Tagged: Wii U

Super Mario 3D World Review

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The Wii U hasn’t been able to gain much traction at all in the year it has been on the market, with sales so poor that Nintendo was forced to cut the system’s price prematurely in an effort to encourage new adopters before the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hit the stores this November. Even New Super Mario Bros. U wasn’t enough to help long-term growth, and with Rayman Legends — initially announced as an exclusive for the platform — making its way to not only other current generation systems, but next-gen as well, questioning the early purchase of a Wii U shouldn’t seem unreasonable. Pikmin 3 was slightly underwhelming to me, delivering a solid experience that left me wanting more from a title that had been delayed months from its initial release date, but I knew I was really just biding my time until the next 3D Mario game was released. Luckily, Super Mario 3D World does not disappoint.

For the first time in several years, Mario is finally saving someone other than Peach this time around. Small creatures called Sprixies have been captured by Bowser (of course) and are trapped inside glass jars at the end of the game’s initial seven worlds. Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad are all available to tackle the game’s massive collection of stages, and their attributes are almost identical to those in Super Mario Bros. 2. Mario is the most balanced character, Luigi can jump the highest, Peach can jump the farthest and Toad can run the fastest, but the choice is largely just player preference; I personally found myself alternating between Mario and Luigi the majority of the time, but those are also the characters I’d usually use when playing Super Mario Bros. 2. In addition, an extra character can be unlocked after completing a few of the game’s bonus levels, which are made available after completing World 8. This character — who shall remain nameless to avoid spoiling the surprise — uses a special spinning attack that makes defeating groups of enemies easier and allows players to reach platforms following a botched jump.

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Make no mistake: while Super Mario 3D World is an enormous game, it doesn’t revolutionize the series like Galaxy did on the original Wii. Instead, it acts as a successor to the excellent 3DS title Super Mario 3D Land, with a flagpole at the end of most stages and similar mini-bosses on the last stage of each world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. While the basic layout of 3D Land remains largely intact, the levels are mixed up enough to keep it from ever feeling monotonous. “Captain Toad” levels force players to collect several stars without ever jumping, while special challenge stages force players to collect five stars within ten seconds of each other. These stages are some of the best in any 3D Mario, as I found myself on the edge of my seat, determined to not miss a single star. One has players rolling down a ramp to throw a giant baseball at a star before they fall over the edge, while another utilized jump pad and a “POW” block, with almost no room for error making it a white-knuckled affair.

Level design is also a sharp and creative as it has ever been, with awesome throwbacks to games like Super Mario Kart and Super Mario World mixed with towering areas that make fantastic use of the game’s signature power-up, the cat suit. This allows Mario to slash at enemies, pounce from the air, and, most importantly, scurry up vertical walls. Many of the game’s stars are only accessible with the cat suit, making it a must-have for quite a few levels. Other power-ups include the new “double cherry” which allows Mario to duplicate himself multiple times, as well as a few returning ones like the tanooki suit and the boomerang suit. I absolutely loathed the double cherry, as I found it far too difficult to control more than one Mario at a time, especially since it’s very easy for them to get separated from each other.

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Perhaps the highest praise I can give to Super Mario 3D World is that it takes the two worst parts of any Mario game — water levels and Ghost Houses — and actually makes them fun. No longer are players forced to swim through an entire level, crossing their fingers that an enemy comes for them just as they had started swimming in the wrong direction, and one level that used moving blocks of water was one of the best in the entire game. Boo and his buddies still pull some of their old tricks, such as disappearing doors and fake blocks, but these are much less prevalent than in the past, and a later level involving a headlamp power-up gives Mario a little bit of revenge for how annoying the Ghost Houses have been over the years.

Unfortunately, Nintendo has still shown very little reason for why the Wii U Gamepad is a necessity for fans of its classic first-party titles. A few levels make use of the touchscreen and the microphone, but these feel like tacked-on gimmicks. Blowing on the controller to make a windmill device spin doesn’t exactly validate my purchase. Moreover, 3D World is a successor to 3D Land, a game that took its title from the fact that it was on a system that actually had 3D technology. This means that gauging jumps can be quite frustrating, and if it weren’t for the addition of four-player cooperative play on a big screen, there would be no reason for the game to not be on the 3DS instead.

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Super Mario 3D World is the best exclusive on the Wii U, without question. It’s an excellent example of how Nintendo can bring unique design to the Mario formula, and although we’ve seen bits and pieces of this greatness in the past, never before have they come together quite like this. Also, you get to see Bowser dressed up as a kitty. That should be reason enough to buy it.

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Keep Your “Next-Gen.” Mine’s Already Here.

Over the weekend, I went to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York, picked up the largest capacity iPad Air money could buy, then boarded the F train toward my apartment in Brooklyn and spent the next 40 minutes acting like I wasn’t hoarding $900 worth of hot new Apple tech in my backpack. When I got home, the first thing I did was marvel at how light the Air was compared to my two year old iPad 3. The next thing I did was install XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which I then proceeded to play for an embarrassingly indeterminable amount of time before realizing I should probably get back to my clients.

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When I reviewed XCOM for iPad in July, I gushed about how remarkably complete it was for being a so-called “mobile port” of a AAA console game. And while I briefly touched on my disappointment over how unstable it was on an iPad 3, what I didn’t mention is that I would gladly have bought a new iPad if it meant getting a better portable XCOM experience. Four months later, XCOM is more at home on Apple’s tablet than ever, where, thanks to the Air’s A7 processor, it now screams along at 60 FPS with near-zero load times at 2048×1536. I don’t know how I’m ever going to get anything done again.

What I do know is, I’m giving my PS4 pre-order to my brother-in-law.

There’s been a lot of furor surrounding the launch of the so-called “next generation” of console gaming, but when you strip out all the noise, what it boils down to is that the next iteration of the PlayStation and Xbox brands are dropping into our laps in just a couple of weeks, and a lot of people are very excited. But to be honest, I’m really struggling to understand what’s got you all so batty.  I know a lot of you want to crucify me for this… I’ve already gotten a ton of flack on Twitter for announcing that I’d decided on a new iPad instead of a PS4, as if that decision meant I wasn’t qualified to write about or play games anymore. But hear me out, and share your thoughts on the topics below… maybe we can come to some kind of mutual understanding.

