Remember Wii Sports? For the US market, it came bundled with every Nintendo Wii sold during launch (Japan had it as a separate purchase). Basically, it was a collection of mini games put into one package to show off the motion controls that the system would eventually revolve around. They were never meant to have been deep, but more or less a way for gamers to understand the concept of motion controls in games, as well as easing them into the experience as a whole. Now that the Nintendo Wii U is just over two months away, gamers who purchase the premium system bundle for $349 will have Nintendo’s Wii U equivalent of Wii Sports in terms of easing players into a new way of controlling gameplay – Nintendo Land.
Under the Nintendo Land umbrella will be a dozen mini games. Think of it as a virtual theme park of sorts having a number of different attractions, with the theme of just about every attraction having to do with a Nintendo first party franchise. These games are all family friendly, and many will of course be a multiplayer encouraged set of games that aim to demonstrate the myriad of Gamepad functionality throughout each micro-sized title.
Balloon Trip Breeze was the very first Nintendo Land attraction that I visited. The action takes place on both a television screen as well as the Gamepad, though the latter has a much more zoomed in perspective, so the big screen is going to be the main focus. With plenty of nods to the NES classic Balloon Fight, Balloon Trip Breeze instead focuses on touchscreen controls along with balloon-popping combat. Utilizing a stylus, players must glide it along the touchscreen towards the direction that they wish to have the breeze blow their character on screen. The key is to maintain a proper balance in which way the breeze pushes, as the screen auto-scrolls to the left, with a number of obstructions that pop up within the players path. Not maintaining a certain elevation will have the players character eaten by a sea creature.
As with the NES classic Balloon Fight, certain enemies that approach each player are floated up high on their own set of balloons. They will occasionally bee line towards the player in attempt to pop their balloons, and can only be dispatched by dropping on top of them, which deflates their progression. As the demo stages progressed, I started to encounter red spiked blocks that would block my path. These can be cleared by poking them with my stylus, so having the gameplay even exclusively on the Gamepad as well has its uses. Halfway through the demo, a strong gust of wind began to blow, which added another sense of craziness. Towards the end, there were impenetrable black spiked blocks in my path, which required some crazy momentum changes in terms of breeze directions.
Balloon Trip Breeze sets up the Gamepad stylus controls in a commendable manner, all while giving the Gamepad’s screen a zoomed in display, which was a vital aspect of the demo as time progressed. Supposedly, I had made it farther than anyone else at the Wii U Preview Event and I had to relinquish the controls at I believe the beginning of Day 3 (each day, or more or less what seemed like each stage, had a morning, afternoon and evening level to them). While Wii Sports always felt more like a glorified tech demo, the first game I tried from Nintendo Land surprised me with how enjoyable it was, and how easily accessible it will be to just about any gamer. It will offer a pretty good challenge as well, but if the later portions of Balloon Trip Breeze holds up as well as what I demoed, then this is already a promising start to my trip into Nintendo Land.