Reviews
The Wonderful 101

By Jorge Figueiredo - October 22nd, 2013

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With great power comes great responsibility; and with great numbers comes the ability to form a giant butt-kicking fist! Platinum’s The Wonderful 101 is game for Nintendo’s Wii U in which citizen empowerment is taken to a whole new level. This charming game serves up a big chunk of brawling with a side of puzzling, all delivered with some interesting game mechanics. The frenetic hyper-action of this title may not be for everyone – but for those of you who appreciate strength in numbers, The Wonderful 101 will put a big smile on your face with its interesting hook, cartoonish presentation, and epic boss battles.

The game begins with an ordinary train ride through the city. Without warning, objects start falling from the sky, pelting the planet and putting the people on the train in danger. It becomes clear that aliens are behind this attack, and there is not much anyone can do. Luckily, a teacher named William Wedgewood is on the train. Besides being a teacher, he’s also part of a superhero group known as the Wonderful 1001. His superhero name? The Crimson Fist. With a dramatic transformation (that takes its time on screen but in “reality” happens in the flash of an instant), William turns into the Crimson Fist, and is ready to take you along with him on an adventure.

As you play through the fast-and-furious tutorial level, you learn that Wonder Red has the ability to duly deputize members of the public as superheroes for Earth’s defense using a simple gesture on the GamePad. Not only do they gain individual superpowers, but they also can also gather together using their “Unite Morph” ability to form powerful constructs together, based on the template of the particular Wonder in charge. Wonder Red’s main weapon, for instance, is the Unite Fist – a giant red fist. This massive hand can be used to pummel enemies; it can also be used to move large objects and interface with other elements that require digital manipulation on a large scale. Wonder Blue’s construct of choice is a giant sword, which grants greater power and reach to the group’s attacks, doing great damage to enemy units. At first, the Wonders are limited to a few of these constructs; but more become available as the game progresses. Also, the more Wonders that can be part of the Unite Morph, the more powerful it is.

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Think of the Wonder Twins, times fifty.

Creating these living objects is done using the GamePad. Wonder Fist, for instance, is created by drawing a circle, which immediately causes your merry band to comply. At the beginning of the game, you are fairly limited in what you can do, which is a good thing – drawing some of these symbols takes some practice. The game does little to really help you, too; the occasional tutorial message will flash by while you’re in the middle of crazy conflict – not the best delivery system for important game-play tips. Still, the enemies for the first while are relatively easy to deal with, giving you some time to find your hero legs.

As the game progresses, the levels get increasingly harder. More powerful front-line enemies and fantastically long boss battles await! However, you need not fear because you will have more tools in your Unite Morph toolbox as well as in general, as your moveset can be expanded by strategic purchases from the in-game shop. You’ll also be much more comfortable with the crazy battles and the ability to deal with a variety of combat situations in creative ways (such as spawning more than one Unite Morph construct at a time).

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You might want to bring some water to drink after ingesting all of that cheese.

One of the issues that I had was distinguishing friend from foe. With everything so colourful and the action so intense, it’s easy for targets (and heroes) to get lost in the shuffle. Another problem that requires mentioning is the sensitivity of the GamePad. A fair number of times, the GamePad would misinterpret which construct I was drawing. The simple symbols were never an issue – it was the more involved ones requiring more complex shapes to be drawn that seemed to fail occassionaly. I found that using the stylus helped a little; but overall, you’re going to have a hard time getting the highest rating in a level with the GamePad randomly getting in your way. Practice certainly does help, but so does having some tolerance when you try to do one thing and then end up with something different. And yet, for all of the annoyances of the GamePad in certain situations, there are others that make fantastic use of it. Trust me – this is definitely one of those games that highlights the potential of the Wii U; it just takes a little bit of slogging through the initial stuff to realize it.

Visually, the game is crazy-busy but beautiful in its own way. Like a silver-age comic book come to life and infused with Japanese animated craziness, The Wonderful 101 is quite engaging to the eyeballs thanks to the detailed environments and the brilliant animation. While I didn’t play the game in 3D, there are times that I could swear that the game was in 3D anyway. Similarly, the sound effects and score are equally active, creating a feast for your ears that goes along with the graphics. It is definitely one of the more aesthetically captivating titles for the Wii U thus far. The best part, though, has to be the super-corny dialogue. I don’t know how many takes that it took the voice actors to deliver some of these lines, because of all of the cracking up that must have occurred – but they most likely deserve medals for their efforts. While I make it sound like a bad thing, I have to say that my intention is quite the opposite: if you have a sense of humour and can suspend your disbelief, you will enjoy a fair portion of this.

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Some of the alternate uses of the GamePad are pretty creative.

I don’t pretend to understand exactly why I enjoy this game so much. In many respects, from the lack of instruction and odd-to-navigate menus to the sensitive GamePad control, it would seem like there are a lot of reasons to be frustrated with this game. That being said, the fact that this is a game about 100 citizens who fight giant armored alien monsters by forming giant shapes might have something to do with my level of enjoyment. The zany adventure that is this game can be a hell of a lot of fun once you give it (and yourself) a little bit of slack; and if you have the patience, there are a lot of secrets buried within that are just waiting to be unearthed. My only regret is that I haven’t tried the multi-player mode yet (but I don’t have a Pro Controller for the Wii U at this time), but it looks confusing and hilarious.

1 – You are the extra 1 in 101, for the record.

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