All things considered, Wii Sports is one of Nintendo’s best ideas in terms of promoting their new console. The game features a handful of games that anyone, regardless of their age and endurance, can actively play and enjoy. By using the WiiMote controller in place of actual sports equipment, you get to experience the games without the hassle of actually leaving your home. The best part about this little ensemble is that it comes free with the Wii; no sane consumer should have to shell out fifty dollars to play a handful of games that, despite their charm, lack the depth of the sports they emulate. But hey, who can argue with having a virtual bowling alley or baseball field on their TV? Considering the rampant popularity of Wii Sports, it’s little wonder that Nintendo decided to cash in and make another set of games crafted in a similar fashion. Thus we are given Wii Play, yet another collection of games that is supposedly designed to showcase what the WiiMote can really do.
Too bad it failed miserably.
Evidently, Nintendo decided to toss out most of what made the Wii’s first sports title good: the sports. Gone are the tennis courts and scenic putting greens; instead, you’re given access to nine mini-games that (despite a handful of promising titles) lack any depth whatsoever. The game tries to distract you from its failings by presenting you with Shooting Range, an upgraded version of Duck Hunt from the NES. Instead of grabbing Nintendo’s classic light gun and blasting a few wayward ducks into feathery smithereens, you’ll use the WiiMote to gun down bulls-eyes, tin cans, and even protect your Mii avatars from a small legion of UFOs. Though the controls are definitely spot-on, the game gets old fairly quickly. There are no variations or options to be applied to the gameplay; you’ll blast through the same sets of targets until you’ve gotten so used to the pacing and placement that you’ll be able to get a high score with minimal effort. While the game tries to keep older fans mesmerized with nostalgia over its superior predecessor, you’ll likely ditch Shooting Range before long.
“Evidently, Nintendo decided to toss out most of what made the Wii’s first sports title good: the sports.”At least the Duck Hunt wannabe is actually fun for a while. Find Mii, the next title in Wii Play’s pathetic lineup, isn’t nearly as engaging. You’ll be whisked away to a city street, confronted by a small group of Mii avatars, then commanded to use the WiiMote to point out whichever of the little creatures is similar or different from the rest. With the clock ticking down toward the Game Over screen, you’ll have to quickly search the ever-increasing mass of cartoon faces, colorful outfits, and disproportioned limbs to find your targets. While this Where’s Waldo-esque title isn’t entertaining, it can provide a decent test of observational and memory skills. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Pose Mii, a game that showcases the tilting features of the WiiMote. As a cascade of virtual bubbles (complete with some random picture of a bird or flower in the background) descends the screen, you’ll have to look closely at the shapes imprinted on their surfaces. With a quick press of the button, you’ll have to pose the Mii character (who can now fly for some reason) onscreen to match the correct shape, and then float it into the nearest bubble. If you manage to tilt the controller enough to match up the shapes, you’ll be justly rewarded with some bonus points and hopefully a gold medal. Unfortunately, the repetitive gameplay, poor pacing, and lack of depth kill off any potential fun.
Speaking of lacking depth, few games are more disappointing than Table Tennis. Wii owners that are fond of the engaging gameplay and finely tuned controls of Wii Tennis will be in for a rude awakening when they give this half-assed title a shot. The cheering crowds and grassy courts have been vastly scaled down; you’ll face off against a floating Ping-Pong paddle while a small crowd of Miis gathers around. While the previous game allowed you to compete against a decent AI rival and make different moves based on the angle and force of your swings, this game simplifies it into pathetic Ping-Pong match. There’s no serving or aiming in this game; all you have to do is move the controller back and forth, and your paddle onscreen will automatically return the ball. That’s the point of Table Tennis: no scoring, technique, or finesse, but simply moving your paddle back and forth. Needless to say, this utter mockery of a great sport gets mind-numbingly boring by the time you return the ball for the twentieth time. The lack of controller freedom and engaging gameplay make this title a far cry from its big brother in Wii Sports.
“Wii owners that are fond of the engaging gameplay and finely tuned controls of Wii Tennis will be in for a rude awakening when they give this half-assed title a shot.”But before you take Wii Play out of your console and fling it away like a miniature Frisbee, give Laser Hockey a try. As the neon borderlines blaze onto the screen and the techno music starts pumping, you’ll find that this game operates like a psychedelic version of Pong. Unlike Table Tennis, the point of this title is to control a paddle (apparently a giant glowing staple) to hit a shimmering ball around the AI-controlled paddle and into the goal behind it. While the premise is as simple as the original arcade game, Laser Hockey goes the extra mile by including stuff like increasing momentum, smooth controls, flashy graphics, and even a surprisingly intelligent opponent. You’ll frequently find yourself clashing against the ball, desperately warding it away from your exposed goal and hopefully back into enemy territory. After two minutes of fierce competition, the player with the highest score wins. It’s fast-paced, well crafted, and far more engaging than nearly almost all the games in the collection.