There’s Nothing to Play!

I bought my PS3 in 2008 under the assumption I’d be playing The Last Guardian in the not too distant future, and we all know how that turned out. Okay, so maybe it turned out alright: the PS3 has one of the best stables of exclusive titles of any console released in the past 10 years. But it took 3-4 years from launch for the system to get to that point. As for the PS4 and the Xbox One, there are very few titles coming this year that can’t be done in exemplary fashion on the consoles you’ve already got sitting under your TVs, and I’ve seen nothing coming within the next 12 months that has me convinced I need to upgrade. Honestly, you’re better off taking the $450-$600 you have earmarked for a new console and splurging instead on pretty much every new game coming out this holiday season.

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Breaking News: Super Mario 3D World will *not* be coming to Xbox One!

Think about it for a minute: for the cost of an Xbox One, you can buy Assassin’s Creed IV, Batman: Arkham Origins, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Gran Turismo 6, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Pokémon X or Y, Super Mario 3D World, The Wolf Among Us, and XCOM: Enemy Within. And what’s better: spending $500 to play one or two games, or spending $500 to play 7-8 games?

Next-Gen What?

For decades, platform holders pushed the notion that “next-gen” equaled faster processors and snazzier graphics. And that made sense before the likes of Cave Story, Mega Man 9, Fez and Retro City Rampage started releasing alongside titles like Halo 4 and Mass Effect 3. With developers releasing such a broad variety of software on today’s gaming devices, it’s pretty clear gamers no longer see things in terms of the old paradigms. And if we no longer chart the growth of gaming in terms of “giggleflops” and “mecha-hurts,” what exactly is it that’s so “next-gen” about the PS4 and Xbox One?

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Does this screen from Assassin’s Creed IV look “next-gen” to you?

Perhaps it’s the slick new social features promised by the PS4? The off-screen Vita play? Maybe it’s the snappy multitasking capabilities of the Xbox One? Now, don’t read my probing as sarcasm; these are all features I’m genuinely excited to see implemented in the next versions of the PlayStation and Xbox ecosystems. But if, like me, you define “next-gen” by these new features that are going to fundamentally change the way we play, I’ve got news for you: there’s nothing next-gen about the PS4 and Xbox One. That’s because consoles and other devices have already been doing these things for years.

Nintendo did next-gen in 2012 with the Wii U’s pioneering off-TV play. Apple did next-gen in 2008 when it launched an App Store that pushed games into the hands of hundreds of thousands of people who would never have been caught dead in public with a DS or a PSP. And I won’t even bother talking about how reactive Microsoft has been in its design of the Xbox One, because Xbox Live aside, that’s been the company’s MO since it was founded. Been there, done that. Moving on.

So tell me, again: what’s so “next-gen” about the PS4 and Xbox One?

Play What You Love

Listen. I know it sounds like I’m down on the PS4 and Xbox One. But honestly, I just hate to see so many people getting excited about spending what little money they have on something that’s going to be a letdown, at least in the short term. Will I be getting a PS4? Absolutely, when there’s a game that I want to play and I can’t do it anywhere else. Will I miss out on the adrenaline rush of a new console launch? Not really: I bought a Wii U last year. But just because I’ve become cynical about the next-gen console rat race, it doesn’t mean you have to be. After all, we buy new consoles because we love games, and I’m sure you’re all eventually going to find something to love about your PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones. In the meantime, there’s just too much to love about the systems I already own for me to care about what might be coming for the ones I don’t.

 

I’ve Never Played Zelda. Where to Begin?

With the release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the Nintendo 3DS approaching, we at Invisible Gamer have taken some time to focus on the world of Link, Zelda, Ganon, and the various odds and ends of one of gaming’s most treasured franchises. But, to be honest, I’ve felt a little left out in the midst of all the Zelda talk.

That’s because I’ve never played a single Legend of Zelda game.

Before the angry letters and pitchforks come out and my “gamer” card is taken away, let me present the facts of the matter. Console gaming, for me, began with the original PlayStation. Before that, I’d have to play at friends’ houses for the likes of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, SEGA Genesis, and beyond. The few games I did play early in my life were on the PC–usually educational adventure games or simple platformers, including Oregon Trail II and Cliff Bleszinski’s earliest effort, Jill of the Jungle. When my family finally caved and bought a dedicated game system, it wasn’t a console, but rather the SEGA GameGear.

In the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I’ll say about that.

By the mid-1990s I hadn’t been exposed, on a regular basis, to what are now considered the classics of 8- and 16-bit gaming. Besides Zelda, I’d never touched the likes of Castlevania, MetroidFinal Fantasy, Metal Gear, or any number of titles that are treasured in the Golden Age of Gaming. When the original PlayStation was hooked up to our television, you would find a copy of Crash Bandicoot and Crash: Warped, Cool Boarders 2, a demo disc that included Spyro, Tomb Raider, and Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi, and possibly early Madden and FIFA titles–but not the likes of Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Cross, or Resident Evil.

When it came time to pick up the next piece of gaming hardware, I didn’t go with a PlayStation 2, or a Dreamcast, or even that crazy new black box from Microsoft. I went with the Nintendo GameCube. Perhaps now I might finally play one of those classic franchises that I had missed in my youth. Maybe I had seen the error of my ways and was looking to makeup for years of lost gaming milestones.

No, I really wanted a GameCube because that’s where Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader was going to be. By the late 90s and early 2000s, it was Star Wars that drove my pursuit of entertainment, which brought me to the first Nintendo system my house had seen since my sister’s GameBoy Color (which, yes, I could have used to play any number of awesome Zelda portable games… but didn’t). I even went back and briefly bought a Nintendo 64 so I could relive the glory days of Shadows of the Empire and the original Rogue Squadron, plus a little GoldenEye. But no Ocarina of Time. No Majora’s Mask. No Wind Waker or Twilight Princess.

