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Nintendo Wii U Review: Sounds Gimmicky, But Makes Good Games More Good

• Colin Lecher via

The big criticism with Nintendo consoles is that they're engineered for kids. The original Wii was innovative and flat-out fun enough to make it all work--it seemed charming rather than simplistic. But the new Nintendo console, the Wii U, is careful not to seem too playful and innocent--launch titles, for example, have you playing as a brooding Batman and a space marine. And you'll be doing it with a goofy new controller, which looks like a PS3 controller with a 6.2-inch tablet between your two hands. And it usually feels really right, even if not every game makes the most of it.

What's New

Well, there's the Wii U GamePad controller. It has a screen right in it--like a portable console that you also use to control a home console. Down there could be a list of items, weapons, a map, a minigame, or a clever way to hide something away from your opponent during a multiplayer game. You poke or swipe at it with a stylus or finger to make movements on screen, and the controller itself is also sensitive to a movement, so you might look around the room by moving it from side to side or motion it up to do a jump. There's a microphone embedded inside, which could be handy for trash-talking while playing online. (Also, weirdly, you can blow into the mic to make things happen.) It feels huge at first, but that feeling disappeared more quickly than I expected it would, and the overall weight of it wasn't a problem, luckily. You're not waving it around in the air all the time or anything like that.

Otherwise, I was surprised by how similar everything looked to the first Wii: your shiny cartoon-bodied Mii avatars are still there, and the home screen is pretty much the same as last time around. (I guess that's why there's just the U tacked onto the end, instead of giving the Wii U a whole new name.) Not that that's bad; that all worked out fine with the first Wii, though it's certainly not as transformative as that console. The games are also a little unexpected for a family-friendly, first-party-centric games company like Nintendo: big, critically acclaimed hits like Batman: Arkham City and Mass Effect 3 are here rather than Happy Feet and Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam. It also supports 1080p resolution for the first time on a Nintendo console.

What's Good

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