By Darren Franich
June 07, 2012 at 05:15 PM EDT

The Game: Project P-100 is actually just the working title for an utterly curious (and curiously unheralded) Wii U title. Described by developer Platinum Games as a “Mass Hero Action Game,” Project P-100 lets you control a group of heroes who work together to protect humanity from attacking monsters. It plays a little bit like Pikmin crossed with the Neo-Geo semi-classic King of the Monsters. (No release date announced yet, although Nintendo claims it will hit stores within a few months of the Wii U.)

What We Played: A sequence set in an idyllic small town besieged by attacking creatures. At the start of the level, our gang of heroes was fighting tiny monsters in a pseudo side-scrolling perspective. By the end, we were taking on a giant flying boss so huge that all our heroes could fit on his left forearm. It was like going from Streets of Rage to Shadow of the Colossus in just about 20 minutes.

The Good: I’m falling back on comparisons only because it’s difficult to describe the magic of Project P-100. Fighting through color-soaked urban environments with your eccentric band of heroes proves addictive. The game’s look is colorful but not overly cartoonish — “too cartoonish” being a recurring problem with most post-Wii Nintendo titles. And Project P-100 already feels like a mixed cocktail of game play styles: side-scrolling button-masher, top-down strategy, third-person puzzler.

Best of all, out of all the 23 titles that Nintendo has showed off for the Wii U, Project P-100 stands out for making the best use of the GamePad. You can deploy your heroes in different attacks by making specific shapes on the Pad’s screen. When we went inside a garage, the action suddenly moved from the TV screen to the GamePad’s screen. This may not sound revolutionary, until you consider that most of the other 22 titles mostly use the GamePad as a map or an unnecessary X-ray OBD2 scanner. (Looking at you, Zombi U.)

The Not-So-Good: Between this and Pikmin 3, the Wii U appears to be staking its future on a heretofore-unknown subgenre: Retro-Cute Pseudo-Strategy Coalition-Controlling Curiosities. Like Pikmin 3, Project P-100 earns points for the uniqueness of its gameplay. Unlike Pikmin, Project P-100 doesn’t have a proven track record. We enjoyed the 20 minutes we played at E3, but in some ways, the game feels more like an endearing XBox Live Arcade gem than a full-sized $50-plus videogame.

Excitement Level: From 1 to 10, Project P-100 gets an 8. It may not be the killer app for the Wii U, but it does more than any other game at E3 to prove that the whole tablet/console second-screen experience can create new thrilling methods of game play.

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