The Wii is going through a software drought; games worth playing are few and far between, but Nintendo has a solution, a solution to stimulate a console that only has a handful of new titles worth even glancing at. Their plan: instead of just releasing another mini-game compilation for a console that has built its name on such party fare, they will bundle the game with a shiny new controller in the hopes of stimulating people’s interest in not only the game but the console all over again. Now is it a good thing or a bad thing that this opening paragraph could be (without any changes) perfectly suited for a review of 2007’s Wii Play as well as its sequel, Wii Play: Motion? I guess some things just never change.
Well you can stop checking your calendars as the year is in fact 2011 and Nintendo has once again decided to release a Wii Play title with a bundled controller. This time, however, the entire package is designed to take advantage of the refined Wii Motion Plus technology built into the controllers. Wii Play: Motion features 12 mini-games that will have you twisting your Wii Remotes like never before. Now while this may sound like fun, remember we thought the same thing about Wii Play four years ago (read that review here), and that game turned out to be a boring exercise in tedium, so does Wii Play: Motion redeem the series or is it time we all start avoiding anything with ‘Wii Play’ in the title?
The first game in the line-up is Cone Zone. You hold the Wii Remote vertically and balance an ever growing tower of ice cream scoops. While this may sound simple, the game won’t always stack them ‘dead-on’, forcing you to have to build skewed towers. Also, some ice cream scoops will come at you very quickly and in varying sizes, forcing you to make quick adjustments. As far as enjoyment goes, Cone Zone isn’t too bad. Sure, it’s short (like a good mini-game should be), but it’s fairly challenging and earning that platinum medal is a real test of concentration. The game can be played with two players, which can make things even more difficult, as you have to avoid your opponent’s ice cream tower.
Next we have Veggie Guardin’, which you already know by its carnival name of Whack a Mole. Here you must defend your garden by bonking some bothersome moles on the head with a mallet. The challenge comes with how resourceful these moles are; some will wear helmets and Mii masks to try to confuse you into mistaking them for your friends. This is one of the few games on the package that can be played with four players, which is a nice feature. My only real gripe with Veggie Guardin’ is that it doesn’t really take advantage of any Wii Motion Plus technology, as the pointing and smacking mechanics could be done on the Wii at launch.
Skip Skimmer comes next and this one definitely takes advantage of the advanced motion sensors. Here you pick a smooth stone and try to skip it across a pond. It plays very similarly to the Frisbee game from Wii Sports: Resort but is much friendlier to new players, going as far as to provide in-depth analysis of your throw. The problem here is that, like actual stone skipping, this game is very boring and forgettable; there just isn’t anything exciting about throwing rocks in water. However, if you can convince them, Skip Skimmer is playable with up to four players.
Up next is Trigger Twist, which is, in a way, an updated version of Shooting Range from the original Wii Play (it even features a cameo by the ducks from Duck Hunt). The twist here is that some targets will appear off-screen and you must twist your entire body to see them. Now while this may sound like a novel idea it completely goes against what playing years of shooters on the Wii has taught us. It feels very awkward to use the motion sensor to turn instead of the pointer, so it does take some getting used to. Also, Nintendo, what’s up with one stage asking me to shoot peaceful leaf-eating dinosaurs that are just out for a stroll in the jungle? That’s messed up.
Next we have Pose Mii Plus. Anyone who read my review of the original game (here) will know how much I absolutely loathed this mini-game in Wii Play, and now Nintendo wants me to relive that all over again? Alright, fine, it’s my job, right? Well, I can't believe it but somehow they managed to make Pose Mii Plus… not that bad. This time instead of simply matching the pose with button presses you must twist your remote in all sorts of ways (some of which I had never done before) to get them to fall into a slot within a time limit. It’s stressful and actually mildly hilarious when playing with a second player; definitely one of the better games in the package.
Let’s go straight from one of the best to one of the worst mini-games here. Jump Park is not only boring, it’s stressfully boring. How is that even possible you ask? Well in this game your Mii must collect gems within a time limit. Thing is, they can only move by bouncing onto platforms and off of walls, and the catch is that they can only jump in the direction that you are holding the Wii Remote, which makes for some very restrictive gameplay that only gets worse when you're looking for that one gem to finish a stage and time is ticking down. Do yourself a favour and avoid this park at all costs.
Teeter Targets is next up to bat and it’s... fine. You hold the Wii Remote sideways and tilt it up and down to move paddles. Your goal is to hit all of the targets in a stage, with a ball, within a time limit. Sounds easy, right? Well some of the latter stages are mind-numbingly difficult, requiring pinpoint accurate paddling to hit some targets. My only real problem here is that Teeter Targets could easily be copy/pasted into any other mini-game compilation and fit right in, since it has nothing distinctive about it - it's just filler.
