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Review

The Wonderful 101 Review

  • First Released Sep 15, 2013
    released
  • Reviewed Aug 18, 2013
  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • View Comments (0)
    Back To Top
    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

    About the Author

    Hi! I'm Martin, for some reason or another I have managed to convince the people who run GameSpot that I am actually wor
    603 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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    Avatar image for mister_f15
    Mister_F15

    OK. I think I'm gonna buy this game. It sounds like fun and it's very different from what I mostly play. But I'm also gonna read some user reviews to be sure it's worth the buy.

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for 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...

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for csward
    csward

    Combat sounds a lot like Pikmin with superheros.

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for 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!

    Avatar image for Latiran
    Latiran

    Buying this tomorrow, this game looks amazing XD


    Avatar image for starcrafthenry
    starcrafthenry

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

    Avatar image for AtariKidX
    AtariKidX

    One more mediocre game for the WiiU.

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for StarkJJ
    StarkJJ

    @AtariKidX Its a great game. I've actually played the demo!

    Avatar image for komuchen
    komuchen

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

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for ivankuchercokov
    ivankuchercokov

    @The_Luxemboss i own a wii u but i dont like cartoons so im not getting it....btw im not foolish


    Avatar image for bimastrike871
    bimastrike871

    @The_Luxemboss sounds exciting, thanks for the feedback bro!

    Avatar image for Teufelhund84
    Teufelhund84

    @Robert Warnes How is it?

    Avatar image for rockgod44
    rockgod44

    LAME...

    Avatar image for pcty
    pcty

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

    maybe in the future....

    Avatar image for 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

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for Teufelhund84
    Teufelhund84

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

    Avatar image for bimastrike871
    bimastrike871

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

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for 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

    Avatar image for komuchen
    komuchen

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

    Avatar image for rushiosan
    rushiosan

    Saw that score coming...

    Avatar image for theblackfrog
    theblackfrog

    playing it atm, great game

    Avatar image for locknuts84
    locknuts84

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

    Avatar image for 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...

    Avatar image for blaze_boy30
    blaze_boy30

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

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for 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

    Avatar image for 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

    Avatar image for 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

    Avatar image for 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"

    Avatar image for The0darkstar
    The0darkstar

    @crocodileman94 well.. they just have to deal with it O.o

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for cantor2537
    cantor2537

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

    Avatar image for 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.

    Avatar image for Aizen06
    Aizen06

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

    Avatar image for tdawgg30
    tdawgg30

    @deathblow3 @GSJones1994

    Deathblow... Rule #1: Never underestimate Nintendo. Rule #2: The Wii U will have the same fate as the Nintendo 3DS-- making a comeback and deliver more games. Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101 are prime examples with more on the way next two seasons and 2014. Who cares if the Wii U doesn't have DVD? It's a video game system. If you want to watch movies on Wii U, subscribe to Netflix, Amazon, and/or Hulu Plus.

    Avatar image for deathblow3
    deathblow3

    @GSJones1994 @deathblow3 one word mr call people idiots virtualboy. its not selling now it will sell even less when the ps4 and x1 hit shelves. this thing will be the nintendo only game system, with a few games being made for it by 3rd parties. the dvd, no support now, weaker powered wii u, will be all alone as a last gen system that cant play no games made or the higher end stuff the 3d parties wil be making. it will have to be abandon, they were banking on next gen coming in 2 more years not the next holiday season. soon as you take an economics class you can come talk to me fanboy.

    Avatar image for GSJones1994
    GSJones1994

    @Psycho_truth Sony fanboy!

    Avatar image for padako
    padako

    good review. game looks pretty good but there are a lot of other upcoming titles to choose from so I think I will pass for now. I will probably still be busy with Splinter Cell and Rayman by the time Sept 15 rolls around. may pick it up if I get bored enough :)

    Thanks Martin.

    Avatar image for trollkind
    trollkind

    Love the frantic fun here. Well done on this exclusive. If I hadn't already bought a 3DS just to play Monster Hunter 3U I'd consider getting a Wii-U for this and MH3U. So it's an almost system seller for me. Too bad there are so few of them if you aren't into the whole Mario/Zelda angle. Bayonetta 2 is nice but I've got more than enough similar action fests on Sony's platforms.

    The Wonderful 101 More Info

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  • First Released Sep 15, 2013
    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
    Average Rating43 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Wonderful 101
    Developed by:
    PlatinumGames
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genre(s):
    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
    Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes