"Be not afeard.
The isle is full of noises,Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.Sometimes a thousand twangling instrumentsWill hum about mine ears, and sometime voicesThat, if I then had waked after long sleep,Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,The clouds methought would open, and show richesReady to drop upon me, that when I waked,I cried to dream again."William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Nintendo games are about the ruthless and efficient production of joy. Every interactive system is designed and then tweaked by single-minded experts to wring out from the player a rising sense of pleasure. There is no escape; there is only submission. Whatever has gone wrong for Nintendo in the past two years, the doom-mongers have never been able to take that away. If you don't understand it, you'll never truly understand games.
And so after the triumphant announcement of fresh Zelda and Star Fox titles, came Nintendo's E3 showfloor collection. It is pretty delightful. Yoshi's Woolly World is a handicraft platformer that takes the aesthetics of Kirby's Epic Yarn and applies them to a sacharrine co-op platformer, as rich, plump and delicious as homemade fruit cake. Here players control the cutesy dinosaur and friend as they trevail worlds built out of stretches of felt and fluffy wool, discovering hidden passages and collecting items.
By hitting one button, Yoshi's tongue shoots out, which can either trap enemies, or it'll gobble up the other player character, allowing you to spit your pal at out-of-reach goodies or nearby foes – it can also be used to grab pieces of yarn, unravelling walls to reveal secret passageways. It's a familiar mechanic, harking back to the eat-and-shoot interplay in Bobble Bubble, but it's so wonderfully implemented and every animation is a delight.
Kirby's claymation kingdom
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse uses a similar hand-crafted 2D platformer look, but employs it in a different way. Here the lead character becomes a ball of modelling clay in a plasticine world, and players must guide him through increasingly tricky levels, by tapping the stylus on the screen to make him move, then drawing rainbow ropes across the screen to climb up on to higher platformers. Collecting 100 stars provides a boost which lets the malleable hero bash through denser obstacles and collect bonus items; there are spring boards to jump on and cannons to be shot out of.
There are also tank levels where Kirby becomes an armoured vehicle able to shoot enemies out of the sky while rolling relentlessly forward. On water stages, ropes must be drawn to keep the character submerged rather than bobbing to the surface. It's sickly sweet again, a gaming equiavelent of a French Fancy, but underneath, the interface allows for subtle puzzles and delicate experimentation.
Toad in the role
The cute just keeps on giving. Captain Toad: Treasure Hunter is a compactly designed three-dimensional puzzler, in which the character from Super Mario 3D world gets his own dedicated outing. Moving the gamepad rotates each multi-levelled stage, allowing you to spot traps, bridges and secret areas, while avoiding enemies and hitting a button to dig beneath plants for special items. Patrolling baddies can be momentarily stopped by putting a finger over them on the Game Pad screen allowing you to scamper past.
It's all about studying and understanding a range of intricately constructed buildings and environments – sort of Mario meets Fez. I also got to try a mine cart level, where you speed along the tracks using the GamePad to aim at enemies and bonus items at which you fire turnips. It is fun. Always with the fun.
Lemmings on a suger rush
Then I played Mario v Donkey Kong, the Wii U version of the hit DS and 3DS series of Lemmings-like puzzlers. The gameplay is immediately familiar, guiding a group of clockwork Marios through a hazard littered environment by placing and removing girder bridges at key points. It's not innovative, it's not doing much that previous versions didn't do, but you still get sucked into its mechanic of satisfying pre-planning. You'll also be able to build your own levels using the construction tool.
And then the ridiculous Splatoon – a four-v-four team-based shooter, in which players have to paint as much of the area as possible in their side's colour before the timer runs out. As well as the messy paint cannon, you also get a mine that splatters enemies and sends your paint gushing all over the blast area, and a bazooka that takes out rival painters from afar.
The skill is in using the map on the GamePad screen to get to unpainted areas fast. Hitting the shoulder button in any area that's been painted allows the player to dip under the surface and zip along unnoticed. If there is paint on the walls, you can use this mechanic to get to higher areas, and there is real strategy involved in covering the most surface area, then defending converted sections.
The control method, which allows both the right analogue stick and the motion sensors in the GamePad to control the camera, takes some getting used to and is not perfectly exectured right now, but this is a truly compelling take on the arena battler.
All of these titles are coming to Wii U in the next year, all are stupidly adorable yet filled with challenge. Some people get so frustrated with Nintendo for not moving beyond its historic collection of characters and environments, but then, there is something to be said for continually manipulating and experimenting with familiarity. And elsewhere on the stand is Bayonetta 2, which I have yet to play, but which will look and feel very different to these titles.
Over the course of two hours on the E3 showfloor, I worked my way through these bright games, with their plump plasticine trees, their bobbing flowers, their bumbling enemies, and unselfconsciously enjoyed every moment. There are more innovative titles on display elsewhere – barely 50 yards away, the Microsoft and Sony stands are fileld with treasures like Ori and the Blind Forest and Hyper Light Drifter – but this is show is about Nintendo doing what Nintendo does: delivering surgical strikes of pleasure.
Amid the simulated gunfire and pounding rock music, how thrilling it is to find this oasis; how utterly like Nintendo to face misfortune and doubt, with child-like enthusiasm. As I was playing Kirby, the voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, sloped over and asked what I thought of the game, breaking out into voices from the games, enthusing over the titles he'd played. Sure, Nintendo probably employ him to do this, because his excitement and humour are infectious, and OMG, he's the voice of Mario! But this is the sort of thing that happens here.
Zelda and Starfox alone may not save Wii U, but it looks like there are understudies ready to help buoy up the machine. These games give delight and hurt not. When you stop playing, you awake from the dream, and you want to go back.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010