The Wii U has gotten much hate for various reasons, whether justified or not. Whether not matching the technical specs the other two consoles bolster, or [now] the lack of third party titles that have swarmed over the PS4 and Xbox One, many gamers disregard the Wii U as “last gen.” Though the former qualms are factual, I completely disagree with the last statement. The Wii U is current gen, and what makes it current and new revolves around the GamePad.
When I was lured into playing the Wii U, I was totally taken aback by how much I enjoyed the GamePad. In fact, one of my absolute favorite features the GamePad offers is the off-TV play; I use it all the time. But, too often the software developed for the Wii U doesn’t utilize the GamePad – which is why it is current gen. Many times even Nintendo doesn’t utilize it well; take note of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and even the sales monster Mario Kart 8. The GamePad is too often barely used, if at all. In fact, the most innovative usages of the GamePad have usually come about with second and third party titles, such as The Wonderful 101, Rayman Legends, and Deus Ex. Human Revolution DC. [*Editors Note* Trine 2 did a wonderful job with the Gamepad as well.]
Personally, I feel that if Nintendo had gone above and beyond to help teach developers how to use the GamePad and implement it in their titles, rather than begrudgingly add it on, the Wii U might be looking much less bleak, as far as sales go. Another option would be to promote exclusive games which use the GamePad well, showing the market that the GamePad is “cool” and offers something the other two consoles cannot. Who knew that the title that needed to be promoted for this way of playing would come from an indie developer.
KnapNok Games have created something truly spectacular and unique in their latest Wii U exclusive, Affordable Space Adventures. Though you can read my review of the title on my site, I’m not here to give a traditional review. I want to focus purely on why this game is worth your time, how it implements the GamePad, and why Nintendo needs to promote the heck out of this game.
Why is it worth your time?
Simply put, the game is fun. Though you can easily play it in short spurts, I found myself not wanting to put it down. There are fantastic puzzles to solve, the game looks outstanding, the storyline is very enjoyable, and playing with friends is very well done. In fact, the (local) multiplayer truly caters to all types of gamers: whether just stepping into console gaming or a veteran who has been playing for years, having to work as a team is extremely satisfying and rewarding. When playing with 3 players, one person is the “pilot,” navigating the actual Small Craft, another is aiming the light/scanner/projectile launcher as the “gunner,” and the third person uses the GamePad (with all it’s touchscreen glory) as the “engineer.”
It’s a very cool concept that is actually executed very well. This is what needs to be selling the Wii U: multiplayer that is both innovative enough to capture the attention of a wide variety of gamers and familiar enough to learn the controls quickly. What’s more, spreading out the controls makes sense in terms of gameplay. It adds two different elements – the concept of working as a team to reach the goal, and difficulty not experienced when playing solo. It gives the player(s) more reason to revisit the game after the first play-through.
One thing that might keep someone from buying this game is the price, since a $20 price tag is fairly pricey. With this, it all depends on preference. Honestly, there isn’t much to entice multiple play-throughs outside of experiencing multiplayer and moving the difficulty up to “Technician” (if you initially play on the easier “Tourist” setting). But, the overall experience was a big draw for me, personally, to play through the game again. My first play-through lasted around 8 hours, so there was a sufficient amount of single player content as well, but the sci-fi nature of ASA and nice level designs were what enticed me to play through again.
How does ASA implement the GamePad?
Before reading, know that there will be some minor spoilers along the way; though nothing too bad. Essentially, I want to run through the various functions the Small Craft offers and how the GamePad is the control hub.
When the player first begins ASA, the only functionality available is to simply move your craft around. Eventually, as the player progresses through the game, more functions are restored with the U-Explore OS. The functions that are made available are as follows (MINOR SPOILERS): gas engine power, thrust, mass generator, scanner, non-lethal projectile launcher, sound gauge, electricity gauge, heat gauge, internal and external temperature gauge, heat shutters, booster, electric engine power, decelerator, stabilizer, anti-gravity, landing gear, and when the GamePad is tilted, it adjusts the pitch of the craft. (SPOILERS OVER).
Each one of the above mentioned functions is not simply added to make it seem like there is more to do, but rather, each plays a role in various puzzles once they’re injected into the game. Need to slip by some drones that react to loud noises and heat? Switch over to the electric engine and turn your decelerator down to glide past unnoticed. Have to navigate an area that jams your systems? Use the booster to get through! How do you get past that extremely hot section of the map? Close your shutters to keep it out for a short time, and hurry past. Each function is unique and adds to the puzzle/platforming elements in the gameplay.
As soon as ASA is booted up, there is a message indicating to turn the GamePad up; in other words, be prepared to use it. In fact, there is no option for off-TV play that I found, and I greatly enjoy that aspect. The developers want the player to fully experience their game with the GamePad, and they use it so well, I cannot condemn their decision. During my solo play-through, I would be using the GamePad to switch between functions constantly, and I never thought it was cheap. Everything felt…well, it felt cool, and really showed that if this game were to have been made on another system, it would not have been nearly as memorably or unique.
(SPOILERS) Even later on in the game, a particular incident causes your craft to get extremely damaged, and your GamePad screen looks to be cracked. (SPOILERS OVER). There were also various times where the GamePad display (ie – the Small Craft control center) would glitch out due to jamming, or certain functions would go offline and need to be restored (all of which were story elements). If you haven’t read one thing that I’ve written about the GamePad usage, remember this one word: cool. Knap Nok Games have made the GamePad cool, pure and simple.
Why should Nintendo promote this game?
To put it simply, ASA proves that the GamePad can, in fact, change the gaming experience and make it something truly unique. The Wii U cannot outperform the PS4 and Xbox One, as far as technical specs are concerned. The Wii U does not have the third party library that the other two consoles currently have. But, the Wii U does have an innovative way to play games that needs to be used correctly. This is how you draw potential customers in: “you cannot play (X) game on the other systems like you can on Wii U.” Nintendo needs to get on this and promote this game to the general public, fully getting behind this small developer studio. I would love to see what Knap Nok Games could produce on a larger budget, and even more backing from Nintendo. Heck, they’ve done a better job than most third party developers, and Nintendo’s own usage of the GamePad, in many aspects.
ASA is a must-have for any Wii U owner. This is a game to show off to your friends; it’s visually well done, has solid audio, is quite the entertaining little sci-fi title, and uses the GamePad insanely well. To Knap Nok Games, I applaud you. Thank you for making a game that shows you not only care about your craft, but that you also care to use the hardware in which it is on to it’s full potential.