Ash Burton

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Eurogamer Expo 2012: Wii-U Impressions & General Roundup

This year's big launch event at Eurogamer Expo came from Nintendo with UK gamers getting their first chance to play on the Wii-U and since I had early-entry tickets to opening day it was almost certainly the first thing I planned to do after making it past the huge entry queue. Thankfully queues at the Wii-U stand were short and I jumped straight into a demo of Nintendo Land, a series of mini-games themed around Ninty's main properties.  On show during EGXP were The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Luigi's Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Days and  Takamaru's Ninja Castle.

The new tablet-style GamePad is comfortable to hold, provides two analogue sticks, triggers and an array of buttons that would look at home on a PS3 controller as well as a 6.2-inch resistive touch-screen.  Despite being only 158ppi the resolution of 854 x 480 is more than adequate for casual use and active gameplay but the decision to opt for a resistive touch screen seems puzzling since compared to the capacitive touch screens found on modern smartphones it feels noticeably unresponsive and I suspect small children may struggle with the force required to operate it.

The use of the second screen really comes into its own when used to provide one player with a different view of the action to the others which I saw during a series of five-player sessions with one GamePad and five Wii-motes.  In Luigi's Ghost Mansion the player with the GamePad plays the ghost and can see all four players and himself whereas the other players can only see themselves and each-other on the television, a similar mechanic is also used in Animal Crossing: Sweet Days.  In these scenarios the four Wii-mote+TV players work together by shouting out tips and calling out the bad-guy's location whilst the bad-guy tries to use stealth and independence to get the upper hand and it works brilliantly - classic Nintendo fun.

Despite the runaway success of the original Wii, Nintendo may face a struggle trying to promote the Wii-U with stiff competition coming from Sony's PS3-Vita integration and the upcoming SmartGlass on the Xbox 360 (good article on PocketLint covering the three).  The other issues Nintendo may face are awareness and price, despite a release date of November 30th most of the techies in my office had heard of it but none of the 'normal folk' had and with a rumoured release price of £229 - £250 it's going up against the Xbox 360 + Kinect (£250 with game) or the PS3 + Move (£250 with game) both of which offer significantly enhanced features such as Blu Ray, Netflix, iPlayer, Video on Demand, etc.

What about the rest of EGXP2012?

Last year's queues wore me down a little two much and this year I just didn't have the appetite having spent an hour queuing to get in then spend half the day queueing inside so I missed out on playing Call of Duty Black Ops 2 and Halo 4 but a spectator's view showed more of the same so in both cases if you like the previous games you'll probably like the new ones.  That's not to disparage sequels though as I had a blast playing Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and was literally stunned by the graphics on show from Forza Horizon.

Thankfully the single most memorable game of the show was an original property: Tokyo Jungle,  starting as either a deer or a Pomeranian the player must to survive as long as possible in a post-apocalyptic world eating plants, fighting with Beagles and even mating (an act I performed to gasps from onlookers).  Along with the weirdness that Tokyo Jungle brought a fair slice of odd was on offer in the Indie Games Arcade, always one of the highlights of EG Expo this is where the one-man-band and small team developers get to show their wares which sometimes tend towards the bizarre like the first-person-ambler Proteus or one of my favourite indie games of all time shown at a previous Expo: VVVVVV.  Another highlight was the Retro Zone where I got the chance to play on and Amstrad GX4000 and a TurboGrafx-16, something you don't get to do every day and a treat for lovers of retro gaming.

At the end of the day I was disappointed that I didn't get to see Hideo Kojima's Developer Session but as I said earlier, queuing for an hour or more just to get in just wasn't worth it in my eyes and I think that Eurogamer ought to consider a pre-booking facility for the popular talks rather than making attendees waste time queueing.  All told though, it was a good day and well worth the trip - if you've not been I would definitely advise you to pop along to the 2013 show and if you can afford it I'd recommend going on opening day and buying early entry ticket as it'll increase your chances of seeing what you want to. Oh, and wear comfy shoes.