Well here we are, the star of the show is finally here. Spooky Search is not only the best mini-game available on all of Wii Play: Motion but is quite possibly one of the most innovative and fun mini-games that Nintendo has ever been able to put together. You (and up to three friends) are in a haunted mansion and must capture some ghosts (someone at Nintendo stayed up all night watching Ghostbusters I think). Problem is, the ghosts are all off screen, so to find them you must move your Wii Remote all around you, listening to the noise coming from the built-in speaker to find the ghost. Once it is found you must drag it onto the screen and push it into the ghost-catcher. Never before has a game taken advantages of so many of the Wii Remote’s features at once and left me feeling the same way I did when I first played Wii Sports all those years ago.
Alright let’s get back down to Earth. The next game is Wind Runner and it's very, very boring, which is surprising considering that if you ever tried to do what your Mii does in Wind Runner you would be in for the ride of your life. Here your Mii must use an umbrella, the wind and roller blades to navigate a winding course high above the Earth. Now while this would give any stunt-man the sweats it somehow manages to be one of the most repetitive and forgettable titles here. All you really do is twist the Wii Remote and periodically press ‘A’ to close your umbrella.
Let’s go from boring to frustrating. Treasure Twirl sees your Mii deep sea diving for treasure and you must reel him back to the surface all the while avoiding jellyfish and rocks. You do this by spinning the Wii Remote the same way you would eat a corn on the cob. Things get out of control when you have to factor in that you also have to tilt the controller left and right to avoid obstacles, which wouldn’t be so bad if your Mii wasn’t way too greedy and stocked his treasure up to the ceiling, making it practically impossible to keep everything on board.
Now I hope you have been working out for this next game. Flutter Fly has you trying to push a balloon through an obstacle course made up of spikes and evil crows. You control a fan, and like any good fan must make some wind to help push your balloon along. The thing is, these levels are pretty long and constantly waving the Wii Remote rapidly all while rotating it around to change the angle can get pretty tedious and physically exhausting (I thought this was Wii Play: Motion not Wii Fit!). Luckily for us and our arms, Flutter Fly is one of the most boring, forgettable and least enjoyable games on the disk, so the odds are you won’t be revisiting this one too often.
The last game, Star Shuttle (so many alliterations) should be reserved only for those who have mastered the Wii Remote Plus’ advanced motion sensing. The game even warns you that this won’t be easy. Here you must dock with a space station at a very precise location and angle. This is done by pointing the Wii Remote in the right direction, keeping the Motion Plus angled perfectly, and using the arrow and ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons to control your thrust, as well as manage your speed so as not to crash. The problem is that the slightest mistake or miscalculation can send your space ship careening off course and since you have to watch so many variables at once this will happen fairly often. Star Shuttle stands out from the pack as it’s definitely not dull, but it's easily one of the most difficult mini-games in the entire Wii series.
Now if you have ever played a game with the word ‘Wii’ in the title (and looking at the series’ sales I think most of you have), you know by now what to expect in the presentation department. The game uses Miis and the same generic ‘Wii’ soundtrack we're all accustomed to. The only change is that the game features a wide variety of settings for our Miis to play in, but it’s just not enough when Wii Play: Motion - a first party title that came out in 2011 - looks, sounds and feels like the same thing we were playing back in 2006.
Like Wii Play that came before it, the real value of Wii Play: Motion is directly tied to the fact that the game comes bundled with a Wii Remote Plus controller, which for $49.99 is a pretty good deal. Problem is, Wii Play: Motion is just not that good of a game on its own and doesn’t justify its existence by attaching itself to a controller bundle. If you really want a Wii Motion Plus then just pick one up individually and grab one of the many games they come packed with; you will be doing yourself a huge favour.
That being said, Wii Play: Motion does offer some decent replay value for those willing to look past its many, many flaws. For example, all of the games feature unlockable modes and extras to keep you playing a bit longer. Also, Nintendo has hidden away some pretty neat Easter eggs. It’s just a shame that not all of the games (only 4 out of 12) support four players and that some of the mini-games simply don’t need the Wii Remote Plus controller.
Some people never learn from their mistakes. No matter how hard they try they will keep falling into the same traps as before, repeating history until it finally comes back to hit them in the face. It looks like this may have happened to Nintendo and the Wii Play name. While it may be too early to tell, it seems the public is finally tired of boring, repetitive mini-games and it's time for Nintendo to move onto bigger and greener pastures. As it is, while Wii Play: Motion is an improvement over the original, that's only because it comes bundled with a better controller.