Wii U reviews: Nintendo's GamePad gets thumbs-up

Nov 30, 2012

Once again, Nintendo has produced a game-changing console, but can the Wii U compete with PS4?

NINTENDO'S next-generation console, the Wii U, went on sale today – and the reviews suggest early adopters are in for a treat. A couple of journalists even mention the phrase "game-changing".

Wii U replaces the Wii, the machine that perfected and popularised motion-sensitive gaming to the extent that young children could for the first time enjoy playing computer tennis with their grandparents.

For £259.99, you can get the Basic package, which consists of a Wii U with 8GB of internal memory – or, for £309.99, you can get a Premium console, which comes with 32GB memory and a few other accessories. So, is it worth it?

The Daily Mirror's Dan Silver points out that as far as processing power is concerned, the Wii U is "barely a step up" from Microsoft's seven-year-old game console, the Xbox 360.

"But to focus on specs is to miss the point," he says. "As with the Wii before it, Nintendo have prioritised innovation and gameplay over graphical grunt."

The innovation he refers to is the GamePad. Although all the old game controllers that came with your Wii can still be used on the Wii U, the new console comes with an iPad-style device described by The Daily Telegraph's Tom Hoggins as comfortable to hold, but "deliberately toy-like and plasticky".

The GamePad has a 6.2-inch LCD touch screen and incorporates a joystick on either end, which can be manipulated with your thumbs. The obvious benefit is that gamers now have two screens: the TV traditionally used in computer games, and the little handheld screen on the GamePad.

A number of reviewers are concerned that although the GamePad makes for compelling gameplay, that fact is impossible to express to anyone who hasn't played a Wii U.

The Guardian's Keith Stuart says one of the charms of the GamePad is "asymmetric multiplayer" games. He attempts to explain the concept: "Five people in one room playing the same thing, except the one with the GamePad gets a different experience, perhaps providing challenges for the others. Confused? I'm not surprised - and there lies the conundrum for Nintendo".

One game that sounds particularly addictive is an ‘attraction' in Nintendo Land in which players using standard controllers hunt for a ghost controlled by the player using the GamePad. The ‘ghost' sees the action on his GamePad screen; the ‘hunters' all use the big screen.

"It's a little bit convoluted in explanation, but in practice it's enormous fun," says Hoggins. "This is why Nintendo need to get the Wii U into people's hands, or hope for strong word of mouth, as the concept is tricky to communicate, but in practice is easy to grasp."

The Independent's Michael Plant believes the GamePad is a "game changing" device, but he fears for the Wii U's future as Sony and Microsoft plot their own next-generation consoles.

"Whether the device will be left behind once the PS4 and Xbox 360's successor come to market can only be speculated at, but, so far, none of the Wii U's games look any more advanced than what we're used to seeing on PS3 and Xbox 360," he says.

"That's not to say the Wii U isn't capable of more - indeed never has a console's full potential been tapped in its first wave of titles - but so far we've not been witness to anything mind-blowing."

Sign up for our daily newsletter