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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I am not going to title this post with a lame Wii pun. That would be beneath Mii.

So, as of this writing it’s been about two weeks since Nintendo’s fabulously successful console made its first appearance in my home. Wii’ve accumulated five virtual console games (Starfox 64, A Link to the Past, Super MarioKart, F-Zero and Super Dodgeball) and a handful of Wii games that were in the ten to thirty dollar range. So I figured, why not give Yuu my impressions?

So, here is our initial Wii-brary.

A Boy and His Blob. An update to the charming and utterly incomprehensible game initially released on the NES. This isn’t so much a sequel as it is a reboot, or Wiiboot if you can handle another Wii related pun. (If you can’t this is apt to be one looooong post for Yuu.) This time, instead of a large world to traverse and a limited number of blob-transforming jellybeans to traverse it with, the game is broken up into individual levels. Also, you are given a palette of jellybeans but no limit on how many you use, at least not in the first few levels (this is an impressions post, not a review). The new BahB also doesn’t require you to learn what each jellybean does at first. The menu from which you select your bean shows you what the jellybean in question does. These changes collude to put the game more squarely in the realm of the puzzle genre, rather than an adventure with puzzle elements. The new art style is beautiful, proving that you don’t need a thousand dollars worth of graphical accelerators to make something look good. The game uses the nunchuck and wiimote, but doesn’t try to shoehorn wii motion movements, and the player is free to use the classic controller if hii was gullible enough to buy one like wii were. The Missus loved the original, and while this one isn’t proving to be her new favorite, the $15 price point is hard to resist. Even when the puzzles become annoying and frustrating later on, I’m confident the game will be worth the price.

Cooking Mama: Cook Off When the Missus traded in her DS, she paused lovingly at Cooking Mama before putting it into the shopping bag for the trip to Gamestop. Cooking Mama on the DS was one of those games she liked so much she bought the sequel (Cooking Mama 2) and the spin off (Gardening Mama). Something of a chef herself, she enjoyed the concept and most of the execution (the controls tended to be a bit fiddly and occasionally unresponsive) of the Cooking Mama series on the DS. So when we got the Wii, it only seemed fair to pick up a Cooking Mama game. The controls seem to be just as fiddly, and Mama can be hard to understand (Is she saying “you’re not trying?” Or is it “Donut Flying?” Perhaps “Bow knot Tying?” Am I doing well when she says that? Who knows?). But played head-to-head, this game looks to be a fun diversion for those nights when the missus and I want to play something together, but don’t feel like chopping wood. Which brings us to:

Go Play Lumberjacks I’m a lumberjack. I’m okay. I wave my Wii-mote ‘round all day. I chop some wood; I throw an axe, and climb with Ninja Lumberjacks.

(He’s a lumberjack, he’s okay. He waves his wii-mote ‘round all day. He chops some wood, he throws an axe, and climbs with Ninja Lumberjacks)

Okay, that’s enough of that. I don’t want to get sued, though I am certain John Cleese’s testimony in the trial would be delightful. Go Play Lumberjacks is apparently part of a series of Go Play games. I wouldn’t know. All I do know is that I like watching the lumberjack competition on ESPN when I can do it, and this game features a hot-saw competition.

There are four basic types of games: Sawing, chopping, axe-throwing and water. The manual sawing games can be tiresome (shake your wiimote faster than anyone else in the room! For a minute and a half!), and I haven’t unlocked all the water games yet…

Oh yeah, did I mention that this is one of those games that makes you work to unlock content you paid for? Yeah, it’s one of those.

…but on the whole the game is fun. Recommended for anyone who can’t decide which minigame collection to buy next.

Raving Rabids: TV The franchise that reminded us how cool Rayman was returns for another installment, this one uses the Wii Balance Board and features jokes that are guaranteed to become dated within five years.

Or did you think references to American Chopper would age well?

But all that’s okay, because the games are fun on their own merits, and the implementation of the Wii Balance Board is almost novel enough to justify the game’s claim to be the first Wii game you can play with your butt.

Rabids Go Home And just in case you couldn’t get enough of the screaming rabids, Ubisoft delivers a standalone adventure game featuring them. For those of you who think “rabid” equals “minigame,” allow me to disabuse you. Rabids go Home is a story based game similar to Katamari Damacy in that the plot revolves vaguely around planets and the gameplay involves you collecting a lot of random junk. In RGH, the rabids decide they want to go to the moon. But they can’t reach it, so they decide to build a mountain of junk so tall it lets them climb there. You play a pair of rabids, one driving a shopping cart and another riding in it, who are tasked with careening through levels stealing as much stuff as you can.

