Review: The Wonderful 101

The Wonderful 101 is not an understated game. Therefore it was quite the juxtapose when Nintendo bashfully announced the Wii U exclusive team-up with Platinum Games, opting to reveal the project during a post-conference press interview at E3 2012, just minutes after it had a much larger audience of gamers hungry for this; the sort of game only Hideki Kamiya's team can provide. Thankfully, The Wonderful 101 does a much better job of shouting its own merits off, offering perhaps the most colourfully bombastic action title of the year.

It will be fashionable to draw comparisons between The Wonderful 101 and Nintendo's other recent Wii U treat Pikmin 3, if only due to the fact that both games involve dozens of on-screen characters, but ultimately that's where the similarities end. 'Leisurely strategy' would best describe Nintendo's sequel, whilst The Wonderful 101 is a straight-up action game, much in the same vein as Hideki Kamiya's previous comic-inspired triumph Viewtiful Joe. You mostly take control of Will Wedgewood – a school teacher in the midst of a hostile worldwide invasion by the evil GEATHJERK army. Conveniently, our man Wedgewood moonlights as Wonder Red – just one of the Wonderful 100 members of the CENTINELS Planetary Secret Service – thus the journey to save the world from the evil aliens is sprung into life.


The Wonderful 101 plays out like a 3D beat 'em up with an isometric viewpoint of the vast, sprawling levels. The camera is by default zoomed out fairly far, such is the grand-scale nature of the action, but it also serves to emphasise the action figure-like aesthetic of the characters. Almost certainly intentionally, this is a game that looks to be heavily influenced by memories of childhood action heroes. As you control Wonder Red – or whoever you have as your current team leader – you can move and jump, and practising swift mobility in this explosive world is key to surviving. But one man alone cannot hope to fend off an alien invasion, so your real powers come from your team of heroes, who are integral to fighting your enemies. It's nothing like Pikmin, honest.

You see, whereas Pikmin are useful versatile tools individually, your team of heroes are much more like an extension of your team leader. Your basic attack move 'jabs' your group of heroes towards enemies, and you can also obtain a blocking move which huddles everyone together to form a nice projective jelly blob. Yet your real power – and indeed the main gameplay hook of The Wonderful 101 – comes in the form of the Unite Morph ability.

The-Wonderful-101-2Unite Morph has two separate aspects, one for combat, and one for interacting with the world. As you progress through the game, you will come across more main characters of the Wonderful 100 squad, whose unique abilities essentially provide you with new weapons. Anyone who has played the demo will know that you can morph into a giant sword with Wonder Blue, and a deadly gun with Wonder Green. There are many more powers that will add new flavours to your combat strategies, like the whip of Wonder Pink, and the hammer of Wonder Yellow. What's more, as your squad of heroes builds, you can rack up the number of different attacks you can pull off at the same time. It lends for some truly awesome combos, as you bring great justice on a foe with Wonder Blue's sword, before instantly beating them into submission with a Wonder Red punch and then blowing them away with Wonder Green's gun.

The other aspect of Unite Morph lets you both progress throughout the various obstacles of each level, and recruit more heroes into your squad. You will often come across groups of civilians shouting for help, and you can bring them into your team – essentially turning them into temporary superheroes – by 'drawing' a circle around them. In fact, pretty much any human NPC you come across in a level can be recruited in this way to bolster your squad. Be sure to recruit everyone you can because there are plenty of hidden Wonderful 100 heroes scattered throughout the world. You will also need your team to morph into ladders, ropes, hand-gliders, and even makeshift elevators in order to traverse the ever-collapsing levels, so let it not be said that teamwork isn't a running theme here.

Every Unite Morph move, be it in combat or outside it, is pulled off by 'drawing' your heroes in a specific shape, so your skills at the game will improve as you get better at drawing all the many morphs that you'll need. It starts fairly simply: to use Red's Wonder Punch, you draw a circle, and for Blue's Wonder Sword, you need a straight line, but your move list does build up. Luckily, the game is fairly generous at recognising what shape you're trying to draw, and will flash a certain colour once you've drawn it to indicate that you can hit A to complete the morph. Thankfully, the game does slow to a crawl once you're in the process of drawing, so you can always pull out the big combos even in the heat of battle. You can draw either on the touchscreen of the GamePad, or using the right analog stick. Truth be told, it feels generally better to use the analog stick as it cuts out any break in your rhythm; either to take your hands away from their natural position or to look down at the touchscreen. Bearing that in mind, the game can be played with the Wii U Pro Controller or a Classic Controller if you so desire.

the-wonderful-101-3Once you've mastered all the nuances of your combat abilities, very little else about The Wonderful 101 can match the pure satisfaction of the gameplay, but the game's overall presentation certainly gives it a run for its money. The game screams colour from top to bottom – something we so need to see more of from our action genre. Everything moves with buttery fluidity which is quite astonishing given the sheer scale of the action right from the get go. This is a game that has you fight a kilometre-long serpentine robot boss within the first couple of hours and pretty much moves onwards from there. Boss fights are their own stages in themselves, as you pull out all the moves you've acquired to methodically dismantle them. Quick-time events serve to supplement the cut-scenes, rather than stand in as a substitute for gameplay. It all moves at a breakneck pace and offers a sharp reminder that this whole video game malarkey is primarily about fun.

The writing in particular is in deserve of praise – everything from the way the opening credits are presented onwards should be a cool remedy to anyone looking for sharp, slightly edgy storytelling style that Kamiya really made his name with on Viewtiful Joe. The general narrative and the dialogue clearly chimes with that Saturday morning cartoon feel, if remembered in a slightly adolescent way. Even with its bright palette and the diminutive characters, The Wonderful 101 can definitely be described as colourful in a Kamiyan, rather than a kiddy way. Scenes like the slightly, erm, inappropriate introduction of femme fatale Wonder Pink may belie the youngster-friendly feel of the rest of the game.

The game offers up a local multiplayer mode where you can take on missions co-operatively if you're armed with up to four friends and Pro Controllers, but even if you're flying solo, The Wonderful 101 has a trove of content to keep you coming back. Several difficulty modes and a desire to get the platinum trophies on every level should keep you coming back to the main campaign, but there are also plenty of hidden goodies dotted around every level too. You can track down every member of the Wonderful 100 as they're scattered about waiting to be recruited, but also keep your eye out for hidden files and figurines. Furthermore, there are cool bottle-caps to collect by completing achievements and milestones. It's clear that replayability was looming large in the mind of the development team, even with the decent-sized campaign.

The Wonderful 101 was clearly designed to be a loving homage to both the no-frills action games Hideki Kamiya binged on years back, and the sort of hero-action franchises he would have grown up with, and it is an almighty triumph in both regards. More importantly, it is a success in the art of great game design, offering deep, addictive action that Platinum Games does better perhaps than anyone else right now. If you are someone who has ever loved games for the sheer fun that only this medium can provide, you need to accept The Wonderful 101 as a must-buy.

N-Europe Final Verdict

The Wonderful 101 takes its place instantly as one of the best Wii U games to date. It is through-and-through a Platinum Games title, offering deep, addictive, and colourful action with a wry smile. A mighty triumph.

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability5
  • Visuals4
  • Audio5
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



A deep, rewarding combat system
Genuinely impressive sense of scale
Wonderfully fun style and humour


No online multiplayer
Some cut-scenes go on a bit

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