You never know what to expect with Platinum Games. Each one of their titles is wildly different than the previous, and each bends the concepts of gaming around simple ideas. Case in point: The Wonderful 101 for the Nintendo Wii U. The premise is that of a simplified strategy-action game, heavy on the action, where amassing and controlling a small army of people to defeat enemies is the goal.
That’s the concept in a nutshell, but holy crap if it isn’t completely unpredictable and insane. And the game’s title is apt: it’s pretty wonderful.
Though my hands-on time with 101 at E3 this year was brief, I was able to get a good idea of how the game comes together, and it’s actually fairly novel. The game stars players as the “one” from the “101” in the title, tasking them to walk around parts of a city collecting innocent bystanders and turning them into super heroes. As the heroes join the ranks, they’ll don the colors of the person leading them (101 is a multiplayer game for up to five people). I played as Wonder Red — all of the main heroes are named “Wonder” — and the Nintendo representative as Wonder Blue.
The schtick for Wonderful 101 is that our attack methods are based around our army of people combining into human weapons. Scribbling on the Gamepad’s screen, or “drawing” with the right analog stick on the Pro Controller (which I kind of preferred, actually), would initiate a great little animation in which characters would jump on each others’ shoulders to form a giant sword, or grab each others’ legs to make a whip. One of the weapons would have them create a giant fist, and another a gun that shot people, legs and arms flailing and all. The larger the armies, the larger and more powerful that our weapons became.
The animation alone is great to watch, and the shear number of people on the screen is pleasingly chaotic. Some of the characters gain great costumes, while others will grab garbage cans or pots and wear those. The level of detail all visible at once is pretty wild.
As we rampaged through the city amassing our small armies, we attacked several types of enemies and tore through puzzles and obstacles. Giant bulbous robots would melee, smaller enemies would shoot. If they managed to hit us, our armies would scatter in quite possibly the most adorable human explosion, sending naked bodies everywhere. The people pick themselves up after they land, and wait for one of us to collect them and give them a new costume.
Gameplay mechanism aside, there wasn’t much to really do in the demo. It’s an overhead action game with a few interesting TV-to-Gamepad integrations — go into a building and see yourself on the Gamepad screen instead of the TV, for instance — but beyond that it wasn’t blowing my mind. That could be fine, though. The chaos, the bedlam, the typical Platinum Games touches are what the game is designed around, and all made for a fun hands-on. Wonderful 101 launches in September.