The Wonderful 101 Review

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

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.
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.

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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

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