Feature: Nintendo at Sundance - Short Films, Brain Training and Wii Fit U
Posted by Jeff Lowe
A trip to the movies
Once every year, the most creative minds in the film industry gather in Park City, Utah at the Sundance Film Festival to showcase their talents to celebrities and movie-goers alike. Not to be outdone, in an era where the line separating film and video games continues to blur, Nintendo of America joined in the fun to show off the company’s latest creations. Nintendo Life decided to take in some of the Sundance festivities and celebrity-watching, and even got to try out a few demos of some unreleased titles, including Brain Age: Concentration Training and Wii Fit U at the Nintendo Lounge event.
Though Nintendo has had a presence at past Sundance events, this year the company decided to hold its own film-making festival, of sorts, by commissioning three teams of YouTube filmmakers to create short films, inspired by New Super Mario Bros. U, within a 48-hour period. The teams were tasked to include themes relating to the Challenge, Boost Rush and Coin Battle game modes in a way that would bring the Wii U and Mario, himself, to life. The resulting films might not win any Sundance awards anytime soon, but they will likely provide plenty of entertainment to long-time Mario fans. One particularly creative film explored how the all-mighty-dollar drives the industry and Nintendo’s resistance to its pressures; oh, and it featured a larger-than-life, rapping, Shigeru Miyamoto impersonation. The videos can be seen by visiting Nintendo’s YouTube page.
In addition to viewing films, festival attendees had the opportunity to visit the Nintendo Lounge, where the company showed off various Wii U and 3DS games. After playing brief demos of Brain Age: Concentration Training and Wii Fit U, we came away impressed with these gaming diversions to exercise mind and body, even if they might be more of what the series’ already offers.
The Brain Age: Concentration Training demo started off with a mode appropriately titled, Devilish Training. This mode, a clear attempt to improve concentration amid the many distractions of every-day living, asked us to perform simple addition and subtraction problems while trying to remember and write down answers to previously calculated problems. Sound confusing? Now you can appreciate how we felt while playing the demo. The game started out simply enough: in 1-Back Mode, we added 2 + 6 in our heads, while using the touch screen to write down the answer to the previously-appearing problem, 16 – 4; hence the name, 1-Back. This process continued for a series of approximately 20 math problems.
In the example given, it’s easy enough to calculate and remember the number 8 while simultaneously recalling from memory and writing down 12, but the game’s difficulty ramps up rather quickly, especially if the player gives too many correct answers. The complexity of the problems, as well as the speed with which they come streaming down the 3DS screen, increases with each consecutive play session, not to mention 1-backs turn into 2-backs and then 3-backs. Trust us when we say that calculating simple math problems becomes increasingly difficult when trying to write down and keep track of additional and unrelated numbers. Let’s just say this particular mode lived up to its devilish name. Though devious, and perhaps out of necessity a bit repetitive, the game was a lot of fun and we can see how daily sessions could help anyone to improve concentration and stay sharp.
After performing math problems until our heads hurt, we decided to give our minds a rest and tone up our physiques with Wii Fit U. The demo had several different playable experiences, including Core Luge and Hosed Down. Appropriately enough, in the middle of a world-class ski resort and the home of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Core Luge stole the show and our ability to sit-up properly for a week.
After sitting down on the Wii Balance Board and waiting for the countdown-clock to chime zero, we hurriedly began passing our finger tips along both sides of the balance board, causing our bodies to perform a back-and-forth motion. This motion propelled us toward the crest of the long downhill slope, at which point we sat back and let our butts do the work. Actually, it was our core muscles doing the heavy lifting: the speed of the sled increased as we strained to make our bodies more closely horizontal and parallel to the ground.
The exercise lasted only a few minutes, but it seemed like much longer; we could definitely feel the tightening of our abdominal muscles with every shift of our weight and corresponding turn of our sleds. It was a great workout and a fun alternative to doing sit-ups. In fact, all of the Wii Fit U demos available at Sundance toned or stretched some muscle group or another, and we came away impressed with the game’s ability to trick players into working out through playing simple games.
Other Wii Fit U demo experiences made better use of the Gamepad controller. Hosed Down, for example, asked us to perform a series of lunge exercises as we manned the turret of a high-powered water cannon. In this exercise, the player holds the Wii U Gamepad with both arms fully extended toward the television. The player then steps on the balance board (which serves as a foot pedal) with one foot to activate the water spray, the other foot extended backward. The continual need to refill the water cannon by lessening the weight placed on the balance board forces the player to perform a series of lunges that stretch and work muscles in the legs and core.
Meanwhile, the Gamepad and television screens show an onslaught of enemies, covered in mud, intent on slinging as much of it as possible in the direction of the player. The Gamepad controller shows a close-up view of the action while the television shows a panned-out perspective, suitable for seeing many enemies at once. In addition to being a light workout, Hosed Down was a nice demonstration of the asymmetric uses of the Gamepad and television screens.
Though at first glance, Wii Fit U seemed like more of what Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus already offer, we enjoyed using the Gamepad controller to supplement the workout experience. Being able to quickly glance up at the television screen in Hosed Down to change focus, rather than having an in-game camera hastily do it for us — jarring our perspective and temporarily taking us out of the action — was extremely welcome. Goodness knows, in a workout setting, dizziness and nausea need no additional inducement.
Given the nature and atmosphere of the Sundance Film Festival, one that engenders creativity and ingenuity, we couldn’t help but feel that Nintendo’s presence only reinforces the place of gaming among the many mediums of art. We were awed by the beautiful high-definition and stereoscopic visuals while simultaneously inspired (or tricked, an art form unto itself) to improve and strengthen our minds and bodies.
So, what do you think of Nintendo’s presence at festivals like Sundance? Did any of you have a chance to visit the Nintendo Lounge?