Wonderful 101 may not seem like a hugely significant game to many outside the core gaming set. That it comes from Platinum games and is on the Wii U may be a headline for the gaming faithful but for families these things matter less.
However, in the families I've worked with it plugs a really important gap: that of PEGI 12 rated games. Scan the weekly game sales charts and it's quickly evident that there are fewer games in this category than other age groups.
As stated on the PEGI website a PEGI 12 game may "show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character" but not include "violence that looks the same as would be expected in real life". While PEGI 12 games can "show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature" they mustn't "reference drugs or tobacco". Walking this line is no easy matter for a realistic modern videogame.
Again, it's an important category though. As I talk to families about playing games together and getting them out of the bedrooms and into living rooms I'm often asked what alternatives there are for the older rated games.
Wonderful 101 is strong example of game getting this right for all the best reasons. Firstly it is gorgeous to look at and oozes the sort of attention to detail and little touches usually reserved for Pixar movies. In fact in many ways it resembles that style of visual storytelling, only here rather than a small bunch of heroes there are literally hundreds running round the screen.
You are placed in control of an angry mob and can control them via the touch screen on the Wii U controller. Particular motions then arrange them into different attacks -- a huge pink whip, a green gun used to launch your little people and a big hammer that cracks up concrete.
Within this mob are 101 "super" heroes from various different nations. Each has a different look and ability and needs to be used intelligently to proceed through the various city-scapes. It's all rather reminiscent of Japanese B Movies like Godzilla.
Platinum Games manages to create the kind of bedlum that pre-16 year old players may have been missing since the excellent Smash Brothers Brawl on the Wii - another great PEGI 12 game. That game seemed simple but turned out to have a tonne of depth, and Wonderful 101 seems similar.
The controls slowly grow in their diversity and must be combined in ever more brain twisting combinations. If you are looking for the video-game equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy this may well be it. Only you'll look much cooler doing it.
Some may complain that as the game develops it lacks refinement, but actually for younger children this really isn't an issue. They can happily spend hours figuring out and crafting new weapons in the alchemy system, and although some may find the opaqueness of this process frustrating it actually adds to the fascination for those with the time to fiddle and discover.
I'm looking forward to spending many more happy hours playing Wonderful 101, and will be keeping it on hand for when my kids are of the age where they need something more exuberant to play.Suggest a correction