The Wonderful 101 Review
Bayonetta meets Pikmin might seem like an odd combination, but even those anticipating The Wonderful 101 may not have realised quite how deep the Bayonetta comparison is likely to run here.
Course, we’re not idiots and nor are you; it’s hardly surprising that Platinum Games will have flavours of the past cooking up inside The Wonderful 101 and let’s face it, Bayonetta is an outstanding game so to have such similarities can only make this latest Wii U game all the better.
In spite of that though The Wonderful 101 is still very much its own game and, honestly, it really is something you need to play.
It’s hard to smartly and succinctly summarise quite what The Wonderful 101 is all about, but think Green Lantern without all the pointless naval gazing of Ryan Reynolds.
You’re a group of masked superheroes who can create objects out of thin air, which you then use to crush unwitting enemies with.
And when we say ‘a group’, we mean it. You don’t just play as one hero, but a swarming mass of people. This ties into a number of gameplay elements, but it’s in combat where it really stands out.
The Wonderful 101 Review
Here’s the surprising thing: even if you watched all the videos and read all the chatter released about The Wonderful 101 so far, chances are you’ve misunderstood quite how deep the combat is.
You’ll begin fairly simply with Wonder Red, the main character of the game whose unique ability is to summon a giant red fist, which he promptly uses to smush bad guys to bits.
After that it’s Wonder Blue, then Green, and then Pink and so on. Or, in other words, a sword, a gun and a whip. This fashion continues with each Operation – each overarching ‘stage’, which is compromised on individual levels – until you’re awash with choice.
As your crowd of heroes moves through the stage you’ll be pit against increasingly difficult enemies. Hardly a surprise there, of course, but the increasing number of Wonder Colours also increases the number of options available to you.
While there isn’t always a most suitable weapon for the job, quite often you’ll find a particular style best suited to certain situations – a sword for groups of weaker enemies, a fist for targeting slower, stronger enemies for example.
Only one can be active at any time, however. You’ll summon a weapon type by drawing the relevant symbol: an S-shape for the whip, zigzag for claws or a line and then a circle for the hammer.
It sounds like an unnecessary gimmick, but it actually works extremely well. Though you can use the Wii U GamePad’s touch screen to quickly draw the shapes, it’s just as manageable with the right thumbstick.
Time slows down as you draw, though, so don’t worry too much about getting pummelled mid-fight.
The real benefit comes from being able to summon separate ‘uses’ of these weapons – up to four in total – to combine with your own attacks to make an unstoppable force. And it’s here that the Pikmin comparison comes into play.
How Is The Wonderful 101 Like Pikmin?
Each stage begins with only a handful of Wonderful Ones, but as you move through the stage you can gather up and rescue helpless citizens. You’ll be rewarded at the end for the number of citizens saved, but that’s not the real reason you’d need to use this.
The larger your force the more powerful you become. We’re not talking midichlorians here though; to activate each attack you need to utilise a portion of your collected gathering.
This is for two reasons: firstly, the longer your drawn ‘chain’ of Wonderful Ones is the more powerful the attack. While this enhances the damage you can do, it also increases the weapon’s size – an important factor when knowing how to deal damage.
On tougher opponents, however, you’ll have opportunities to overpower them. Drawing a shape and pressing X instead of A to activate it will create its own separate attack. Use this along with your own – or even other – attacks and you’ll not only deal more damage but build an impressive combo to help reach those Platinum medals.
If you’ve played Bayonetta, you know the basics of scoring high in The Wonderful 101. Speed, combo and damage taken combine to give you a score: everything else is irrelevant.
This system means that you need to be aware of how large a force you have to know how much you can get away with. It’s a balancing act that increases your strength not only over the course of the game but even within levels.
It’s different to Bayonetta, but equally as deep with myriad other options available that we just won’t bother boring you with. Needless to say, it may look cutesy but The Wonderful 101 requires just as much skill as Platinum’s more traditional beat-’em-up.
The only slight is the limited explanations on, well, anything. Though you’ll get in-game hints, they’re rarely about the things you actually need – such as the proper way to defeat those damnable cannons.
The Best Wii U Game Yet?
There’s so much more to praise with The Wonderful 101 that, really, it’s probably best to just tell you to buy it now and leave it at that. You won’t be disappointed.
Take the story, for example. Well, more explicitly the characters. The Wonderful 101 is genuinely funny – though the French may not appreciate the constant barrage of insults Wonder Green gets.
Enemies that falter as they make their appearance (such as a spaceship being shaken to spit out a giant ooze of a beast) or the unique ways each character interacts. There’s an unexpected humorous quality to The Wonderful 101 that really helps the game stick in the mind.
There’s plenty of variety to the action, too. Where most games of this ilk suffer when pitting you against one battle arena after another, The Wonderful 101 has the sense to split these up with various different action sections.
Some are as simple as jumping from platform to platform, but the best involve taking control of fast-moving vehicles in increasingly inventive ways. This is a game that never wants you to feel bored and, to its credit, you definitely won’t.
The bosses, too, prove that Platinum Games hasn’t lost its sense of imagination since Bayonetta and though you won’t see giant, baby-faced snakes trying to knock you off ledges you will at least find something more in-keeping with The Wonderful 101’s world to shock and amaze you.
The Wonderful 101 is a rarity; everything combines to make something very special. It doesn’t take itself seriously – a increasing trend these days – it just sets out to make a brilliant game. It has succeeded.
And despite the similarities it may share with Bayonetta, it’s hard to see The Wonderful 101 as anything other than original, inventive and fresh. It’s unusual to come across such a thing in the games industry these days, so make the most of it while you can.