If you're getting a WiiU, the first game you'll probably fire up is NintendoLand. Much like its predecessor Wii Sports, NintendoLand is the free game that is bundled the WiiU, Nintendo's late entry into the HD console marketplace. A collection of 12 mini-games, NintendoLand features a theme park shell to give some context to the smattering of activities Nintendo wants to use to introduce you to its newest family member.
The theme park concept is not a terrible idea. There are much worse ways to frame mini-games, I suppose, and you can run around the park with your Miis and unlock little prizes here and there. There's a little Master of Ceremonies named Monita who is your guide through the park and instructs you on how to play all of the games. She's cute. I especially like her little bow tie. That makes me think of an important point: NintendoLand looks great. The HD does wonders for the trademark Nintendo graphics.
NintendoLand offers a good mix of solo "attractions" and group activities, all utilizing the WiiU's new touchpad controller. The attractions are your standard mini-game fare: chase things, chase other people, eat fruit, mimic movement, etc. For the group activities, you'll need extra WiiMotes, as only the one true king can play with the touchpad. For those of you who prefer to be alone with your toys, the single-player games are a great way to get yourself acquainted with the system, and to learn its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, many of the solo activities require you to sometimes look at the touchpad, and at other times, look at the TV. The constant look up/look down routine might get old real quick for some, but the game does a good job of letting you know what to do and when to do it. If you don't like it, it won't be because you don't know what you're supposed to be doing.
The entire game might be a theme park, but it is called NintendoLand for a reason. Many of your favorite characters like Mario, Luigi, and Zelda make appearances, and it's a fun way to dress up otherwise drab fare. Nostalgia will kick in when you see your little Mii dressed up as Mario, but NintendoLand feels like the Nintendo mini-games we've seen before. Are they fun? Sure, but they were also fun five years ago. More of the same is not necessarily a bad thing, though and some people will find replayability in some of the activities that offer multiple missions.
NintendoLand is a fine introduction to the console, and if played for a decent amount of time, it will familiarize you with the controls enough to let you dive right in to the other launch offerings; however, it doesn't quite make the WiiU shine like Wii Sports did for the original Wii. Maybe it's because it feels like deja vu all over again. More mini-games? Ok. I feel like there needed to be a different hook this time, and NintendoLand does not deliver on that front, but hey, at least it's in HD.