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So many choices. But where to begin?

The fact that I haven’t played some of the most iconic franchises in gaming history is one I’m interested in, but hesitant to correct. But where do I start? And how do I do it? Do I go back and re-purchase the systems of my youth, to play these games on the consoles where they found their audience, in their original glory? Do I invest in new hardware with the hope that, as with the Wii U and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, old games will be made new again for a generation that hasn’t grown up playing them?

The concern that rests here is twofold: personal finances, and time management. The game industry rests for no man or woman, and the new is so very, very close at hand. But there’s something to be said for taking a moment, or even a few, to look back and reflect on what has made gaming great. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Zelda is one of the reasons why video games have endured and will continue to do so, even if my body just hasn’t been ready for it yet. Soon, though. Especially if my editors have anything to say about it.

A Link to the Future: A History of Innovation in Portable Zeldas

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Fans were all in a tizzy over the recent revelation that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds would allow players to tackle dungeons in any order  –  an approach that hasn’t been featured since the original Legend of Zelda. But are Aonuma and co. merely testing the waters with the latest entry in its beloved series, or does this signal a sea change for a series that many players feel has become stale over the past two decades?  Nobody knows for sure but Nintendo, but if previous portable Zeldas are any indication, it’s very likely the latter. Let’s examine the many ways portable Zeldas of generations past have influenced their bigger cousins on the N64, Gamecube, and Wii… and take a quick look at some series experiments that might best be left in the dustbins of history.

The_Legend_of_Zelda_-_Link's_Awakening_LogoThe Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Platform: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, 3DS Virtual Console
Year of first release: 1993

Of all the portable Zeldas, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening might still be the most influential, despite its having been released over 20 years ago. For starters, it was the first Zelda game to take Link beyond the reaches of Hyrule. This gave the development team room to experiment, whether by including characters from other popular games of the time like Super Mario World and Sim City, or by featuring a story that had absolutely nothing to do with Princess Zelda, Ganon, or the Triforce — both concepts that would ultimately lead the series to one of its most memorably unique entries, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. And let’s not forget, Link’s Awakening was also the first Zelda game to feature series staples like learnable songs, an extended item-trading sequence, and the fan-favorite fishing minigame.

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For the frog, the bell doth toll.

 

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The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons & The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Platform: Game Boy Color, 3DS Virtual Console
Year of first release: 2001

On a surface level, the two Zelda: Oracle games appear to have done little to influence subsequent games in the franchise, which is a shame considering the unique ways the two games work together. But consider this: the Oracle games were the first mainline Zelda entries built outside of Nintendo headquarters, with development handled by now-defunct Capcom subsidiary Flagship. Sure, previous third-party Zelda games left a lot to be desired, but the Oracle games remain just as captivating as anything Nintendo has developed internally, and the Flagship partnership paved the way for future outside developers to leave their mark on beloved Nintendo franchises like Metroid and Super Smash Bros. In fact, Nintendo thought so highly of Flagship that it hired much of the shuttered studio’s staff after its untimely demise, and Oracle director Hidemaro Fujibayashi has led the development of nearly every game in the series since, including the superb Game Boy Advance entry The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and the series’ Wii swan song, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

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Oracle of Seasons: the first Zelda game to feature hicks getting drunk off apple cider.

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The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of first release: 2007

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was dismissed by fans upon its original release for ditching the series’ traditional button-based control setup for a stylus-based input system that could only ever work on the Nintendo DS, and most continue to ignore the game to this day.  But its most-maligned feature was also its most influential. The concept of a direct interface between player and character led to the immensely rewarding 1:1 swordplay and unique puzzles that made Skyward Sword such a refreshing change of pace.

Phantom Hourglass is also the first game in the series to feature real-time item selection via the touch screen, which, as fans of Ocarina of Time 3D and Wind Waker HD will tell you, has improved the flow of both games significantly. Who’d have thought a silly little touch screen would’ve done so much for gaming? Oh, wait.

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You’ve got the touch!

If it ain’t broke…

Of course, not every experiment Nintendo has undertaken with the Zelda series has been for the best. Phantom Hourglass‘s bland central dungeon, to which players are forced to return repeatedly throughout the course of their adventure, was dismissed as a way for developers to extend the game’s playtime without actually creating fresh content, and the concept inexplicably returned in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (and, to an extent, Skyward Sword.) And who could forget those awful microphone-based puzzles in the DS Zelda games? I get mad just thinking about those.

There’s also the matter of multiplayer. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords and its sequel Four Swords Adventures introduced an amusing mix of cooperative and competitive play to the series, but subsequent multiplayer Zeldas never really took hold in players’ imaginations, and the feature hasn’t returned in years. Rumors have suggested there’s some kind of multiplayer component to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and while Nintendo hasn’t said anything publicly about it, it’s a mystery that’ll be solved soon enough: the game releases on November 22nd.

What are some of your favorite mechanics in the Zelda series, and how would you like to see the franchise evolve for future iterations? Sound off in the comments below, and please… leave Tingle alone!

Please Understand: Game Companies Don’t Care About You Over Profit

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On June 19th, much of the gaming community let out a collective cheer after Microsoft completely reversed on all of its DRM policies for the upcoming Xbox One. After industry PR-speak and an abysmal attempt at disseminating positive information about the new console failed to show any reason for the average gamer to choose it, angry consumers took to forums and meme generators to voice their resistance to the decisions being made by Microsoft. Image macros making jokes like “I’ve got 99 problems, and my name is One” quickly became popular in the days following the system’s initial reveal, but soon, this attitude morphed into something else.

Instead of explaining the pros and cons of each system (pre-reversal), many gaming forums and news sites simply turned into platforms to spew hate not only towards the manufacturer of the system, but also towards anyone interested in purchasing one. A quick look at news aggregate site N4G saw a console wars post quickly devolve into a platform to spew ridiculous comments about how the next generation of consoles will play out.

