The best and worst uses of the Wii U GamePad so far

We’ve been toying around with Nintendo’s Wii U console for the past couple of weeks, and have had some pretty awesome experiences with the GamePad tablet. While we’re still getting used to its size (we were, after all, used to 360 controllers and PS3 DualShocks), we’ve found a few awesome uses of the device that we’d like to see more of going forward–as well as a few that we’d like to see stopped in their tracks.

More… Games that can be played exclusively on the GamePad

The ability to play a game on the GamePad alone is a tremendous benefit to the Wii U, especially in households with a single TV. Now there’s an easy compromise when your significant other starts complaining about wanting to watch TV while you’re gaming: You can play New Super Mario Bros. U on the GamePad while your partner watches that weird show about real American families whose words are only discernible via subtitles.

Less… Camera control via the GamePad’s motion sensors

Having to move the GamePad around to control a game’s camera is plain not fun.Nintendo Land had a few frustrating qualms with this, as does Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, as each of these requires you to rip your eyes from the TV screen, hold up the GamePad, and maneuver it around like some sort of telescope. It’s super annoying and rarely enjoyable–let’s leave the camera controls to the analog sticks, shall we?

More… HUD elements transferred to the GamePad

We’re used to seeing ammo counters and on-screen notifications when playing shooters or RPGs. Perhaps the Wii U’s GamePad could lead us toward a future where games are unencumbered by this information by shifting it to the GamePad (when it wouldn’t be too distracting to do so). It’d be pretty rad to play Mass Effect or Call of Duty without ammunition counters or distracting minimaps (single-player only, obviously) to muck up the glorious HD picture on the TV.

Less… Frequent intrusions that force you to look at the GamePad

Of course, the dangers of moving information to the GamePad’s display is that sometimes you’ll be forced to move your eyes between two different screens. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if not for the fact that some games, such as Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition often paste a big ‘ol message on your TV that demands you divert attention to the GamePad. We don’t mind glancing down to check maps or inventory, but forcing us to do so can get annoying pretty fast.

More… Quick-touch inventory management on the GamePad

This is extremely valuable in games where loot is abundant, such as Darksiders II Wii U. Quickly swiping through an inventory list and equipping an item with a tap is faster than scrolling through said inventory with a controller. This would be an especially useful and easy-to-implement feature in the next Zelda game.

Less… Intrusive touch functionality

Having the option to swap equipment or navigate inventory using the GamePad’s touch screen will allow for a much quicker experience that’ll siphon less time from the action on-screen. But if that functionality is unintentionally cumbersome, it’ll leave players with a sour attitude toward the concept. This is especially true in Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition where assigning gadgets to a quick-access button is done via finger swipes. It’s far more cumbersome and requires an annoying degree of precision. Quick taps should suffice.

More… Inventive uses of the GamePad in multiplayer

Know what’s pretty awesome? Multiplayer games that support five players. Know what’s even better? When the player with the GamePad has a wholly unique role that adds something new to a game. Nintendo Land’s Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day attractions are brilliant examples of the unique gameplay that can only be achieved when one player has access to a screen that no one else can see. What’s more, games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the Wii U allow two players to have their own screen during local play, giving a whole new meaning to “split screen.”

Less… Frustrating motion control gimmicks

Go ahead–just try and hit that switch with a batarang in Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition using the GamePad’s motion-sensing gyros. We’ll give you the highest high five of all time if you manage to succeed. Sure, the Wii U’s predecessor was built on motion gaming, but that shouldn’t get in the way of games that would be better off without it.

Game on

There will undoubtedly be some awesome uses of the GamePad going forward that we can’t even conceive of just yet. We know one thing for sure, though: We’re already ecstatic about what it’s brought to the gaming front. What other uses would you like to see in the future–and which ones do you not want to see? Let us know in the comments below.

For more Wii U coverage, check out our Wii U review (opens in new tab), our list of best Wii U games (opens in new tab), and recommendations for 15 Virtual Console games to download at launch (opens in new tab).

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