The Google Maps app was released yesterday for the Nintendo Wii U, which is calling it Wii Street U. It’s actually kind of nifty, although my feelings may be colored by it being a free download. It will only be free for a limited time, after which, I’m not really sure it’s worth actually paying for. I guess for a couple dollars, but no more than that. Still, it has some really fun features…
Every time you launch the app (which as with all Wii U apps takes longer than you’d like), it drops you into one of its over 70 guided tours. Well, it’s not really a guided tour as much as a really cool location that you might like to explore. The television displays the Google Map view of the area, while the GamePad displays the Street View. Physically turning around and moving the GamePad up and down lets you view your surroundings a full 360 degrees. It’s not terribly immersive, given the small size of the GamePad screen, but it’s a cool effect. There’s also a small picture-in-picture window in the upper right hand corner of the TV screen that displays what the GamePad is showing so anyone else in the room can see, too.
After you’re finished looking around, you can select a direction to walk in and as long as the little overlaid arrows appear on the screen, you can press A to “walk” to the next marked point. There are a ton of hand-picked areas that you can easily select, from Italy to France to actually being underwater in the Great Barrier Reef, but you can also type in any address you like and explore that location, too. Well, as long as Google has done a Street View of it. It would be cool if while looking around you could tap on a building and get its name and some information, like when you see a gorgeous cathedral in Italy as I did. But at least for the major ones their names will appear on the TV overhead map. I get that this is basically just Google’s Street View ported onto the Wii U, so that would entail extra work. However, I would have liked to be able to zoom into the images, to get closer views of storefronts and such, since that is something you can do on the computer.
Still, Wii Street U is kind of fun, and it provides yet another unique usage of the GamePad’s touchscreen. I’m going to enjoy looking at all the pre-loaded tourist attractions and maybe finding some of my own. And of course, I entered in my childhood address to walk around the town where I grew up (which is a bit sad, as it turns out). Your mileage may vary, but if you have a Wii U, it won’t cost you anything but the time it takes to download it (which wasn’t too bad, surprisingly). At least for right now. It’s a nifty throwaway app, which I could see paying a couple bucks for when they start charging for it. But if it’s more than that, I don’t know. It may not see enough use to be worth $5 or so.