Strolling through the game section of my local Meijer, I came across a startling (but increasingly common) sight—Wii remotes, in the wild. Just, you know, hanging there on the shelf. Lots of them, at least six. Nunchuks too. So, what did I, an underprivileged, owns-one-remote-that-came-with-the-console guy do? Why, I turned right around to face the game cabinet and bought a copy of Wii Play. If you don’t know already, Wii Play comes bundled with a Wii remote, but costs 50 USD like a game. I figured I’d snag an extra remote and get a cool minigame compilation for 10 bucks, like Wii Sports! Win-win situation, right? Right?!
The answer to that question depends on how much you’re willing to spend, and just how much value you place on the gaming stew that is Wii Play. Having a complete set of controllers now significantly changes my opinion of the game.
Wii Play is a collection of mini (some might say micro) games, nine total, that hopes to emulate its bigger brother, Wii Sports. The pack-in disk that shipped with Wii consoles was admittedly simplistic in its presentation, but each of the five sports contained a level of depth that surprised me as I played them to harder difficulty levels. Wii Play lacks much of that depth, but the number of nine games over Wii Sport’s five would supposedly make up for that lack. Unfortunately, this is not true.
Wii Play is really some of Nintendo’s simplest tech demos for the Wii, an early taste designed for trade shows. Some of the games surfaces more recently at events like the fusion tour, but I suspect some of the demos are from far earlier stages in the Wii’s development. Most of these games were probably thrown together before some of the console’s features were even finalized, such as the nunchuk accelerometer or the speaker. The pointer functionality sees the most implementation, and gives the games a repetitive feeling.
Wii Sports, on the other hand, was developed as an introduction to the Wii for people of all ages and personalities, and uses most of the Wii’s abilities to a modest extent. Its subject matter, sports, is something virtually everyone is familiar with, while Wii Play was built to introduce gaming press to the Wii at shows like E3 and TGS.
As a result each of the minigames have a far more “video game” feel to them, but are really just retreads of some of the industry’s oldest offerings. Suffice it to say that you’ve seen most of Wii Play before, just without the remote control. Wii Play also uses Miis like Wii Sports, but they’re not nearly as well integrated. Depending on whether you’re player one or two, you’re blue or red, respectively—the Mii’s face is the only thing that really filters through into the gameplay. As you can infer from that last sentence, Wii Play only supports two human players, or can be played with a computer opponent.
The game forces you to unlock each of the games in a sequential order, and the first part of this nine course meal is Shooting. Disguised as a sequel to the NES classic Duck Hunt, Shooting is anything but—it’s more like a brief homage. The Wii remote is used like a gun, however the nature of the sensor bar pointer makes it quite different from the venerable old NES Zapper light gun. Lining up your target in the iron sights is no longer an option, nor is such precise aim necessary in the first place.
The screen is littered with targets at any given time, be they simple bull’s-eyes, clay pigeons, pop cans or even flying saucers, but very few of them are ducks. The handful of ducks that do appear only flit across the screen briefly—they are difficult to hit and award bonus points, but are in the game more for nostalgia than anything else. Every other target appears for a few seconds at most, and while some degree of accuracy is required (and consecutive hits are rewarded), real deadeye aim isn’t an object. Taking careful aim also takes too much time to be effective against the rapidly vanishing targets, so in the end Shooting is a twitch gallery game. It lasts only five short levels, there is no chuckling dog, ammo limit or real challenge. If you’ve been waiting for a Duck Hunt sequel, prepare to wait some more.
The second game, Find Mii, has players looking for a specific Mii (or combination of Miis) in a crowd, within a time limit. This can range from finding your personal Mii, the odd man out, the two that are the same, and a few others. As the levels progress is gets incrementally harder, with the Mii’s walking around a city square, on escalators or just in a very large crowd. The game’s biggest flaw is that same basic experience can be found in a “Where’s Waldo?” book, so the Wii remote advantage and visuals are largely cosmetic. I lost interest after about three play-throughs.
Table Tennis, the next unlockable, is basically what you’d expect, minus a few features. Unlike Wii Tennis, it isn’t necessary to swing the remote to smack the ping pong ball back at your opponent—all you have to do is move the paddle in the way of the incoming ball. After a couple points the players switch sides and turns serving. It’s possible to gain a “surprise” shot that moves much faster than a normal rally, but as far as I could tell the occurrence of this faster shot was completely random.
Moving right along, Pose Mii is an almost non-game that requires you to pose your Mii into a specific configuration, and then rotate them into the right position within a series of falling bubbles. It is clearly meant to demonstrate the Wii remote’s ability to rotate, but Pose Mii’s only other notable characteristic is its puzzling trippy vibe. The rainbow bubbles descend in a relaxed, psychedelic motion, and are shown against a series of seemingly unrelated backgrounds. Posing your Mii is not done with motions, but rather combinations of buttons. I suspect a Nintendo developer threw this one together after a bad hit of acid and forgot to put the gameplay in.
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