Just Dance 4 -- Downloading this game only reminded me of how much I enjoyed the second entry in the Just Dance series, which had a stronger and more diverse track listing (check out my YouTube video). The look and feel is largely the same with a speedier front end, tracks that feature up to four players as well as duets and new mash-ups which mix up dance moves from various songs for further challenge (not that this was necessary - even the "easy" song routines are tough!). In addition to playing individual tracks you can opt to play a workout routine and allow the software to select the songs for you based on how much you want to sweat - a nice "hands-off" improvement from earlier outings.
Despite improvements the fact that Ubisoft continues to crank Just Dance games out as standalone releases rather than just giving players a hub and simply making money off an expanding track list is a big disappointment. I was really hoping to get access to the entire back catalogue of dances given the Wii U has better network connectivity and external hard disk support (and the gameplay and graphics are pretty much the same since the original Just Dance), but apparently Ubisoft is strictly focused on selling shiny discs. There's some nice tracks and I like the dance mash-up, but unless you're a big fan I'd say skip this, pick up a used copy of the second game and wait for Ubisoft to do the right thing.
Game & Wario -- More than Nintendo Land this collection of mini-games shows off what the Gamepad brings to console gaming. All the games make interesting use of it as a virtual camera or motion controller, but the most popular game in my house has to be the drawing one which plays like a time-limited game of Pictionary without the need for pens or paper. Most of the games are single-player affairs, but even many of these have multiplayer play modes, so it's worth exploring them all thoroughly. The collectable "toys" you unlock as you play offer fun diversions like blowing virtual bubbles using the microphone on the Gamepad or flicking vegetables into a wok and watching them spin like tops.
It's whimsical, it's fun and it's as highly polished as you'd expect a Nintendo game to be: a must-have for all Wii U owners.
Pikmin 3 -- I skipped the GameCube era of gaming so I didn't play Pikmin until the New Play Control version appeared on the Wii. I found it to have an engaging storyline and I enjoyed the compartmentalised play which meant that someone who has limited playtime could finish the game by playing in bite-sized chunks without losing track of what was happening. By all accounts Pikmin 2 was a lesser title without a solid storyline and without the time limit of the first game, but it did include new Pikmin types and a two-player "battle mode."
Pikmin 3 seems to be a "best-of-both" offering: decent player motivation via story and characters, bite-sized gameplay, a limited duration (though without a fixed deadline) and fun additional multiplayer co-op and competitive modes.
The Wii U's improved graphics and horsepower are put to great use here: levels are more expansive and the game world is more lush and beautiful than previous entries. The story this time centres on different aliens from Captain Olimar of the previous games, but their quest for a new food supply is a compelling counterpart to Olimar's desire to see his family again from the first game. Story elements move the game along towards conclusion, whilst achieving the overarching mission of collecting fruit is what allows the players to extend the amount of time they have to play out the entire game.
Although a lot of the tedium of Pikmin management has been eased you will end up with more than one playable character and trickier areas to navigate so it's good that there's loads of fruit to collect to give you that extra time. Progressing the story and opening new areas to explore means boss fights against bigger enemies, which only featured at the end of the first game. Beating these bosses means having a good grasp of your Pikmin's abilities and it's this fact along with the juggling of up to three separate squads that means this game isn't for younger players or those who are easily frustrated.
I found it such a nice experience that I'm looking forward to playing it again, but I've been delayed by the "Missions," which Nintendo continues to build upon with additional paid content. Missions offer a nice bite-sized piece of Pikmin action with simple goals like collecting treasure, defeating monsters or battling bosses. The goal is to get the best score possible within a set time limit and all of them can be played with another player using split screen (not using the Gamepad screen for one player seems like a missed opportunity, but is likely a trade-off for allowing the use of the more-intuitive Remote and Nunchuk controls for all players). Nintendo have released a few add-on packs thus far for less than a fiver each, with a fourth coming out this week (1st week of December for people reading from the future). It's the best example of quality paid content I can think of given how much the game comes with already. The cherry on top is a two-player battle mode where you try to collect enough items to complete a row on your bingo card before your opponent does on theirs. For players who find the core game too challenging these extra modes are more accessible and provide a fun shared experience.
It's a lovely game and a great example of Nintendo software design at its best. If you're unsure about whether this game is for you, it should be possible to pick up a copy of New Play Control Pikmin for pretty cheap (I tracked down another copy for less than £20 after foolishly selling on my original one), but rest assured that it's not necessary to have played that game to enjoy this one. Another must-have from Nintendo!