It’s been more than a decade since a game console has shipped with a pack-in game right out of the gate. This used to be the standard; Altered Beast came with the Genesis, Tetris came with the Game Boy and Super Mario World was the pack-in for the Super NES. But ever since the Atari Jaguar launched with Cybermorph nobody has dared give out a free game when they could just as easily sell it for $50 at a game store. Nintendo has decided to buck that trend with Wii Sports, a compilation that features five different activities all with the purpose of teaching you how to use your brand new Wii remote control.
You can’t expect too much from a pack-in game, and Wii Sports is no exception. While it’s true that you will probably have a good time with one or two of the activities presented on this disc, it’s just as likely that you’ll get bored of them after only a few plays and never touch them again. Wii Sports feels like nothing more than five tech demos put on one disc, something that nobody in their right mind would have paid money for. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing, because there’s no denying that this collection does do a commendable job of teaching you what you can do with the new controller. And at the end of the day, maybe that’s all this collection was meant to do.
As I mentioned before, Wii Sports packs five different sports into one disc. You get baseball, bowling, boxing, golf and tennis. Of these five sports, only two of them are worth playing – tennis and bowling. It’s not that the rest of the sports are bad, but there are a few design quirks that keep them from being as exciting as the real sports. Or maybe it’s that the bowling and tennis games are so good that they diminish the quality of the other three. Nah, it’s that the baseball, golf and boxing games have a set of problems that make it hard to enjoy.
The crowning achievement of Wii Sports comes in the way of bowling, a surprisingly satisfying experience that works well with the Wii’s unique remote control. Just like the real game, bowling is all about knocking those pins over and gathering the highest score you can. This bowling game doesn’t pull any punches, it’s a good old fashioned game of bowling that is easy to pick up and play. One of the reasons it works so well is because the control feels natural, you start out your wind up in much the same way you would in real life, and the throwing motion is spot-on. This is the type of game that proves that Nintendo is on to something with their motion sensing control.
Tennis works for much the same reason, but sadly it’s not nearly as much fun as the bowling is. Tennis plays like all traditional tennis games, where you hit the ball back and forth until somebody either misses it or accidentally hits the ball out of the court. Unlike bowling, tennis takes a little getting used to before it starts to feel natural. You hold the Wii’s remote like you would a tennis racket, and depending on how you swing you will either hit the ball or completely miss it. This works for the most part, but there’s no question that this type of game could be done far better with deeper controls. Also worth mentioning is that you can’t control your character, he runs around the court independent from anything you do with the control. Part of me wishes that I could both control the character and hit the ball at the same time.
After bowling and tennis the rest of the games are decidedly less interesting. Baseball should be fun, but it’s marred by a few strange game play choices that will have you scratching your head. The game feels natural when you’re using the Wii remote to bat, but not so much when you’re winding up to throw the baseball. It’s also disappointing that you can’t control your players on the field, when you hit the ball it automatically decides how many bases your character will advance, which takes a lot of the excitement out of baseball. I suspect that it won’t be long before 2K Sports or Electronic Arts comes up with a better baseball game that allows you to have full access of your team.
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