The Wonderful 101 Review: United In Chaos

'The Wonderful 101' for Nintendo's Wii U is an exhilarating, intense and difficult action game whose main distinguishing feature is that it's almost always totally bewildering - though usually enjoyable - to play.

'The Wonderful 101' is a game that doesn't ask that you understand it, or even always enjoy it - it simply demands that you submit to the chaos.

In 'The Wonderful 101' you play one of the titular 'wonderful heroes' (of which there are 100, plus you) in a fight against evil through a series of progressively more detailed and complex linear levels. But whereas in other action games you'll fight alone, or at best in a team of a few hand-picked fighters, in 'The Wonderful 101' you're just part of the collective.

In a similar way to Pikmin, while you play as one of the core heroes you're really controlling a swarming mass of dozens of combatants. You gather citizens and heroes into your gang as you progress through each level, and by using a series of 'Unite Morph' powers - launched by drawing shapes on the screen - you combine those individuals into massive single attacks. Your heroes might form a fist, a gun or a sword, and you can use that to take down bigger enemies or evade projectiles. As you level up and buy new attacks, your range of tactics and enemies increases exponentially.

In practice this means that in any given level, things will be almost out of control -- almost immediately.

As hundreds of heroes, enemies, attacks and explosions clatter around the level in a blur of near-disastrous energy, and as buildings fall, robots attack and fires burn in the distance, you might even lose track of where you're attacking and how you're doing it. But this, really, is the point. Like the best arcade games, '101' requires submission into an almost unconscious state before you can fully appreciate how enjoyable the game really is.

Technically, the Wii U copes brilliantly and the graphics look bright, simple (but not simplistic) and dizzying fast. The main issue with the game is that it's actually surprisingly obtuse at times. IE It's not always obvious which strategies work or why, and even when you know what to do, actually managing to do it can be difficult with so much happening on screen.

But if action and arcade style titles are your thing, and you can cope with the manic nature of the core gameplay, it's a really solid and impressive original title. And one that - yet again - you wouldn't find on any other console.