As a dad who likes gaming, there’s a thought that has been on my mind since my Jenny and Eve were born. When will they be old enough to play video games?
Don’t judge me! I’ve always played games and loved them. I just couldn’t wait for the day when I could play my favourite games against my kids (and maybe even let them win).
I remember my son, Jack, reaching an age whereby he could handle the Wii controller himself. We completed Zack and Wiki over a couple of months together. It was golden bonding time. (Note – we also read together, painted, built things, swam, went out for walks etc. But we played video games too. What you’d call a well rounded childhood!)
And now Jenny and Eve are showing a lot of interest in playing games. As a dad, this is awesome news. It opens up a whole new world of fun and more people to play games against.
My view is that Nintendo have clearly established themselves as the best at making games for my daughter’s age. They are the home of Mario, Link (Zelda), Kirby, and the previously mentioned Zack and Wiki. No other console can claim such wonderful characters for younger players. With that in mind, I wanted to test the Wii U and see how my youngsters handled it. Luckily, Nintendo agreed to let me do exactly that! They sent me the Nintendo Wii U 32GB Premium Pack with Mario Kart 8.
The Wii U – Unpacking & Setting Up
If you’ve had a Wii then a lot of the stuff you see when you open up the Wii U will be familiar. The sensor bar, for example, is the same. What’s wonderful is that the Wii U connects via HDMI.
The big surprise is the console (sleek, smooth and classy) and the stunning controller. They look amazing. The controller is more like a tablet with joysticks and an in-built camera. The Wii ‘s wireless controller reinvented video gaming in the home. The Wii U’s controller does it again.
Setting up the Wii U is a breeze. Basically, plug in the HDMI, power and sensor bar and that’s it. The big controller has it’s own power supply. Then turn your TV to the HDMI channel and you’re into the set-up process. It walks you through everything you need to do to get your Wii U working.
There were a couple of updates to carry out, but they took around 6 minutes and once they’re done, you don’t need to re-do it. The console’s set-up involved connecting to your wifi and setting up a ‘Mii’. You’re then led to the main menu from which you can access the different channels. This console came with Youtube and Lovefilm preinstalled, along with Mario Kart 8 – all ready to go.
The great thing about the Wii U is that it’s backward-compatible. What that means is that, if you previously owned a Wii, it’ll use your old controllers and you can play your old Wii games on it too. That was great news for us as we had four wii controllers and nunchuks which now had a new lease of life!
I started up Mario Kart 8. It required a little update, which didn’t take too long. (I’d anticipated a couple of updates, so I waited until the little ones were in bed before I set the Wii U up. I didn’t want them waiting around when they’d be really keen to start playing games.)
The controls are incredible intuitive. So much so that, having never played a game on a Wii U before, I won my first four races on Mario Kart 8! The game itself was beautiful – bright, colourful and slick. What also impressed me is that when my Mrs wanted to turn the TV over to watch Masterchef, I could continue to play the game using the screen on the controller. MIND. BLOWN.
The true test, though, is what the girls thought of it.
Jenny will be five in July, Eve will be four. They’ve played games like Dora the Explorer and Peppa Pig on the old Wii but the Wii U controller is clearly more sophisticated so I was curious to see how they would get on.
We tried out was the aforementioned Mario Kart 8. It’s the single most colourful game that’s ever been on my TV.
Both girls thought the controller was amazing. Neither of them had a problem holding it while operating the buttons on either side. Equally, they managed fine when using the old Wii controllers with a nunchuk for steering.
On Eve’s first go, she repeatedly steered the car into the side of the track. By her second go, however, she was racing down the middle of the road no bother. She’s only 3 and a half, so I don’t imagine kids having difficulties with this at all. They loved the different characters and formed allegancies pretty quickly. Eve loved regular Mario whereas Jenny loved to race as Metal Mario.
We also had Super Mario Maker to check out. Now, everyone knows what Super Mario is. You play the world’s most famous plumber in a side-scrolling adventure while collecting coins and avoiding near constant turtle and mushroom threats. What this software does – apart from let you play the game – is give you the power to design your own levels. Not only can you design them, but then you can play them, share them, and play levels that other people have designed. It’s genius.
The girls loved it. It’s such an easy game to learn how to play. The controls aren’t complex. The kids recognised the characters from MarioKart8. That’s part of the power of Nintendo. They have a strong set of game characters and they invest in them across several high quality games.
As a parent, I don’t worry when the girls play a Nintendo game. I know that a great deal of care and years of development has been put into these characters. I know that if the kids wants to play a Mario game, or a Yoshi, Kirby or Lego game, they’re not going to encounter anything violent or unpleasant. It’s simple fun, which is what games should be all about.
Even their shooter games are violence free. The third game we were sent, Splatoon, has all the technical workings of a 3rd person shooter, but it’s paintball. No blood, no bullets. And you can turn into a squid. It was a little too advanced for the girls but that’s not a criticism. See, the Wii U games all come with an age rating on the front. Splatoon is age 7+.
I’m an old hand at video games. I had a Philips console with pong before my Commodore 64. I spent a good deal of the 80s loading games from cassettes and waggling my Quickshot 2. I bought a Wii ten years ago and still use it today.
The Wii U has, nevertheless, blown me away. You can probably tell already how impressed I was with the ground-breaking kid-friendly controller. The range of games totally suits Jenny and Eve’s age group. The user interface made for a straightforward and pleasant gaming experience. Plus, there’s access to the top video-on-demand services, Youtube and the Nintendo store where you can access all the latest games. The HDMI connection means you get crisp, clear graphics and this pack comes with loads of accessories and stands so it will fit in your living room set-up with ease.
I can’t praise this system enough. If you are looking for the perfect gaming system for your youngsters to play video games, I will be pointing you in the direction of the Wii U.