O2 Games 2014 Wii U release Luv Me Buddies Wonderland has now been ported to the 3DS. Question is, has this version improved on the poor performance of its predecessor? The game aims to bring in a new generation of gamers by delivering a challenging and fun experience that can be enjoyed with parents. The game is bursting with overly cute, lovable characters and a bright visual aesthetic apparently that appeal well to the target audience.
The game is made up of a collection of mini games and has no real story other than meeting the varied heart-shaped-head inhabitants, helping them with their problems such as piecing together family albums or saving their friends from freak storms. Each location has a main character that greets you with a short introduction of themselves and provides you with details on how to play the games. That about covers what there is of the story but because of the target audience is a deep story narrative really that necessary?
In terms of visual appeal and the game’s soundtrack, not much has changed from the Wii U version. The game looks very charming, the heart-shaped-head inhabitants are bright and cheerful with a good variety of them, the hand-drawn backdrops are well designed and fit perfectly with the characters. It’s unfortunate that there’s not more to the characters, they’re not animated in any way they just float around the screen as static cardboard cutouts. The soundtrack is nice and cheery the only issue with the music is that it doesn’t quite loop up correctly but there’s a good variety of the songs.
The overworld is made up of 8 different destinations including London, China and Transylvania with each home to a different heart-shaped buddy. Each location and mini game is locked by a number of stars that need to be obtained before gaining access to those games (very Marioesque). Six of the locations contain five minigame scenarios while the other two areas have only three games, giving a total of 36, and while you may be thinking that’s a huge positive there are actually only around 15 different types with the others just being repeats with a different character or environment.
The game’s controls vary, switching between the 3DS’s stylus/touchscreen setup and the standard control stick and button layout. Most of the games utilise the touchscreen and stylus scheme to do things like flipping cards to make pairs and locating a specific buddy from a crowd. Occasionally you have to use the control stick and buttons, one game in particular has you selecting ingredients for a cake from a sort of shooting gallery setup. While this variety is a fresh change it’s not always clear why they’ve opted to use this layout when the games seem better suited for the touchscreen.
The minigames included are all pretty standard concepts you’d find in a young children’s game like completing a series of puzzles, matching up pairs of cards, designing sets of armour for knights and playing Simon Says. Each minigame has a total of 3 stars available getting the first is easy but it takes a bit more skill to achieve all three. You unlock a star after achieving a set score but it’s not really clear what you need to do to achieve the highest score.
So why don’t we see what exactly has changed from the original Wii U version of the game? Well to start off with there is no longer a multiplayer mode at all; it’s just the single player campaign. Locations and minigames are now locked by star limits which is a huge improvement over the Wii U version. There’s now more of a sense that you have accomplished something and helps to pace the game. The 3DS version goes a long way to improve the steep difficulty curve. For example puzzles now display the image you need to piece together on the top screen as a constant reminder and selecting the colour first on building games highlights correct pieces if you have forgotten the design. The whole 3 lives only system from the Wii U has now been removed and there’s no consequence for putting down the wrong puzzle piece or building the wrong totem other than wasting time.
Luv Me Buddies Wonderland appeals perfectly to young children with a bright and colourful visual aesthetic, its cast of adorable critters and relaxed approach to gameplay. True, the minigames might be a tad repetitive and getting all of the stars can be slightly too difficult for the target audience but it does help add some replayability. But is this version an improvement on the original? Definitely. It utilises the 3DS’s touchscreen perfectly (something the Wii U version failed to act on) and adding the star system helps pace the game much better. Still like the Wii U edition it is still highly recommended that parents sit down and play the game with your kids to help keep them interested.
This review is based off a review code of Luv Me Buddies provided by O2 Games
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.