“Sony commited to gamers. Ms commited to money, at expense of gamers. Xbox One wants to lure early adopters and then release Kinect games and keep soccer moms happy with yoga and deepak chopra channels after the 1st two or 3 years,” writes user TemplarDante.

Grammatical errors aside, what members of these communities don’t seem to understand is that both Microsoft and Sony are in the video game business to, first and foremost, make as much profit as possible. No one is being forced at knife-point to purchase either of these consoles. That’s the beauty of capitalism; companies actually have to earn their sales by delivering a product that consumers will enjoy. Microsoft’s initial strategy for this was to go after a wide spectrum of entertainment users—gamers, as well as TV and movie fans—to create an “all-in-one” system to appeal to more than just core gamers. Sony’s strategy relied on core gamers almost exclusively, with the PlayStation 4 reveal including clips of new entries in established hardcore IPs and a look at indie games from well-respected developers. A large group of core gamers quickly decided that this meant that Sony was on their side, and that only Sony cared about them, but Sony doesn’t care about them: they care about what’s in their wallet.

Sony’s decision to appeal to hardcore gamers and create a powerful, dedicated gaming device has paid off, but that’s the key phrase: “paid off.” I saw an image macro the other day that stated, “Every choice by every company is made to make more money,” and it’s absolutely correct. Sony is made up of over 140,000 people. It cannot afford to make decisions out of good will, especially after finally reaching a profit for the first time in years.

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But what about PlayStation Plus? Isn’t that program designed to give a tremendous value to owners of the PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Vita? Yes, it is absolutely is, but before gamers can get such a tremendous value on games, they must first purchase one of those machines. Many of the games offered in the program are also third-party releases, meaning Sony isn’t losing as much money as it would be if the games were all Uncharted or LittleBigPlanet, for example.

Microsoft’s strategy has also begun to move more towards Sony’s plan in this regard, as well. With every month leading up the release of the Xbox One, Microsoft will be giving away free game downloads to Xbox Live Gold members. The coming months will feature Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed II, while Fable 3 has already been made available. This decision was not just made because of the righteous hearts of Don Mattrick or Phil Spencer; it was made to help improve public opinion of Microsoft before the Xbox One is released, hence the program’s conclusion at that point, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Microsoft’s reversal on DRM was also made for this reason. While vocal gamers certainly had a role in damaging perception of the Xbox One, Microsoft’s bottom line on the device was what drove the change. Perhaps this was why a decision had not been made prior to E3: Microsoft simply underestimated how poorly the public viewed the Xbox One. Had Microsoft not seen such a huge initial gap in pre-order figures between the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, this decision would have never occurred. This in itself shows the power of the consumer and the concept of voting with one’s wallet. A huge change in approach for Microsoft was taken because of the way its initial product was received by consumers.

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Of course, third-party publishers have to face some of these same issues, albeit from a different perspective. When Electronic Arts announced a decision to do away with the online pass program, some assumed this was simply in preparation for the new policies being put in place by Microsoft for the Xbox One. Given the near-universal support shown to Microsoft by EA at E3, this argument held some water. However, EA has stated that the company will not be reinstating the online pass following the policy changes from Microsoft. Could “big bad EA” be doing something to help out gamers on a budget? Yes. Were they doing this solely for the benefit of those gamers? No.

It’s no coincidence that this follows one of EA’s worst news years in the company’s history. After horrible public reaction (but good sales) of SimCity and lackluster performances from both Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3, this decision was made to put the company in a better light with core gamers. When consumers have a better attitude towards a particular company, they are more likely to purchase a product from that company, and EA is counting on this going going into the next generation.

Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Sony did not always have such high approval by gamers as it does today. The launch of the PlayStation 3 saw massive amounts of ridicule, both for the price and immensely stupid quotes from key members of the company, but that did not destroy the PlayStation’s reputation. Rather, Sony worked on rebuilding the trust of consumers through high-quality exclusives and deals to encourage new adopters. Although EA is in a much larger hole than Sony in terms of public opinion, it is counting on this same basic strategy to improve its own sales.

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And though Nintendo chose to have a smaller presence at E3 this year, the most recent decisions of that company can clearly be seen as being made to improve sales for the Wii U. From a new Donkey Kong Country game to Super Mario 3D World, these games can be both positive experiences for consumers and Nintendo. It’s a testament to how much the system is struggling that no risky new intellectual properties were announced this year, and though Nintendo has a great reputation within the gaming community, these were not introduced because they could affect profits of the company. There’s nothing wrong with that.

There seems to be a misconception among gamers about how and why video game companies make decisions. No, these companies are not operating because they want to serve gamers and “always be there” for them, but the ideas of making money and developing trust with the consumer are not mutually exclusive. As more companies begin to not only realize this, but also allow it to affect business policy, everyone wins. What a weird idea.

Resident Evil: Revelations: The Case for an Upgrade (and the Wii U)

 

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2012′s Resident Evil: Revelations was a breath of fresh air for survival horror fans who have become frustrated by the direction Resident Evil has taken in recent years. Resident Evil 5Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Resident Evil 6, and even the first 3DS Resident Evil title, Mercenaries 3D, have shifted the focus of the series from creepy exploration and survival with limited resources to standard third person shooter run-and-gun scenarios. Amid those releases, though, Revelations for the 3DS managed to bring back a feeling much closer to the original Resident Evil games, creating a hybrid of shooter and survival horror that harkened back to Resident Evil 4 and the add-on Lost in Nightmares mission for Resident Evil 5. The game became a hit for the 3DS and a reason for many disillusioned owners of Nintendo’s newest handheld to think twice about ditching the system. Now, in 2013, Revelations is no longer a 3DS exclusive, negating some of that impetus for keeping the handheld, but the 3DS’s loss a definite gain for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and – to a greater extent – Wii U owners. But should you upgrade if you have already played the game? And if you do, does the Wii U’s dual-screen gameplay recreate the 3DS experience enough to make it the version gamers should choose?

