Following my family of four’s initial impressions of the Wii U, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nintendo’s new console has an unintentional form of parental control due to the GamePad’s battery life; though it may be the parent who’s being controlled in this case and not the child.
I came home from work Monday night and found my kid’s playing games on the TV in the basement as I expected. Despite being out of school for the Thanksgiving break, my son came down with a cold or the flu and was laying on one end of the couch playing the latest Spartan Ops episode for Halo 4 on the Xbox 360 while my daughter was on the other end nestled up with the Wii U GamePad playing the Nintendo Land single-player games. Two kids playing on two different consoles at the same time in the same room and with no arguments? I probably should have left well enough alone but wanted to try New Super Mario Bros. U.
With my daughter on the GamePad and my son and I armed with Wii-motes, we made short work of the first section up to the first castle of the New Super Mario Bros. U map. My daughter was hesitant to use the GamePad at first and then became way too rambunctious tapping enemies and placing blocks. Also, my son earned the nickname “Baby Yoshi Killer” after he tossed both Baby Yoshis we had off a cliff immediately after we picked them up.
We only played 30 minutes as dinner was ready fairly quickly so we went upstairs and I asked the kids to turn off everything.
That was a mistake.
When I returned downstairs and the kids were getting ready for bed, I discovered the Wii U GamePad sitting on the couch and the red battery light blinking ominously at me. It was almost as if I could hear my son doing the Nelson laugh at me in that very moment. Yes, the kids ran down the unfortunately pitiful 3 hour battery life for the controller with their playtime prior to me arriving home. I was able to fiddle with it for a few minutes to explore more of the eShop and Miiverse before it shut itself down and I placed it on the charge cradle.
Yes, I know you can play with the GamePad while the charge cord is plugged into it but I had run the charge cord behind my entertainment center and out a hole for the charge cradle. Additionally, I don’t really have an electrical outlet near my couch and would need an extension cord to stretch across the room after I extricated the charge cord from behind the entertainment center. Also, I’m lazy and have other options.
When my wife later asked me how I was enjoying the Wii U, I told her of the three hour battery life which elicited the following response. “Well, nobody needs to play games three hours straight anyways.”
Knowing I wasn’t going to win this argument, I left it at that knowing that she just hit on a form of parental control with the Wii U. As long as the kids don’t know that they can play with the GamePad while it is charging, their playtime will be limited.
Speaking of Parental Controls however, I find the Wii U’s to be lacking compared to the Xbox 360 or PS3. While I can restrict games based on the ESRB rating, I cannot do the same with video streamed through services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video. My only option as a parent is to turn video streaming on or off.
Similarly, the only option for friend requests is on or off. On Xbox LIVE, I allow them to send and accept friend requests but only with my approval to prevent strangers talking with them. I can also limit chat (voice or text) to only people on their friends list in addition to turning it off or turning it on. That same option does not appear to be with the supposedly more “kid-friendly” Wii U.