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Review

The Wonderful 101 Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • WIIU

The Wonderful 101 is a bright, bold adventure that occasionally struggles to control its big ambitions.

'

How long has it been since you played a combo-heavy action game that wanted to re-create the vibe of a Saturday-morning cartoon? Because when something explodes in The Wonderful 101, it's not designed to evoke dread like so many gritty modern games, but instead to trigger even more pint-size heroics within its colourful world.

Platinum Games' latest game charges you with managing a mob of superpowered heroes--The Wonderful 100--and shepherding these diminutive champions through bold set pieces and intricate bouts of boisterous combat. While you control the leader of the pack, the rest cheerily follow in a slightly disorderly clump, waiting for their chance to shine.

Your gang is awash with masked individuals, and the game works by having you feed those people directly into your attacks. Weapons grow bigger and more powerful when more of your group is allocated to their construction. One of the game's most amusing elements is that its arsenal is made out of people, even down to the bullets fired from your gun. Teams are further bolstered by the addition of temporary allies that can be recruited until the end of each mission, and they're in plentiful supply, although a permanent roster of zany characters--sporting things like cuckoo-clock hats, giant hypodermic needles, and bathtub costumes--can be amassed by locating the characters hidden in each level.

Weapons are summoned into existence by drawing shapes on either the Wii U GamePad or with the right analogue stick, giving you the option to conjure up a fist, a gun, a whip, and so on. Draw bigger shapes, and you get a better weapon, and the party leader--the one unit whose movement you directly control--switches between the game's seven main characters, a continental group of stereotypes who all take speaking roles in the script.

Early combat encounters are simplistic, allowing you to easily batter enemies, but opponents become resistant to button mashing as the game progresses. The opening mobs soon seem like little more than cannon fodder when you are pitted against bigger, more intricate baddies, which require certain methods of attack. Spiked enemies, for instance, need to have their protrusions whipped off, and the tender insides of thick armoured foes must first be cracked open with the hammer. Your group moves a lot slower with your weapon drawn, too, which forces you to consider your positioning before committing to an attack.

Drawing shapes depletes an energy bar, which takes times to recharge, and your powered-up weapons only stay in their strongest form for a few seconds, requiring you to redraw the shape to charge it back to maximum strength. There's a life bar to preserve, but recruited members of your army do not individually perish, instead laying dazed and out of action for a few seconds before leaping back into the fray. When down, they are unable to fuel your weaponry, forcing you to stay on the back foot until they recover. Enemies are meaty, resilient, and bountiful, sapping thick chunks out of your life bar when landing a successful hit--like many of Platinum's stylish and technical games, a good defence is integral.

The core conceit--and main attraction--of The Wonderful 101's combat is balancing the risk of drawing those bigger shapes with the joyous, carnage-laden reward of unleashing a devastating flurry of swipes with a fully charged sword. But drawing can feel fiddly in the head of the moment. Earlier weapons, like the sword and gun, generally feel zippy and responsive, but the mix of lines and circles required to draw later weapons, such as the hammer and the bomb, are more complicated, and therefore prone to unwanted errors.

The Wonderful 101 draws many of its influences from Japanese tokusatsu, effect-laden shows such as Ultraman, Godzilla, and Kamen Rider. And while combat is undoubtedly the game's fuel, the nonsensical story thunders along in tandem. This is a knowingly hokey plot about alien invasion, packed with jokes that land more effectively than much of Platinum Games' other output. There are scores of alien ships, fleets of foes, and an elite group of boss villains that need to be knocked off across levels that are rides of twisting trajectories and scenic destruction. The game also features both English and Japanese audio and subtitles, which is a nice touch.

The game's jokes often hit the mark, such as when the stocky, hammer-wielding but tragically shy Russian character fumbles his attempt to deliver a pithy closing line after an extensively choreographed quick-time event battle. Some jokes fall flat, however, and the game's middle sections become unnecessarily burdened with dialogue and plot. It's also a bit galling, the way the game's camera is so obsessed with zooming in on the posteriors of the game's female characters, which adds a weird element of seediness to an otherwise delightfully sweet romp.

Everything tends to collapse or explode around you, forcing you to jump through various QTE-esque hoops in the game's cutscenes and larger encounters. Levels, which for the most part are split into campaigns of three stages, often drag on for a few minutes too long.

Other areas make use of the GamePad's second screen, and these moments are some of the most inventive and creative displays of the Wii U's capabilities seen to date. One area has your team inside a spaceship on the GamePad screen, while you jump on pressure pads that control the ship's movement and lasers on the television screen. Another has you scale a colour-coded climbing frame, having to keep one eye on the other screen to see which panels will be electrified next.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is an easy game. The saccharine setting and comedy characters mask the game's difficulty, and normal mode here is far more challenging than in your average game. Platinum Games' fondness for exceedingly strict scoring systems ensures that most players will be lucky to get a bronze rating during their first run through the game, and the hidden levels, when located, offer up some of the game's strictest combat challenges.