Same Game with Twists

Players of the 3DS version will find that the game itself has not been substantially changed. The story, which takes place between Resident Evil 4 and the Lost in Nightmares DLC from Resident Evil 5, puts Jill Valentine and new partner Parker Luciani aboard a derelict ship carrying the results of a new bioweapon outbreak: the T-Abyss virus, which, instead of creating zombies, creates strange creatures known as Ooze (which are, compared to the enemies of other RE games, pretty disappointing in design). Chris Redfield and his new partner, Jessica Sherawat, seek to find and rescue Jill and Parker, while another duo, Keith Lumley and Quint Cetcham, seek out answers to assist both teams in their missions. You play as members of all three teams at different points in the tale. The game plays out through 12 multi-part episodes, each of which begins with a “Previously on Resident Evil: Revelations” video that helps provide momentum and gives the game a sense of style reminiscent of Alan Wake. Cutscenes, flashback segments (that you actually play, rather than watch), and such weave a complicated conspiracy tale that has more depth than most Resident Evil fare. Between the normal campaign and the co-op Raid Mode, very little has changed here, except for some placement of enemies and items, along with some minor new enemy types. However, the available Infernal difficulty mode changes things up and adds enough new challenges to allow for quite a bit of replay value for hardcore players who plan to upgrade from the 3DS to an HD console.

From Two Screens to One

The biggest gameplay changes to Revelations come from the need to take a game that was originally played on the 3DS with one regular screen and one touchscreen into something that can be played on a single television screen, while allowing it to be controlled by the dual-analog sticks and greater number of buttons found on the HD consoles’ controllers. The original 3DS game featured third person movement through the environment on the top screen, with the bottom of that screen usually staying uncluttered by indicators except for remaining ammunition. Your map, weapons, and items were all controlled via a crammed-but-functional touchscreen display with weapons running along the top, items running along the side, and the map taking over the rest of the screen. (With all the backtracking done in this game, you will need the map.) When drawing your weapon to fire in the 3DS version, the default setting sends you into a first-person mode from behind the weapon (which is in the center of the screen) for more accurate shooting on a small screen. You can choose a third-person perspective, but it is not the “normal” way to play. On the single-screen display used for the PS3, Xbox 360, and in two (of three) modes for the Wii U version, first-person viewing is no longer an option, as the game sticks with third-person throughout. Your selected weapon (and the other weapons you have equipped), along with your remaining ammo, is now displayed on the bottom right corner of the screen, while your secondary weapons (like grenades) are displayed on the bottom left briefly when selected. A 2D version of the map is displayed in the top right corner, orienting as you move, while a more detailed 3D map can be brought up within the game’s menus. This setup works well, and while not quite as convenient in some aspects (due to not having a second screen with a touch interface available), it makes the game feel similar to recent entries in the series. Moreover, the ability to use two analog sticks without needing a Circle Pad Pro attachment for the 3DS, plus the dedication of one shoulder button to the Genesis scanner, rather than having to swap to and from the device like any other item, are welcome tweaks to make gameplay smoother. That, however, is only part of the story when it comes to HD gameplay options . . .

How the Wii U Comes Out on Top

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The Wii U version of Revelations offers three different viewing options. The first two are identical to gameplay on the PS3 or Xbox 360: everything is displayed on a single screen. The Wii U, however, offers a bit more versatility, since that single-screen gameplay can be shown on the television screen or on the Gamepad itself, freeing players from the TV. More interestingly, the other viewing mode is an improved variant of the 3DS gaming mode with two screens. The TV acts as the top 3DS screen in that it shows all of the game’s action with minimal HUD items, allowing players to take in the action without overlays (similar to Dead Space). The Gamepad acts as the touchscreen on the 3DS, displaying your map, weapons, items, etc. However, with the Gamepad screen being larger than the 3DS screen, the layout has changed to be more comfortable. The map takes up the bulk of the screen’s middle section, while health items are accessible by tapping directly below it. Weapon options now run down the right side of the touchscreen, while secondary item options run along the left, with both of these columns being within easy reach of the player’s thumbs.

The Verdict

If you have never played Resident Evil: Revelations, and you are a fan of the series or the survivor horror genre, you should definitely check out the game on any platform. If you are looking for the best HD platform for playing Revelations, the benefits provided by the Gamepad make the Wii U version the definitive edition of this solid Resident Evil title.

Injustice: Gods Among Us: The Case for the Wii U

Batman_0If you are a fighting game fan, you should be playing Injustice: Gods Among Us. If you are a more casual fighting game fan, then you should be playing it on the Wii U.

The Wii U version of Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios’ new DC Comics 2D fighter in the vein of their 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, has taken a beating from critics, who decry the lack of a few specific features that are present for players of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. Rarely will you see a reviewer give equal time to what makes the Wii U version a great fit for a more casual segment of the fighting game fanbase, but that kind of missing voice is precisely the perspective that we at Invisible Gamer strive to provide.

So, hang onto your Batarangs and ready your capes, as we take a look at how a Wii U player’s Injustice experience stands up against its older console brethren.

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Features Missing from the Wii U Version

Let’s hit the negatives that are so often criticized first.

We were told before launch that the Wii U version would not be getting downloadable content (DLC), despite the fact that the game’s own case says that it does. So, which claim was true? Well, both, sort of. The Wii U has not gotten DLC (such as the Lobo add-on character) as early as the PS3 or Xbox 360. However, it will be getting DLC sometime this summer. Thus, the criticism that the game lacks DLC (which some actually took as a plus, as it would eliminate the temptation to spend more on the game after the initial purchase) will only remain valid for a short time.

