One of the very best bits about Christmas in the Sticky Fingers house is during the evening when the Wii comes out.
Grandma has a dance off with Mia on Just Dance, granddad gets all competitive on bowling and Santa always brings us a new family game for us all to try out.
Which for me as a parent, is why the Wii has always been a hit: It’s a sociable games console. It includes family rather than excludes.
This year we have a new kid on the block. This year we have a Wii U for the whole family to get busy with.
We were sent the console to test out by Netmums who wanted me to let my two kids loose on it to do their own Wii U review.
My kids are 11 and 8 now, so will they happily accept this new console into the fold or will they be weary of all the gadgetry?
Setting it all up didn’t get the Wii U off to a good start. Sure it’s super easy to set up on the TV and if you already have a Wii you can use the motion bar you already have along with the controllers and all your existing games. Which is a BIG bonus given how much we’ve spent on them all.
But the software updates seemed to take an age leading to much tutting and eye rolling from two children eager to just get on and have a go! My advice would be that if you’re buying it for Christmas or as a present, set it all up and update before you ever let an impatient child near it!
So what’s it all about? What makes it so different from the Wii?
Basically the focus is now on a new Wii U gamepad, a large tablet-style wireless touchscreen that is your link to the onscreen game.
The display works in tandem with what is being shown on the TV screen or can be used independently from the TV – ideal if they’re in the middle of a game but Doctor Who is starting on the telly and you need to kick them off *cough* as it means they can go on playing as long as they’re not too far away from the console. And by playing, I mean you get the full TV experience, but on the game pad.
The pad is really versatile – with a range of buttons to control it, you can also use touchscreen technology and tilt and turn it too to control your game with even greater precision, which the kids really loved.
The console bundle contains just one control pad, but other players can use the Wii remotes to join in. Obviously you have to buy these as they aren’t included, or you can use the ones you have with your existing Wii if you have one.
I also like that you can also utilise your existing motion bar if you already have a Wii set up – just plug it into the console you want to use it with.
We were sent New Super Mario Bros to play on the set and the graphics are phenomenal. Plus, hello, it’s Mario; my two played happily on it together for ages without so much as an argument. That right there gets a big score from me!
What we liked
- The graphics are fabulous, upgrading to HD for games such as New Super Mario Bros (yes, they’re still addicted to it) and Nintendo Land.
- We were sent the Premium Pack, which meant a black console and game pad which we thought looked much classier and ‘cool’ for older kids. It also means you can 32GB of storage and Nintendo Land thrown in – a collection a smaller, multi-player games aimed at showing off the capabilities of the control pad. Easy and fun to dip in and play – no matter what your age. And PERFECT for Christmas entertainment. Watch out for the pad’s camera causing shrieks of delight!
- Wii Party. Such a simple concept but so SO addictive and lots of fun, which is exactly what you want when you’re all in the living room wanting to play something together. It’s basically a board game but on the Wii U. And we’re big big fans of board games in this house.
- Really easy to slot in and set up – especially if you already have a Wii. My 10 year old set ours up on his own. Plus all your existing Wii games work on there too which is a big bonus.
- The game pad. It’s so cool. We’ve been playing with it for a week and are still finding new ways to use it.
What we didn’t like
- Setting up took aaaages.
- We were given £15 to spend on the Nintendo store, which works pretty much like the Xbox store in that you visit the e store, pick a game you want, input a code and the game downloads onto your console. It’s really easy and intuitive to use. Downloads can also take a while: Dan downloaded a game demo which took “forever” for a child with little or no patience. And my two struggled to find something they liked for £15 – the games they coveted were all really expensive (around the £45 mark) and there really wasn’t a huge choice. I don’t know if that was because of their age or because they felt they had enough ‘little’ games on Nintendo Land.
- It’s a minor thing, but the pad is wireless so has to be recharged regularly. Not a big issue IF the children would plug it in when they’d finished with it . . .
Is the Wii U for you?
In the wake of the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 launches, I’d say the Wii U is the family console of the bunch. It’s the piece of hardware you want in your house if you want mum, dad, grandma, uncle Les and your 5 year old niece to all have the opportunity to budge you up on the sofa and have a go.
You can also join in the Miiverse – a forum style area where you can chat about games (each title has its own little community) and talk to friends etc, make friends, even send handwritten messages or pictures through your pad using the stylus.
It’s essentially Nintendo’s own little social network. My 10 year old loves to chat while he’s in the midst of Minecraft to his friend who lives six miles away, so it’s a nice addition to the console. And the best thing is, there’s no sign up fees and Nintendo has managed to ensure that it’s safe for children – it isn’t possible to post anything offensive.
If you need it, there is also the ability to watch Netflix through your Wii U.
The Premium Pack costs around £250.