be able to just run in and shoot everything in sight like some first person shooters; this one will require some thought and intuition if you want to make it out alive!
New Super Mario Bros. U
I’ve already had a decent playthrough of New Super Mario Bros. U and it was good to get my hands on it again for another bash. I managed to play a few games of co-op play where four people, each equipped with a Wii Remote, attempt to get to the end. It’s good fun but it does have that annoying pause when someone dies meaning that your timing can often be annoyingly thrown off. It’s very similar to what we’ve already seen with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, sure there are some new suits available, namely the flying squirrel suit, and there are those pink Yoshis that you can use to hot-air balloon yourself up to high platforms but when all is said and done this is a typical Mario game.
The problem I have with New Super Mario Bros. U is that I don’t see it as a Wii U game; I see it as a Wii game. Okay, you can use the GamePad to help your fellow players by bringing up useful platforms at the touch of a screen and of course the graphics are absolutely stunning in HD, but in the end there is very little to differentiate between this game and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It’s still great, everyone loves a Mario game, but it’s just not got that big wow factor I expect from a launch game.
Now, Nintendo Land is a game I’ve been on the fence about for a long time. I’ve played through five of the mini-games on offer, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Link’s Battle Quest. I have to say I enjoyed playing them all; they all have something quirky and enjoyable about them. I love the use of the GamePad in unison with the Wii Remotes in games like Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and I equally love how it’s used in the single player games like Donkey Kong Crash Course.
My only issue with Nintendo Land is the fact you won’t be getting the most out of it unless you have a few friends available to play it with. There probably isn’t enough here for the single player so if you were hoping for a good solid single player experience you may want to look elsewhere.
Ah, Rayman Legends, the one that got away. Of course this game has been delayed to a Q1 2013 release but it was still showcased here at the expo. I’ve played it before and I really love it, it’s such a brilliant and vibrant platformer. Whereas New Super Mario Bros. U feels like a Wii game, Rayman Legends really does feel like a Wii U game. The co-operative play, with one player using the GamePad to help out the other, is a fantastic use of the Wii U hardware. It’s such a shame this won’t be available on launch, it would have been a must buy for me.
Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition
I had a bit of a look at Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition and I have to say although it does look great and the new controls are quite clever, it’s going to take a lot more than that to get me excited about a game that’s been available on other consoles for over a year. Not so long ago we learned that Ubisoft anticipated the Wii U’s launch much earlier, something that cost Rayman Origins a place on the new console. It wouldn’t surprise me if Warner Bros thought the same when making Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition. It’s a great title but may well be coming a little too late to be a hit on the Wii U.
Of course the 3DS XL was there showing off a couple of upcoming games: Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. You can check out my hands on with Paper Mario here to find out why I’m calling it my most anticipated game of 2012. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask was a very small demo with just one puzzle. It was intuitive enough but it was incredibly difficult to express any opinion on the game with so little to actually play through.
We came, we saw, we StreetPassed!
Other than the Wii U, the best place to be at the Play Expo would have to be the massive retro area filled with pretty much every console my brain can remember! We had a fair few games of Super Mario Kart on the SNES; had a blast on Duck Hunt on the NES; and I even got to play an old favourite of mine Disney’s Aladdin! What a classic game!
The event had an area known as pro.play where those dedicated hardcore gamers could get involved in tournaments. It really wasn’t pretty at all. Some people get a little too into Call of Duty games don’t they? There were also a few cosplayers here and there, though not as many as we’ve seen at other events. The ones that did put in the effort deserve some praise though as they were genuinely great!
It should also be said that the event was a massive success for StreetPasses. My green light was constantly blinking at me as more and more 3DS gamers were added to my Mii Plaza! I’ve now managed to get all the pink puzzle pieces which I have to say is a pretty good feeling, especially seeing as I have completed the least amount of puzzle panels here at Nintendo Scene… I will catch up!
The Play Expo itself was a huge success and the organisers should be congratulated and thanked for making it all happen! We’re looking forward to the next one already!