Hands-On Preview: Project P-100
When I first saw Project P-100 I immediately noticed the similarities with another upcoming Wii U title: Pikmin 3. I also wondered if the comparison was the reason behind the fact that Project P-100 wasn’t showcased during Nintendo’s press conference at E3, a decision that I found almost absurd considering how interesting the game looks.
That’s one of the reasons why I was very excited to put my greedy hands on the game itself, and when I finally did, it didn’t disappoint.
While the comparison with Pimkin 3 is rather easy to draw, Project P-100 definitely seems to have the potential to stand on its own legs, and possibly even surpass Myamoto’s latest labor, thanks to a lovely art direction and some really interesting features that seem to exploit the design of the Wii-U controller even better.
The art style perfectly matches the theme, portraying a cartoonish superhero squad that rallies to fight a terrible alien threat that threatens to annihilate our Earth. The crisp and defined visuals are a great showcase for Nintendo’s foray into HD graphics, creating a colorful world that will probably charm the fans of superhero comic books. Of course the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, especially when some of those superheroes recycle a toilet into a mask, but that’s the nature of the beast.
While the demo I was allowed to play was a tad limited, it easily gave me a good glimpse on the graphical capabilities of the Wii U. Not only animations were snappy and fluid, but framerate was steady even during the most chaotic moments, and Project P-100 is a game that makes of chaos one of its main features.
During one of the levels a giant robot proceeds to wreak havoc on a city, and our superhero team has to run through the shattering streets to reach safety. When that happens the whole screen is set in motion. There isn’t even a single stationary object in sight, and you don’t accomplish that with an underpowered machine.
Chaos and havoc are possibly one of the main differences with Pikmin 3. While Miyamoto’s game is almost soothing in its peaceful portrayal of a small and natural world, Project P-100 is all over the place, in a good way.
While most superhero games put you in control of a single hero, in Project P-100 you give orders to the whole team at the same time. You can even enlarge it by recruiting civilians, policemen and soldiers. You encircle them by drawing a circle on the touch screen of the controller, give them a cool (or hilarious) mask, and your new super friends are instantly created.
The touch screen is also a key element to control your faithful super followers. By hitting enemies you fill your energy bars, that can be spent into devastating team attacks. If you draw a straight line on the screen your team will arrange into a sword. A circle will create a mighty fist, while a L shape will arm you with a gigantic superhuman gun. By alternating those team attacks with normal attacks (and the two defense modes: a giant pudding that can bounce attacks off and a spring-like dodge) you can micromanage your team tactically in order to overcome every obstacle on your path.
The LCD display on the controller isn’t just used as a touchpad to control your team. While most of the action is played outdoors, there are moments in which you’ll have to enter a building. When that happens the main screen shows the exterior of the building, while the interior will be shown on the controller. Moving the gamepad around will also control the camera.
The demo also featured a section that somehow reminded me of Shadow of the Colossus, with our team prompted to fight on top of a fully moving and enormous alien titan, smashing sensitive parts and using contextual touch-screen controls to move around between the arms. It was actually quite challenging, and explaining those controls without telegraphing them too much (turning them into a gimmick) may be one of the challenges that Platinum Games will have to face. There was at least one moment in which I found myself at a loss on what to do, with just a few seconds to act before being annihilated. Needless to say, I got squished and, looking at how some colleagues performed, I wasn’t the only one.
Ultimately Project P-100 has come out of the shadows of a missed E3 press conference showing to instantly become one of my most anticipated games on the Wii U (if not the most anticipated). It’s inspired, creative, it looks great and it’s a whole lot of fun.
The demo I played definitely left me wanting more. Hopefully Platinum Games will be able to deliver the goods. For now they seem to be on the right track.