Some mechanics are poorly explained, such as the ability to have your group of heroes grab enemies or conjure up smaller, temporary versions of the game's weapons. Units are also capable of levelling up, occasionally offering up new moves, though the specifics and benefits are only lightly touched upon by the game. Finally, a mixing minigame is unceremoniously deposited in the game's menus, allowing you to create consumable items by combining foodstuffs you pick up during missions.

Other mechanics are more clear. Outside of levels, the shop lets you power up certain abilities, including basic moves like dodges and parries, beneficial boosts to your drawing speed and recharge rate, and more advanced techniques like the damage-negating ukemi. Other collectibles can be found nestled within the game's levels, including platinum coins and heart pieces that dish out extra slabs of health.

Finally, there's a mission mode that supports up to five players (four using Wii Remotes) but that can also be played solo, with wave-clearing combat challenges bucketed into tiered difficulties. Playing along with friends is a nice bonus, but it adds an element of chaos despite the game's attempts to stem the confusion by colour-coding players. The Wonderful 101 is at its best when played alone.

With The Wonderful 101, game director Hideki Kamiya has made a game featuring a stumpy posse of cartoon heroes, with the stylish combo strings of Bayonetta, and the bouncy, vibrant style of Viewtiful Joe. This is an ambitious, funny, and inventive game that's keen to impress but slightly scrappy in its presentation, packed with ideas but is slightly confused about how to express all its abundant creativity. This might not be the Wii U's killer app, but it's a much-needed shot in the arm.

'
The Good
Combat system is entertaining and unique
Great variety of enemies and weapons
Practice makes perfect
The Bad
Levels sometimes outstay their welcome
Drawing certain shapes can be fiddly
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

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Discussion

610 comments
Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

Currently alternating between this, skyward sward and super mario world on my wii u and am hugely impressed with this game. Can't understand why it flopped so bad. People are just scared of spending cash on something diffrent i suppose, and the reviews are bizzarely mixed. its a conplex game with a lot to learn but it doesnt do a bad job of introducing you to the basic consepts. Much more accessable than many reviews had me believe. It's a game of skill where levels have replay valve as you refine you technique chasing better scores. This game is destine to become a cult classic and should not be missed.

hochstreck
hochstreck

This game is amazing. It's humorous, easy to pick up and hard to master. To me this is one of the most refreshing Action-Games I have played in years.

ekolite
ekolite

Wowza!  The game is over 10 gigs for the download.  Would have bought a hard copy if I did a bit of research before buying.  Ah well...

GameBeaten
GameBeaten

If you are a person who liked the first four Devil May Cry games and/or Bayonetta, then chances are you will like The Wonderful 101.

montblanc512
montblanc512

Yeah, this is one of the first times I disagree with reviewers, and the first time in a while I want a WiiU game to have a better score. This game is fantastic. It's a huge game, with huge bosses and levels, a ton of gameplay variety, and touchscreen controls may suck, but you don't have to use them at all, and everything works great with traditional controls. Plus the game itself is funny and self-aware. And I never have issues drawing anything with the right analog stick.

justinka777
justinka777

I recently finished this and I got to say I think they underrated this one. I consider it to be more of a 9.0, this game is nothing like Pikmin BTW...... I actually cant even think of anything that can really compare to its gameplay, really one of a kind.

csward
csward

Combat sounds a lot like Pikmin with  superheros.

atopp399
atopp399

Gamestop couldn't find my copy for 10 minutes while they sifted through their 600 copies of GTAV.  Gladly, they eventually did find it.  This game looks fun and sort of niche the way Pikmin has been.  Hopefully they sell enough of these to make it worthwhile.

Latiran
Latiran

Buying this tomorrow, this game looks amazing XD


starcrafthenry
starcrafthenry

Played the demo. This game is pretty awesome. I'll put it on my Christmas wishlist for sure.

AtariKidX
AtariKidX

One more mediocre game for the WiiU.

The_Luxemboss
The_Luxemboss

Seeing as I'm from Europe I've had this game for a few days. The only reason I can see people having trouble with the controls is because they are truly one of a kind! I don't know if it's a system seller but if you own a Wii U you'd be foolish to pass on this gem.

pcty
pcty

this might not be the system seller that the WIIU needed but it does look very good

maybe in the future....

G1ingy
G1ingy

While an 80 doesn't exactly bug me, what DOES get a tad annoying is how most reviews I've seen have reviewed games much more harshly in words, but have given a higher overall rating. Take IGN for example, they list a flaw and spend most of the review praising it, but only gave it a 7.4. Not a bad score, but they've given games they've criticized far more harshly higher scores in the past.

komuchen
komuchen

10GB... damn, wasn't expecting that. Can't wait to play it though

locknuts84
locknuts84

Haven't pre ordered a game since the Gamecube but this and Titan Fall already have my money.