It’s fun and the trademark wacky rabid humor is there in spades from the moment you boot the game and your Wii informs you that a rabid has been detected in your Wiimote, and you’re given a camera inside the wiimote that shows him getting smacked around as you shake, rattle, spin and press buttons on your wiimote. This sequence alone is worth the price of the game.

Walk it OutDo you like walking for health, but hate the fact that the weather is only suitable for it for half the year? Do you not mind a rhythm game with obtuse beat detection? Can you handle an excessively perky “coach” telling you how great you’re doing?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then look no further than Walk it Out, a piece of Wii Software that allows up to two players to walk around a virtual town with no time limit, no objective, and no plot.

Note that I said “Software.” Because this is not a game. There is no victory condition, no way to lose, and the only “score” is used to buy items scattered around the town. See, the town is not built up yet. It has roads, but no buildings. So it’s kind of like the I-90 once you get west of the Hudson river, except with fewer trees. With points you can buy thinks like trees, buildings, street lights and new songs to listen to while you’re “walking.”

To earn points, you step in time with the music. You can use the Wii balance board, or the wiimote and nunchuck, or the Dance-Dance-Revolution pad you thought would be so much fun but never play with because the step detection stinks and there was only one game for it.

It’s actually a pretty neat concept. Those of you who’ve had gym memberships know that the most effective, but the most boring part of any workout is the time you spend on the elliptical, or treadmill, or stationary bike. Well, if you have any of those things in your house, you can plant them in front of the TV and use Walk it Out to make believe you’re actually outside and walking around when in reality the weather is too nasty to do it. You’ll have to endure an impossibly perky coach who interrupts you periodically and is, like, so totally amazed at, like, how amazing you’re doing, ‘n stuff. You can swap her out for a male coach, but I haven’t been brave enough to try him out yet because I’m afraid he’ll be even worse than her. It’s a double standard, but perkiness is annoying but tolerable in a girl. Not so much with the tolerable on a boy.

The only problem with the implementation here is the beat detection. Where the game thinks the downbeat of the song is doesn’t always match where I think the downbeat of the song is, but then I’m a middle-class white dude who is less than a decade from being middle aged, so maybe that’s my fault. I highly recommend setting the step detection to easy, and selecting the option that doesn’t cost you points if you miss any steps.

Wii Play Unlike everyone else who bought this game, I didn’t buy the version with the Wiimote bundled in. I already have three wiimotes—should that be thriimotes?—and a fourth would just be superfluous until my son is old enough to stand on his own. So we bought Wii Play used without the controller primarily because it had 9-ball in it. I’m not sure why they went with 9-ball when 8-ball is what most people think of when they think of pool (unless they’re British, in which case they think of snooker, which is like 8 ball except the balls don’t have numbers and there are approximately six thousand of them on the table at any given time), but 9-ball is still fun and the implementation is good enough considering I wouldn’t really want to pay for a standalone billiard game for the Wii.

The real strength of the game is in the Tank game, though. If you had an Atari 2600, you had Combat. And if you had Combat and at least one friend, you probably spent a lot of time playing tank pong. Wii Play features a very similar game here, with tanks that fire shells that ricochet off of walls until they collide with a target or get tired and fall down. The Wii version also allows the player to lay mines, which sounds cool but seems to be largely useless against AI opponents.

There aren’t many games in Wii Play, but the ones that are in there are well executed, and for ten bucks (which is how much it would cost to get this game with a Wiimote if you take out the cost of a Wiimote) it’s worth it. Sure, they’re like flash games. But you can’t play flash games by waving your arms around like a dummy while your friends and family also wave their arms around like competitive dummies, can you?

Wii Fit I’ve mentioned the Wii balance board in a few of the game impressions above. The reason I did so is that we picked up Wii Fit when we bought the Wii.

Wii Fit is surprisingly robust as a piece of training software. A lot of the exercises necessarily focus on core training, since core training is all about balance and balance is what the Wii Balance board is good at measuring. But the addition of several step aerobics variations, a decent list of strength training exercises that don’t actually focus on core strength, and a good roster of yoga poses cement Wii Fit as a piece of software that will actually help people get in shape.

I’m as surprised as you are. How much exercise could a person get standing in one place and leaning in different directions. The answer is a surprising amount. I’ve been doing it every day for almost a month (as of the writing of this post) and not only am I pleased to stick with it, I feel like I’m actually getting in better shape. I’ll never make myself into Arnold Schwarzenegger with the Wii Fit board (unless you buy eight of them and teach yourself to juggle them), but I can stay active and make sure my pants fit. And that’s really what most people want out of exercise anyway, right