IGN's Matt Casamassina has got a problem. In fact, it's a Wii problem. More specifically it's with Wii sports, that, depending on how you look at things, could speak for other issues that may crop up with the Wii and its future games. Rather than hear me speak about it, take his word for it:
"I've had the chance to log several hours into the compilation of games and I'm not entirely convinced that these mini sports outings work as well as Nintendo hopes, prays and maybe even believes they do.
Take, for example, Wii Sports Tennis. You don't control anything except the swing of your player's racket. The movement of these Mii-alike athletes is all done automatically by the game. You simply swing the Wii remote back and forth to make your on-screen character do the same thing. You can even control the power of your shots. Nothing to it and true enough, most of the time it all works and feels just fine. You swing the racket and your motion is reflected on the tennis court. However, either I'm completely missing something or sometimes the directions and motion of your swings goes ignored. You might swing your racket to the left, for instance, and the ball will go flying off to the right, anyway."
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"When you consider that you're in control of a single item – the tennis racket – you want that control to be perfect, and more and more I'm finding that simply isn't the case in some of these Wii Sports games. Furthermore, you can easily cheat, if that's what you want to call it – and frankly, I think it is cheating. You don't have to go through the full motion. In Wii Sports Baseball, you could make a full throwing gesture with the Wii-mote to hurl the ball at the plate. Or, you could quickly flick your wrist to replace the full-blown motion. I might be able to overlook this cheap gameplay shortcut if the motions were at least calculated equally. But you'll oftentimes find that a simple flick of the wrist yields a speedier fastball than the full arching motion. What the eff is up with that, Nintendo?
When Bozon and I played against each other, he tried repeatedly to throw the ball slowly so that I could blast one out of the park, but he couldn't. He tried the full-arch motion (as I'm officially dubbing the exaggerated movements made by actors in all the Wii advertisements and promos) and he tried the wrist-flick motion; both resulted in super fastballs, despite the fact that he deliberately made slow gestures each time. That moves out of clunky territory and into broken country, as far as I'm concerned.Wii Sports Baseball has other puzzling deficiencies. For instance, when you want to throw a curve ball, you don't actually motion it, as you might suspect. No, why would you want to use a gesture for a console whose primary purpose is to promote unique and innovative ways to play? To throw a curve ball, you first select it on the D-Pad and then make a standard throwing motion. Huh? I can only guess that the accelerometer inside the Wii remote is incapable of distinguishing between a curve ball and a fastball. It is, nevertheless, very unfortunate.
The real exception and the big standout, in my opinion, is Wii Sports Bowling. This might take you by surprise, but right now this is far and away (without a second's hesitation) my favorite Wii Sports game. You know why? Because it actually lives up to the control potential and it feels both natural and right. When you want to pitch the bowling ball down the lane, you cast your arm backward with the Wii remote in hand, hold down the B trigger, and then swing forward and depress the B trigger to release the ball. There's more to it, though. You can add spin. You simply rotate your wrist as you're releasing the ball. I really put some time into bowling and found that I couldn't stop playing it. It's addicting. You learn how to put spin on the ball almost immediately and from there you find yourself really thinking about where you want to line up your shots and how much angle you'll need for a strike.
If all of the Wii Sports games could be as intuitive and responsive as Bowling, there would be no need for this blog post. But for now, I'm just not feeling the others as much as I do bowling. That may change. Perhaps there are intricacies of the control mechanics that I have yet to master and I'm jumping the gun with this critique. I'm actually crossing my fingers that this proves to be the case. However, in my experience with Tennis and Baseball thus far, the controls seem to suffice half the time (and the experience is fun) and in contrast feels broken the other half (which really takes away from any enjoyment you might try to sustain).
It is a freebie so I suppose I can't complain too much. But when I get to thinking about how Wii Sports is supposed to represent Nintendo's bold new direction with Wii, I can't help but feel a little skeptical. Many of these new gameplay experiences that the Big N trumpets as loud as it can are, in practice, unproven at the very least and broken at the very worst."
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