Perhaps the most important missing features are in the game’s online multiplayer modes. On the other two consoles, Injustice’s multiplayer options include the ability to set up a ranked match, player match, or private match, along with the ability to join or create rooms. Three forms of player matches are available: 1V1 (a standard one-on-one fight, similar to the offline versus mode that all versions include), KOTH (King of the Hill, wherein players line up to compete in a room where others can watch the current match, and whoever wins a fight remains in play for the next fight), and Survivor (similar to KOTH, though your health is not refilled between matches if you win). Within public and private rooms, players can watch other players compete when not actively fighting. The Wii U retains the offline versus mode, all three player matches, and ranked matches, but it has no room mechanic whatsoever. Moreover, when a battle against an online opponent ends on the other consoles, a rematch option will appear, but the Wii U version simply kicks the player back to the menu to choose an online match type again.

Also among the multiplayer perks of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions is a series of daily challenges that can be completed for XP during online multiplayer matches. These challenges are entirely absent from the Wii U version.

For fighting game enthusiasts who play for the thrill of kicking the butts of fellow human players and watching others do so in an online group setting, or those who enjoy showing off their accomplishments through Trophies or Achievements, these omissions could be deal-breakers; they have certainly been harped upon by many gaming websites.

The Wii U edition also lacks any connectivity with the Injustice iOS game, which can be used to unlock extra costumes for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions.

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Features Unique to the Wii U Version

The Wii U edition of Injustice utilizes the system’s Gamepad in two ways that make it particularly appealing to casual gamer or a fighting game fan who isn’t into the hardcore, anonymous human vs. human battles of online multiplayer, but is instead more interested in a single player experience than anything on the multiplayer side.

First, when playing with the Gamepad (which is not a necessity, as you can play with the Wii U Pro Controller as well), you have the option to view gameplay on your television screen, while the Gamepad screen displays your character’s move list (or an abbreviated version thereof, depending on the number of special moves your character can employ). For casual players who find themselves frequently having to pause and work their way through move lists, which interrupts the action of the game, this is a rather nice, helpful (albeit obvious) addition to the Wii U version.

Second, as in the case of quite a few multiplatform games that have arrived on the Wii U, the Gamepad screen can also be used to duplicate the television screen, allowing players to play directly on the Gamepad, even when the television is off. The result is the feeling of having an HD console experience in your hands with greater mobility within range of the Wii U (The closest similar experience I could suggest would be playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on the Playstation Vita). Again, for a casual player, this is a helpful and welcome feature.

It should also be noted that while the Wii U version lacks Trophies or Achievements, it does have a Miiverse community, which, if a player wants to reach out and communicate successes with others, is a much more personal and interactive way to do so than a simple checklist of actions taken.

Same at the Core

The single player experience is identical between consoles, including the Wii U. The game’s story mode is perhaps the best that fighting games have ever seen, and there are plenty of Battle Modes (similar to Mortal Kombat ladders, with varied conditions to choose from) and S.T.A.R. Labs challenges (240 in all) that will test your wits, skills, and – often above all – patience.

Aside from the five costumes currently tied into the iOS game or DLC that is still forthcoming for the Wii U, Injustice includes all of the regular unlockable costumes as the core game for the other two platforms.

Gameplay is unchanged between editions, without any “cheats” available via the Gamepad touchscreen to dumb down the game (e.g. the 3DS edition of Super Street Fighter IV).

(Speaking of gameplay, for those turned off by NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat control scheme, we should mention that the controls for Injustice dump the block button for the “press away or down” mechanic of most fighting games, and the face buttons have changed to general low, medium, and high attacks, along with a special power button, similar to the control scheme of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I personally have found both of these to be positive changes.)

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The Verdict

If you are a hardcore fighting game fan, and your only option to play Injustice: Gods Among Us is the Wii U, then the purchase is a no-brainer. If you are a hardcore fighting game fan with either of the other consoles, and your focus is almost entirely on expansive online multiplayer modes (especially using rooms and spectating), then the Wii U version is not for you. On the other hand, if you love fighting games but prefer an outstanding single player experience, like the idea of playing without being attached to the television, tend to check move lists frequently, and can make do with a solid (but slightly less than fully-featured) multiplayer suite, then the Wii U should be your preferred console for Injustice.

For players like me, the more solitary breed of gamer, the Wii U simply does this one better.

Nintendo, Best Buy announce stores presenting E3 demos

On Sunday, we let you know about Nintendo’s radical plans for E3, including exclusive demonstration of their show floor games at select Best Buy locations. Today, Best Buy revealed which stores around the United States you’ll be able to pick up your Wii U Gamepads and play… whatever it is that Nintendo will be showing.

On June 12, between 4 pm and 8pm, and June 15, between 1pm and 5pm, customers will be able to play Nintendo’s selection of titles, which will be revealed at the link above on June 11. Will you be heading out to the nearest location to see what’s new for the Wii U? Let us know in the comments.

Best Buy Locations

Alabama: Huntsville, Hoover
Arizona: Camelback
Arkansas: Little Rock, Fort Smith
California: Culver City, Blossom Hill, Elk Grove, Tracy, Emeryville, Visalia
Colorado: Denver
Connecticut: Manchester
Delaware: Concord Pike
Florida: Pensacola, Gainesville, Fort Myers, Brandon, Kissimmee, Doral
Georgia: Cumberland, Duluth, Augusta, Savannah
Illinois: Bloomington, Schaumburg
Indiana: Greenwood
Iowa: Cedar Rapids, Jordan Creek
Kansas: Wichita, Overland Park
Kentucky: Florence, Lexington, Outer Loop
Louisiana: West Bank
Maryland: Glen Burnie, Frederick, Wheaton
Massachusetts: Dedham, Cambridge, Worcester
Michigan: Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Flint, Rochester Hills
Minnesota: Eden Prairie
Missouri: South County
New Jersey: Woodbridge, West Paterson, Deptford
New York: Albany, West Nyack, Amherst, Long Island City, Syracuse, Valley Stream
North Carolina: Cary, Winston Salem, Fayetteville, Carolina Mall
Ohio: Toledo I, Beaver Creek, North Olmsted, Reynoldsburg
Oklahoma: Quail Springs
Oregon: Cascade Station
Pennsylvania: King of Prussia, Wyomiss /Reading, Whitehall, Century III, Erie
South Carolina: Greenville, North Charleston
Tennessee: Memphis, Cedar Bluff, Brentwood
Texas: Arlington, The Woodlands, South Austin, Tyler, Galleria, West McAllen
Utah: Sandy
Vermont: Williston
Virginia: Virginia Beach, W. Broad, Charlottesville
Washington: Lynnwood
Wisconsin: Southridge

The Waning Days of E3: How Nintendo And The Ouya Are Reaching Consumers Directly

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2012 was my first E3 experience, and it followed the script for what game writers and those who follow the industry consider a typical E3. Publishers and platform holders conducted press events, broadcast live online or via G4 and Spike television, and the show floor was the typical chaos of booming bass, bullets, and booth babes. Nintendo even had 3DS units tethered to women who would stand with you as you played. It was everything that I had heard tell of, and easy to imagine colleagues, retailers, investors, and developers running through the same routine year after year.

