Sadly, the first minutes with my Wii U were one epic user experience flaw: Instead of jumping into the new console experience I had to download a huge day-one patch after booting, which took nearly 40 minutes. But after that painful process of waiting the typical lounge and zen music starts and you are back in the family-friendly Nintendo universe.
The Wii U gamepad works better than I remembered (I played a few Wii U games at gamescom Cologne this summer). It is fairly light and the touchscreen works quite well – although it’s still less reliable than current gen smartphones or tablets with capacitive touchscreen technology. And compared to more traditional game controllers the Wii U gamepad is huge. I have really large hands, but it still feels a bit odd. I think I will get used to it the more I play. Personally, I had some problems with the position of the right-sided buttons. In contrast to the XBox360 an PS3 pads, the buttons are beneath the right analogue stick and – even worse – the button for canceling menu options or actions (B) is on the exact same position of the button to confirm actions on the other consoles (XBox360: A, PS3: X). I bet this is also a thing I have to get used to, but at the moment I often confuse the buttons and pick the wrong one. The Pro Controller looks pretty much like a XBox360 pad but shares the same button layout on the right side as the Wii U gamepad. I prefer using the Pro Controller over the Wii Remote & Nunchuck combination if possible (sadly, not every game supports the Pro Controller).
Enter Nintendoland. It’s a collection of minigames themed with different Nintendo classics like Metroid, Pikmin, Mario etc. It’s cute but the forced tutorials with the ugly robot avatar really killed my experience at the beginning. Instead of exploring Nintendoland by yourself, the robot guides you in every little step you make – there is even a tutorial you have to pass to get to the game’s settings. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed playing through the Metroid-themed minigame, but the Nintendoland really shines in Luigi’s mansion, the Harvest Moon and the Catch-Mario games. All three games are a great example for asymmetric gameplay, in which one player takes a special role (e.g. the ghost) using the new Wii U gamepad and competes against the other players (e.g. the ghost hunters) with oldschool Wii Remotes.
A pretty similar approach can be found in ZombiU – one of the few exclusive core games for the Wii U. In its multiplayer you can choose between the zombie king and a survivor. The survivor has to kill zombies with the Pro Controller (or Wii Remote & Nunchuck) in FPS-style, while the zombie king drops zombies on the map using the Wii U gamepad. The zombie king mode looks a bit like a RTS-game and I had a lot of fun dropping zombies all around my colleagues playing with me the local multiplayer. The singleplayer uses the Wii U gamepad to scan, use items or pick-up stuff. Although I like the usage in most cases, it sometimes feels a bit too forced compared to the great multiplayer.
The third game I got is New Super Mario Bros. U, which is a great Mario game but makes only little use of the new Wii U pad. I am really curious to see how other upcoming games will use the new Wii U gamepad – in my opinion, the asymmetric local multiplayer is the way to go and the only chance to compete against Microsoft and Sony for now.
My recommendation: Wait and see. There are only a few games, which make great use of the new gamepad and two new consoles are around the corner. Nintendo and the 3rd party developers have to deliver more exclusive games to make this console a must-buy for gamers.