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Rabbids Land preview: What Wii U is all about

Consider this thought for a moment: Couch co-op is not really a priority on the Xbox and the PlayStation. Oh, Microsoft has been pushing Dance...


Consider this thought for a moment: Couch co-op is not really a priority on the Xbox and the PlayStation. Oh, Microsoft has been pushing Dance Central, and Rock Band was a thing a few years back, but those are relatively isolated cases. Nintendo, however, values its relative monopoly on living room multiplayer, and their priorities are more evident than ever on the Wii U.

Just look at the system's controller--ostensibly the system's main selling point. Though it has plenty of other functions, the point of the Wii U's touchscreen is to introduce a new dynamic to party games and the like, which thrive on local multiplayer. Nintendo's bread and butter continues to be kids and families, and with their new controller, they appear to be hoping their unique brand of multiplayer will differentiate themselves from the Kinects and the iPads that have invaded living rooms around the world. All of which adds an interesting dynamic to Rabbids Land--the latest in Ubisoft's vulgar (but amusing) party series.

Over the past few years, Ubisoft has enjoyed a close relationship with Nintendo, thanks in large part to their early support of the Wii back in 2006. They, of all companies, seem to have the best understanding of what Nintendo is actually shooting for with the Wii consoles. ZombieU and Rayman Legends have a chance to be deeper, more interesting games, but in the end, it's Rabbids Land that cuts to the heart of what the Wii U is really all about.

At this point, of course, straight-up party games are more likely than not to inspire eye rolling on the part of core gamers. But Rabbids Land doesn't deserve to be completely dismissed out of hand. In its brief but entertaining minigames, you can see a glimpse of the same philosophy that drives Nintendo's own NintendoLand--cooperative and competitive minigames that have players interacting with different elements of the game on the same screen.

Of the games shown by Ubisoft, the one that inspired the most excitement and communication was a cooperative game where the objective is to match two symbols by lifting up the skirts of various Rabbids. It's silly, dirty, and completely in keeping with Rabbids. And meanwhile, we're frantically calling out symbols (pepper! fire!) as we try to reach the allotted amount of points before time runs out.

The other two games are somewhat more traditional. The first has the player with the Wii U controller frantically gathering diamonds while the player wielding the Wii Remote gives chase with a boulder. The other utilizes the Wii U controller's gyroscope to maneuver a roller coaster of sorts while the Wii Remote user drops fire and other hazards.

Playing Rabbids Land leaves one with the impression that, for all their protestations of aiming for the core market, Nintendo and Ubisoft know what works on the Wii U. The games on offer are simple and to the point, but all three make creative use of the Wii Remote and Wii U controller dynamic. And the package as a whole is a strong option for those who want to break out the Wii U at a party or another event.

No doubt the game won't appeal to everyone, but there is merit in Nintendo and Ubisoft targeting a certain under-served segment of the gaming population with the Wii U. Identifying a niche and aggressively exploiting it is just the sort of thing that will keep the Wii U afloat amid an increasingly competitive market. In that, the Rabbids Lands of the world will be every bit as important as the Mass Effects and Batmans in sustaining Nintendo's run of success into the next generation.

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