When Nintendo announced it would not be holding a customary press event — opting instead to hold separate, smaller events for the press and their retail partners, while reaching their devotees through Nintendo Direct videos — there was much written and spoken about whether this signaled one of two things: the end of Nintendo, or the end of E3. Many, myself included, were quick to question the logic of giving up what had been Nintendo’s highest-profile platform from which to speak to the casual and mainstream consumer. After all, how would the USA Today’s and CNN’s be able to spend the only 30 seconds or three paragraphs all year that paint gaming in a positive light if they didn’t have a perfectly manicured stage show to distill pertinent information?

But maybe this is the beginning of the end for the Electronic Entertainment Expo after all. Recently, Nintendo announced that 100 Best Buy stores around the United States and Canada would be presenting exclusive public demos of content shown at E3. Unlike Germany’s Gamescom or Seattle’s Penny Arcade Expo, E3 is not a public event. Giving the general consumer who shops at stores like Best Buy, Walmart, and GameStop the opportunity to experience these titles months, and possibly years in some cases, before they come to market is an extremely shrewd business decision by Nintendo. Showing off a game is one thing, putting it in the hands of your consumers is another entirely.

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In many ways, the Ouya, the Android OS-based console that set Kickstarter records last year, seems to be taking a page from Nintendo’s playbook. The Ouya will be holding a public display of their console in a parking lot near the Los Angeles Convention Center, just blocks away from the buildings where the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will be making their own hands-on debut.

E3 is a show designed by and for retail partners, a callback to a time when walk-in purchases and boxed distribution were king; when the only way you learned about the goings-on were through EGM and Nintendo Power magazines. In this age of digital content and instant access to information and analysis — not just from “professional video game journalists,” but from bloggers, YouTubers, tweets, and Redditors — the tack taken by Nintendo and Ouya may be the herald of a shift in how we cover games. By taking their vision directly to the consumer and eliminating the middleman, companies manufacture and tailor their message as they see fit. The Ouya is an example of how that landscape is shifting, it epitomizes all of these changes by its very being: a console that is entirely digital, funded through alternative methods rather than traditional corporate holdings, and those purchasing directly from Ouya will receive their consoles before they’re available in traditional markets.

Sure, these strategies could backfire. Public perception of the Wii U has been on the decline, and early dev kit units of the Ouya released to Kickstarter backers have been picked apart and found wanting. But these publishers are not looking to discerning critics or close-minded ‘industry experts’ for their feedback; they’re aiming straight at the heart of their loyalists, banking on their goodwill and fervor to silence the din of criticism. It could work. And if the showings for these machines manage somehow to impress the press and the public, what Microsoft and Sony show could be overshadowed — and all because one is in your hand right now, and the other isn’t, and won’t be, for a long time. And for an event like the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the place where the middleman is king, it could spell out an unceremonious end to what was once gaming’s crowning achievement.

ZombiU Review

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The Invisible Gamer concept is what drew me to this site, as both a visitor and a writer. Within gaming, there are certain opinions that tend to be shouted down by the major gaming media outlets, while huge numbers of fans see their collective opinions go without expression. In this age of Metacritic, our voices should matter, but theirs too often seem to “matter” so much more. Case in point: ZombiU. If you are a longtime survival horror fan like me, then you will love the experience provided by ZombiU. Unfortunately, early reviews from major outlets bashed the game to the point where it is thought of by the uninformed (and supposedly-informed) as a failure that has marred the Wii U’s launch lineup. Nothing could be further from the truth in the eyes of a survival horror fan who wants some real survival horror, rather than a third person shooter using jump-scares in pale imitation of true tension.

The Wii U’s first few months of life have not been particularly good for the system. Games to be released for the system have been canceled (though in the case of Aliens: Colonial Marines, that might be a good thing), formerly exclusive games have been announced as multiplatform (Rayman, I’m looking at you), and many games have just been glorified ports (Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Injustice: Gods Among Us) – often very playable ports with nifty new features, but sometimes lacking in functions that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 crowds take for granted.

ZombiU, however, is one of those exclusive titles that provides a solid reason to own a Wii U: these killer zombies make for a killer app.

Real Survival Horror

In a genre that has transformed from the true scares and tension of the original Resident Evil games, the first Dead Space, and their brethren into a genre filled with solid shooters like Resident Evil 4 – 6, Dead Space 2 – 3, and their ilk, “survival horror” has come to mean “survive wave after wave of bullet-sponge enemies that just happen to look like horror movie creatures.” When Call of Duty has a zombie-fighting mode and begins to call that mode “survival horror,” you know that the genre no longer lives up to its moniker.

Enter ZombiU, a true survival horror game that puts the tension and fear back into the genre, while providing innovations along the way.

ZombiU puts players in London in the wake of a “zombie apocalypse.” You play as a survivor, who is drawn into the safehouse of the Prepper, who provides you with your mission goals and advice as you travel in the growing, somewhat open world of London. Your missions will take you into the streets, sewers, military facilities, and even Buckingham Palace. All the while, you must face increasingly difficult enemies, some slow, some fast, and some who even teleport. (Yes, I know teleporting zombies sounds odd, but can be truly terrifying in confined spaces.)

