Whenever anyone describes the Wii U Gamepad, it usually isn’t with positive adjectives. Clunky, heavy, unwieldy, battery hog, and stupid are a few words that pop-up in reviews. Instead of the innovative game changer that Nintendo had in the original Wii’s motion sensing Wii Remotes, they created a maligned add-on that arguably caused the console to fail for the first two years of its existence. Well now that a lot more people are beginning to purchase the Wii U thanks to the likes of Smash Bros. Wii U and Mario Kart 8, it’s time everyone learns about potentially the best use of the Gamepad to date. In one of the handful of mostly forgettable mini-games of the Wii U’s Game & Wario is one game in particular that shows off exactly the type of interaction and use the Gamepad should see more of, if it’s not already too late to save it.
For the millions of Wii U owners that understandably skipped over Game & Wario after purchasing a Wii U to play Smash Bros., the game comes from a line WarioWare games that featured fun, innovative, and most importantly short games that had to be all played in a time limit. Game & Wario then threw that successful formula out the window and instead created 16 generic, tedious, and often times not even remotely fun games that forced Gamepad interaction to a detestable degree. I could spend a whole other article talking about just how much of a disappointment Game & Wario is, but we’re here to talk about one of its mini-games in particular – “Gamer”.
Right off the bat you might recognize “Gamer” as Wario’s themed level in Smash Bros. Wii U. Throughout the fight when on this level, mother will peak in and shed light on certain areas of the map, which if you happen to be standing in, will deal massive amounts of damage to you and likely launch you off screen. While visually creepy enough and interesting to play, the map probably doesn’t make much sense without trudging through Game & Wario., but it might just be worth it to do so.
The basic gist of “Gamer” is that you are a kid with a tablet playing games way past your bedtime, and you must dodge the piercing eyes of your tricky mother as she randomly wanders into your room to check on you. Get caught with your tablet out, and it’s straight to game over. Essentially all you are doing is playing an older WarioGame on your tablet (or Gamepad), with its fun and short mini-games, and attempting to complete as many of them as possible before mom catches you. Should you notice mom creeping up on you in the window, hear the floor creak before she opens the door, or see the TV flicker before she pops of it (as all moms do), you can press RT+LT and hide. This reduces a meter at the top of the screen that, once it runs out, you’re out of luck if she pops up again. So it becomes a game of chicken as you play as long as possible before ducking under the sheets every time she is about to pop out. This is made more difficult a number of distractions meant to make you drain your hiding meter – including a cat that opens the door, an innocent baseball game appear on TV, or a creepy bald guy in a wig that pops in your window.
Especially at higher levels, it becomes an extremely intense time management simulator similar to the more recent PC and mobile game, Five Nights at Freddy’s. Instead of being stuffed into a death suit by an animatronic bear, you are dodging the terrors of bedtime, but it is the same general principle and feeling of dread throughout the whole thing. Unlike Five Nights at Freddy’s, “Gamer” uses a situation we all know as a fear motivator in staying up past our bedtimes to play video games. To anyone who has been up into the wee hours of the morning playing their Game Boy under the covers, it is an all too common feeling to duck and pretend to sleep when you hear footsteps at your bedroom door.
“Gamer” is one of the few instances where using the Wii U gamepad actually feels natural, and as if the game was built around it, instead of the device’s functionality being crammed in to appease some higher-up executive who wants it. Aside from the obvious level of immersion with the fact that your character on screen and you both are using a Gamepad-like device, it is using the Gamepad in such a unique way instead of just flinging ninja stars aimed at your TV or aiming the thing in random directions to fire a bow. It truly forces you to pay attention to two things at once, as you are playing WareWare on the Gamepad, and keeping an eye on your actual TV for mom to pop up.
Having you play a different game entirely on the second screen, while also interacting with the main TV, is at its heart what the Gamepad should be about. Not just a dinky little add-on to a game that doesn’t need, but an integral part in the experience of a game. If the only aspect of the Gamepad your Wii U game uses is blowing into it or touching something here and there (looking at you Super Mario 3D World), then it probably wasn’t worth forcing gamers to use the device in the first place.
As I said earlier, it may just be too late to even bother saving the Gamepad as a legitimate way to play games; its reputation is too far ruined, its time to shine in the past. Nintendo, like Xbox and their Kinect peripheral, seem to be slowly backing away from the Gamepad as a way to interact with their console. Sure, it’ll get some kind of functionality with the touchscreen here and there, but full games being built around it are going to be around less and less.
I’m certainly not advocating buying a generally bad game to play one above average mini-game, but if this is the height of Gamepad’s functionality it might eventually be worth it to pick up Game & Wario in a major discount bin just to see what could have been.