However, the most complete title in Wii Play actually does a decent job of emulating its respective sport. Billiards allows you to use the WiiMote as a makeshift Cue stick to knock a set of colored balls around. Armed with the controller, you’ll be able to figure out your potential shot by aiming at a specific spot on a ball, then pulling back and thrusting with the necessary power. If you make a good enough attempt, your target ball will (hopefully) go reeling into one of the holes lining the felt-covered table and snag you some much-needed bonus points. Like the real game, Billiards requires a basic knowledge of physics and a keen eye for angles; making a decent shot could take several minutes before you can figure out which angles could be used, aiming the shot, and using the right amount of strength. Indeed, this game faithfully reconstructs an actual game of Billiards in nearly every aspect, right down to the smooth green table surfaces, the clacking sound of the balls hitting each other, and the light jazz music wafting through the background. However, what Billiards has in terms of finely tuned gameplay, it lacks in variation. The real game can have several different modes of play, with different rules, scoring, and requirements. Nintendo’s version only makes you hit the balls in numerical order. While this may be fine to newcomers of the sport, Billiards fans will find such a basic structure bland at best.
Unfortunately, the next few games in Wii Play don’t feature the same level of quality. After spending countless hours with your friends around the Billiards table, Nintendo’s Fishing will look pathetic in comparison. You’ll be transported to a kiddy pool-sized waterhole, handed a fishing pole, and told to snag as many fish as possible. Since the game doesn’t give you any bait, you’ll have to send your hooked fishing line into the water and pray that one of the little beasts falls for your trap. However, your fish-catching spree will be tedious at best; since the camera remains stationary, you’ll never be quite sure if your line is actually underwater or simply dangling above the surface. The game tries to mix things up by providing different species of fish (all of which look more like a fifth grader’s Crayola-laden assignment for art class, as opposed to realistic scales and gills) that’ll grant you various amounts of bonus points. Catching one of these colorful critters requires little more than thrusting your WiiMote back once you’ve snagged one. If the game had dropped the time limit and replaced it with more challenging catches and fish that actually struggle for their survival, things would have been far more interesting.
After you’ve gotten sick of yanking cardboard fish out of the water (probably after a few playthroughs at most), you’ll get a chance to mount a knitted (yes, as in the pastime of grandmothers everywhere) cow and go gallivanting down a country road. In Charge!, you’ll be able to manipulate this yarn-covered beast of burden into smashing through the small groups of scarecrows that litter the roadway. In a control style similar to that of Sonic and the Secret Rings, you’ll have to tilt the WiiMote to the right or left to have the cow move in the appropriate direction, or flick the controller to make it leap over the many barricades along the dusty path. While you can speed up or slow down with the right movements, the cow will never stop its crusade; should you miss any of the targets, you’ll have no choice but to keep venturing onward toward the goal at end of the road. The slippery controls, lacking variety, slow pacing, and sheer brevity don’t make Charge! very enticing, however. Knocking a bunch of living scarecrows into the stratosphere gets old long before you even finish the first playthrough.
Thankfully, the last title in Wii Play’s lineup makes up for some of the other games’ shortcomings. Upon entering Tanks!, you’ll be whisked away to a battlefield composed of children’s building blocks and wooden floor panels. In this kiddy version of a miniature war, you’ll be given control of a tank and the ability to aim missile shots with the WiiMote. Since your vehicle can barely crawl along the floor, you’ll have to carefully duck behind walls, set bombs to blow away obstacles, and use your ricocheting bullets to gain the upper hand on the fairly intelligent AI-controlled enemies. Older gamers will recognize such gameplay; despite the faster pace, decent graphics, and newer controls, the basic gameplay of Tanks! was established in Combat…thirty years ago on the Atari 2600. The sad thing is that the original version has more options than Nintendo’s version; all you’ll get to do is dodge, pepper the battlefield with bullets, and pray that you turn one of your foes into a flaming heap of scrap metal. For what it lacks in originality and variation, it’s both fun and highly competitive.
So, one question still remains: why would anyone bother purchasing Wii Play? Though the collection features a few gems like Billiards and Laser Hockey, much of the lineup is composed of half-assed mini-games with little to no depth whatsoever. At least Wii Sports had games that were actually engaging, and it came with the Wii for free. This title, however, sells for fifty American dollars. The only reason such a cruddy collection is priced so highly is that it comes with another WiiMote for some multiplayer action. Thus, you’re essentially buying a new controller with a couple of poorly crafted mini games as a bonus. Don’t fall for Nintendo’s little scheme to cash in on the popularity of one of the Wii’s best titles; the quality of Wii Play is far below that of its predecessor.