In the game’s earliest moments, you find yourself wielding a cricket bat (London, remember?), then a small pistol. By the end of the game, you may eventually find yourself using quite a few different weapons, divided into pistols, shotguns, rifles, and the like. I say “may” because these are not “gifts” for completing levels or automatic pickups to progress the story as in many games. When you find a new weapon, it is generally a fortuitous find (or discovered through use of strategy guides that are, frankly, a necessity to get the most out of ZombiU). You could very well reach the end of the game having experienced only a few weapons. Either way, you will find ammo scarce enough that you will often resort to your bat, which can be used to push away zombies or to bash them to a second death.

As in many survival horror games, your inventory space is limited, though it does expand if you find larger backpacks during your travels. Fortunately, you do have a container back at the safehouse where you can put items you do not wish to carry at that moment. In general, you carry whatever you can fit in your pack, along with up to six items that can be placed into quick-access inventory slots in the top corners of the Gamepad screen. (You will usually want to have at least your cricket bat, one or two firearms, a grenade or Molotov cocktail, and at least one health item in those slots at all times.)

Controls are typical of a first person shooter, barring using the Gamepad’s inventory slots with quick thumb presses to switch items quickly. However, the use of the Gamepad shines (and provides extra tension) when dealing with your “Prepper Pad” and inventory management. The Gamepad (Prepper Pad in the game) can be held up and titled around to look for points of interest in the environment. You can then scan them for more information about their contents, the hidden meanings of certain glyphs, to add the locations of enemies to your map, and the like. When searching your inventory for an item, or when looting a body or cabinet to find supplies, you will also look down to the Gamepad to move those items via a touch-based menu into your own inventory. In these cases, your character on the TV screen will use his Prepper Pad or Bug Out Bag (backpack), while you are looking at the Gamepad. You must remain vigilant, however. As in the trend started with Dead Space that does not stop the action around you when accessing menus, you can still be attacked when doing these things, which forces you to keep glancing between Gamepad and television, heightening the tension.

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Light also plays a fundamental part in ZombiU. While there are several types of zombies to encounter, they are all attracted to light. This allows you to use a flare to lure zombies into an area and blow them up with a mine, grenade, or Molotov cocktail, but it also means that your own light (with limited power that must be turned off periodically to recharge) will draw zombies to you. You can use this to your advantage, however, grabbing the attention of one zombie at a time from a large area of infected to better your odds of survival.

Permadeath, Zombie Friends, and Asymmetrical Multiplayer

If the Gamepad wasn’t enough, two more truly unique aspects emerge with ZombiU: permadeath and its unusual takes on interacting with other players.

Within the game, you play as a survivor, who is given very little characterization and no spoken dialogue, putting you into the role more deeply, so that their eyes feel like your own more than when playing as a heavily-developed protagonist. When taken by surprise from behind, attacked at a low health level, or unable to respond quickly enough, a zombie will grab and bite you (an attack that can only be evaded by use of a Virucide shot that you receive midway through the game that is good for one use and can be refilled from drawing the substance into a syringe from special zombies that scanning with the Prepper Pad can identify). Once bitten (or killed by fire or a fall), your current survivor dies, permanently. If bitten by a zombie, that survivor becomes a zombie and inhabits the area in which you were killed. What makes this important is that this dead survivor is wearing your backpack with all of the gear you had loaded into it! You then wake up as a new survivor, and you must not only pick up where the “dead you” left off, but also hunt down the zombie version of your former self, so that you can kill him and take back your gear. To do this, you have only a bat, pistol, and whatever you have left in the container back at the safehouse, which makes it a particularly bad idea to carry all of your weapons at once. Moreover, if your new survivor dies before reclaiming your gear, then everything he was carrying is redistributed throughout the game’s various locations, and you must either do without or follow indications on CCTV cameras in the safehouse to find the items all over again. In this survival horror scenario, death actually matters and adds significantly to the game’s tension and scares.

If this wasn’t enough to add tension, players can try Survival Mode, a run through the normal single-player mode with one catch: if you die, the game ends completely. You will not wake as another survivor, but instead have to start over from scratch. This is truly for the hardcore survival horror gamer. Think of it as permadeath taken to an even higher level.

The game’s interaction with other players also heightens the experience, but those looking for the typical Call of Duty-esque multiplayer modes will find themselves disappointed. The game makes use of social components in two primary ways. First, if you have friends via your Nintendo ID who are also playing ZombiU, then when those friends die and become zombies, they do not just appear in their game to let them retrieve gear. They also appear in your game, so that you can kill them and loot items from them. This adds some unpredictability and social dynamics to this mostly solo experience, while not affecting your friends’ ability to get their gear back (via the incarnation of their zombie self in their game, which is not affected by their zombie appearance in yours).

The game also includes two asymmetrical multiplayer modes (or three, thanks to Ubisoft’s Uplay, which must be downloaded via the Wii U eShop to access any of its unlockable goodies). The key term here is asymmetrical: players are not all doing the same thing. The three modes include traditional capture and hold, kill-to-get-points, and see-how-long-you-survive variants. One player uses the Gamepad to be the “King of Zombies,” sending out zombies in a fashion similar to a real-time strategy (RTS) or tower defense game, gaining zombie types and numbers as the match progresses. The other player(s) play in a first person mode similar to the main game, fighting off the waves of zombies that are unleashed by the Gamepad player. (With the Gamepad already utilized, these other players will use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk or the Wii U Pro Controller.) While there is no progression system from match to match, and all multiplayer modes are local-only (no online multiplayer whatsoever), these multiplayer modes are highly enjoyable and can become quite addictive.

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The great local multiplayer experience is just the icing on the cake for a single player experience that truly deserves the “survival horror” label. The game starts slow, as you wade into the world and very slowly gain new gear, but by the end, this is an experience that should not be missed, including a final sequence that literally left me shaking for half an hour after the credits had rolled.

Survival horror fans owe it to themselves to check out ZombiU. It just might be the best true survival horror game since Dead Space.

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