RyogaRod
RyogaRod

The demo was pretty good. Hell it's one of the best demo's out right now for the Wii U, as there are only a few at this time...

blaze_boy30
blaze_boy30

Pleasantly surprised. I'll have to consider getting this game when I get a Wii U.

guahiatt
guahiatt

There are many reason to get a Wiiu in my opinion. This is one of them.

Cant wait to go back to my country and buy one as soon as possible.

Derock161
Derock161

How much do you want to bet some fanboy somewhere is complaining about this getting the same score as the last of us

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

When I first saw a trailer of this game, I said this is it I am buying a Wii U just to play this game. I played the demo and it was less than I expected. Never the less, playing Pikmin exceeded my expectation. So Pikmin is 9-9.5 and This game is 8.5. I am buying it though. It's gona be a wonderful experience

The0darkstar
The0darkstar

This game is looking great, can't wait to play it >w<

The most annoying thing you can see on a review for a Wii U game are those people who say "Not worth buying a Wii U" or even "This game sucks because it's on the Wii U". If you don't like the system for some unknown reason then don't come and comment shit about it :/ The Wii U will get better, just like how the 3DS started reaaaaally bad at first, but now it's rising up like hell. 

So, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. Console war is just stupid O.o

cantor2537
cantor2537

Great game, gonna pick it up. At least it's not another Gears/COD/BF/FPS clone. 

Robert Warnes
Robert Warnes

Already got my pre-ordered, only just 3 more days!!! I love anything Platnium Games make, in fact they're my favourite studio.

Aizen06
Aizen06

This game looks pretty awesome.  It has that arcadie feel to it that most of us crave now.

Lee Challenor
Lee Challenor

Pre ordered pick up Friday play arse out of it over weekend .Controls I find take gameplay to the next level,really good stuff.Wii u is ace by the way.

David Sil
David Sil

Great game, gotta love stores that break street date XD

montblanc512
montblanc512

@csward It's not, at all. I thought it would be too, which didn't sound to good, to be honest. The only similarity is the collecting allies aspect. The more allies you have following you, the larger shapes you can make, and thus the more powerful and better ranged weapons.

nathanjones007
nathanjones007

@atopp399 I love this game! I am about 3 hours into it. Sadly it has only sold 50 k (as of 21 sept) Physical copies. I think what messed it up was being released 2 days before GTA V which kinda stole what little thunder it had. I since this is a new franchise it will sell well over time!

montblanc512
montblanc512

@AtariKidX As a guy who'd usually be on your side here, I recommend you play this game. I have been considering trading in the wii U for a while now, as I feel like nothing better than mediocre is coming out that won't also be on 3DS, but I was very pleasantly surprised. This game has top notch production value, and okami-esque gameplay, with a funny cast of characters. This is the first non-mediocre game for the WiiU, IMO. But then again, maybe you were just being a troll, to which, sorry you'll never play this great game, enjoy whatever brown samey game you will sir or madam.

komuchen
komuchen

@AtariKidX Oh, I didn't know 8 is mediocre. Also, have you played it or bitchin' like all kids?

komuchen
komuchen

@pcty It not only looks very good, but plays too. It's so over the top, crazy it's awesome. Gotta love those national stereotypes

Teufelhund84
Teufelhund84

 @G1ingy Try not to dwell on ratings too much, especially ones from IGN's brainless and braless Keza.

crocodileman94
crocodileman94

@The0darkstar: A review at vg247 said "I’m concerned that such a refreshing idea is being wasted as an exclusive for Nintendo’s under-selling Wii U"

kbaily
kbaily

@The0darkstar These are just butthurt fanboys who want to play the game but it's "beneath" them to buy a WiiU plus they gotta save up the $1000+ to buy 2 consoles that will be nearly identical with 90% of the same games.

But you remember with Bayonetta 2, all the fanboy whining over its exclusivity even though Nintendo were the only ones who offered to publish it along with Wonderful 101.  It's cool to hate on Nintendo then throw an immature hissy fit when it gets a cool exclusive.

kbaily
kbaily

@cantor2537 Whenever there's a new IP that isn't a gray/brown action game, I want to support it because they seem to have the hardest time finding an audience.

bimastrike871
bimastrike871

@Teufelhund84 lol exactly, IGN are defiantly a bunch of biased asses who are too often aimlessly careless. 

armodillo17
armodillo17

@Teufelhund84 Normally I don't care to much about ratings, but this is a new IP on a system that hasn't sold too well yet. I obviously haven't played the whole game yet, but from what I've played of the demo, I think looks and plays great. If it doesn't get great review scores, it may not get the sales it needs to encourage more games like it.

komuchen
komuchen

@Teufelhund84 she sucked hard at game and instead of admitting she sucks at games, she blames game itself. That's why p2w was invented

The Wonderful 101 More Info

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  • First Released
    • Wii U
    The Wonderful 101 has players help a group of heroes fight off an invasion of enormous aliens to try and save Earth.
    8.1
    Average User RatingOut of 31 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate The Wonderful 101
    Developed by:
    PlatinumGames
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genres:
    Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes