Anyone who ran out and bought a Wii based on early commercials for the system quickly experienced the gap between its potential and reality. Ads promised swordfighting, for example, but gamers who played “Red Steel,” a middling, M-rated launch title, discovered the Wii remote was capable only of registering simplistic swipes. That’s not to say those early games weren’t fun; “Wii Sports”, packaged with every Wii, became a must-have, instantly recognizable classic. Through its use of simple gestures, a cutesy art style and appealing, minimalist presentation, the game cast a wide net, snaring all sorts of folks who’d never consider themselves gamers.
With “Wii Sports Resort” (rated E) and the packed-in MotionPlus accessory, Nintendo has set about realizing some of the possibilities suggested in those early ads. MotionPlus, available separately for $20, turns the Wii remote from blunt tool to sophisticated instrument. The dozen categories of minigames included on “Resort” offer a greater challenge to Wii veterans without putting off newcomers.
The central, somewhat flimsy premise has your Mii avatar traveling to Wuhu Island to take part in tropical resort-themed sports, although some of the events stretch the conceit. (When was the last time you climbed into a plane for some aerial dogfighting on your tropical vacation?) Nonetheless, people aren’t going to buy this game up looking for witty dialogue, gritty realism or a riveting story. They’ll want pick-up-and-play fun, and “Resort” delivers.
Golf and bowling, two of the best events from “Wii Sports,” return, and anyone who’s played the first game’s tennis minigame should feel right at home with table tennis. MotionPlus, which attaches to the base of your Wii remote, adds a level of nuance to the proceedings. In table tennis, for example, the accessory allows those who master the control scheme to dispense all sorts of wicked drop shots with crazy spin.
Nowhere is the one-to-one motion more perfectly realized than in the swordplay. Three different challenges let you fence against a single opponent, try to chop a series of objects in two by correctly slashing in various angles, or battle a whole army of computer-controlled swordsmen. Of the three modes, the last was easily the most fun. In one-on-one battles against a human opponent, the game seemed to reward the most spastic, furious slasher, although it’s possible that if I practice my wife won’t keep kicking my butt every time.
Of the new games, archery, which uses the remote as the front of the bow and the nunchuck attachment as the strings, grabbed hold of me most. Hearing my bow creak via the remote’s tiny speaker as my Mii prepared to fire an arrow added the same small level of immersion you get when you hear the racket thwack against the tennis ball in “Wii Sports.”
That’s not to say every minigame is a rousing success. Cycling, for example, requires you to “pedal” with your hands; they should have called it “hand mixer” and put it in a cooking game. Pass. The aerial dogfights end up being confusing. The controls, in which you hold your remote in your hand as if it were an airplane and tilt for the desired result, aren’t nearly as intuitive as a throttle or steering-wheel-based system would be. Additionally, the lack of an in-game radar or minimap means you’ll often be hunting blindly for your next destination or target. Unless you’re willing to spend a half-hour flying around in the relatively dull sightseeing mode, memorizing the island’s layout, you’ll spend most of the dogfighting game frustratingly lost and wondering where your foe is. (It’s worth mentioning, though, that this game made me realize how much the Wii needs a game like “Crimson Skies.”)
The hits, though, outnumber the misses, and even middling games like Frisbee (cute dog), canoeing (a bit of a workout) and wakeboarding (aerial hijinx on the water) have their redeeming qualities.
As with many Wii games, you’ll get far more mileage out of “Wii Sports Resort” if you play it socially, although a stampable passport modeled on the Xbox 360’s achievement system helps flesh out the solo game. The downside of this emphasis on social play is that the $50 game ships with just one Wii MotionPlus. If you want to compete in the minigames that allow four players at a time, you’ll need to drop $110 plus tax on the game and enough MotionPluses for everyone.