With colorful character designs, bombastic action set pieces, and an explosion of style, The Wonderful 101 looks to have all the makings of another Platinum beat ’em up classic. Unfortunately, Wonderful 101 ends up being a case of good intentions being muddled by clunky controls and poor camerawork.
It’s far from a completely broken experience, the idea of controlling 100 different gimmicky heroes at once, and using the touch screen to draw different shapes, transforming these heroes into an assortment of weapons – from a simple fist to more extravagant shapes like whips, guns, swords and bombs- is both fun and creative. But if it sounds like a bit much, it probably is.
Too often does drawing a shape on the Wii U Gamepad produce something other than the desired weapon. When Okami provided a similar setup with a drawing mechanic back on the PS2 and Wii, it felt a lot more responsive. The GamePad’s touchscreen seems more ideal for the concept, but somehow it rarely works as effectively here. And too often do your heroes seem to be lost in some nook or cranny of a stage, and losing troops is more troubling here than in Nintendo’s own Pikmin 3, since losing more heroes means your transformations are that much less powerful. While players may actually feel compelled to go out and search for a missing Pikmin, in Wonderful 101 losing troops feels more irritating than anything.
Then there’s Wonderful 101’s biggest flaw: the camera. Keeping track of 100 different characters is a difficult enough task as it is. But combine that with a camera that feels sporadic and rarely seems to capture the perfect angle of the action, and it becomes a problem.
Wonderful 101 has its qualities: It’s got a sharp sense of humor (complete with a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards video game stereotyping), the battles can be fun when you actually get a grip on the situation, and the set pieces you find yourself in are thrilling and bursting with personality.
The problem though, is that The Wonderful 101 may just be more fun to watch than it is to actually play. It shares many of the traits of previous gems created by Platinum’s development teams. You may find traces of Viewtiful Joe, Okami and Bayonetta here and there, but Wonderful 101 doesn’t share the fluidity of those games. It’s ambitious and thrilling, and boasts a lot of promise. But it’s a hampered experience in its execution. Some Platinum diehards may find a more enjoyable game here than the uninitiated, but the Wonderful 101 lacks the precision in design that Platinum usually makes look so easy. It’s hardly Viewtiful.