Back in 1977, Atari set a videogame precedent with the release of its Atari 2600 VCS console — that precedence was, home videogame consoles should include a game. Thirty years after its release Combat may not seem terribly exciting, but that wasn’t necessarily the point. The point was (and is), after spending a couple (or few) hundred bucks on a brand new console, “said console” should come with a game to play when you get it home. For decades, this has been the rule. Some consoles (like the original PlayStation) bent the rules a bit, offering single-level demo versions of multiple games instead of one single game – but again, at least when you got the system home it did something. In recent years, more and more companies have opted to not include a pack-in game with their system (neither the Xbox 360 nor Sony’s PS3 comes with a game.) Thankfully, Nintendo stuck with the age-old pack-in game tradition by including Wii Sports with their latest console, the Wii.
Wii Sports consists of five simplistic sports games: Tennis, Baseball, Bowling, Golf, and Boxing. Each game uses the Wii’s motion-sensitive controller (the Wiimote) to simulate actual sport-related motions. The result is five mini-games that are all easy to learn and fun to play but not particularly advanced. Then again, neither was Combat.
Tennis, the first of five games, allows 1-4 players to pick up a Wiimote and go head-to-head (to-head-to-head) on a virtual tennis court. The game’s controls are super-simplistic; as the Wii controls your player’s running direction, all that’s left for you to do is swing the racket in the corresponding direction (forehand, backhand, or overhand). Players can somewhat control the direction of their shot by the timing of their swing. Regardless of the number of human participants there are always four players on the court. In one or two player games, gamers control both players on their side of the net (again, controlled by the time of the swing). Despite the game’s simple controls, Tennis is actually quite fun. By varying swing speeds and techniques the game yields more variety than one would initially suspect. In addition to the game itself, there is a constant threat of being whacked in the head by your opponent’s Wiimote and the constant fear that someone is going to bash their hand into your ceiling fan, or let go of the Wiimote and send it smashing into your expensive flat-screen television.
Baseball, the second game on the disc, brings more fun yet simple gameplay to the Wii. Anyone who has ever played or seen America’s favorite pastime played before will find the Wiimote controls intuitive. Batting is performed (as one might suspect) by swinging the remote like a baseball bat. Pitching is performed by swinging the Wiimote in an overhand motion. Pitchers have a few more controls at their disposal; by holding down one or more buttons, pitchers can choose between four different types of pitches. The velocity and force at which the remote is swung affects the speed of your virtual pitches as well. (Again, both of these motions are likely to scare owners of expensive televisions, with both the batters and pitchers swinging remotes with much force.) Like Tennis, all player motion control including outfielding and base running is automated by the console. The distance from which the ball lands determines whether a hit is a single, double, or triple. While gamers looking for a serious game of baseball will find the lack of control frustrating, the game is what it is — more of a “Wiimote learning tool” than an actual baseball simulation.
Next up is Bowling, possibly the most entertaining game on the disc. Once again, the motion of swinging a bowling ball and releasing it is duplicated via the Wiimote. Release the button too early and your ball will go sailing backwards, causing onlookers to jump; release too late and your ball will sail through the air before plonking down somewhere down the lane. Bowling seems to be the most sensitive of the five games when it comes to the remote’s control – slight variations in the Wiimote’s orientation will cause your ball to spin, backspin, or, if you’re like me, make a bee-line to the gutter.
The fourth game on the disc, Golf, has players teeing off against one another in up to nine holes of virtual golf. Again, the key to the game is in controlling the Wiimote, which held like a typical golf club. Swing too hard and the power bar will go all wonky, causing your ball to either hook or slice. I personally found Golf to be the hardest of the five games to control, with the Wiimote occasionally not recognizing my swings or reading my power level incorrectly (especially while putting). I don’t mind the Wiimote when it enhances gameplay, but if it actually hinders my ability to play a game then it’s more frustrating than enjoyable. I think a putt-putt style game would have been more enjoyable here, leaving the “real” golf to Tiger Woods 2007 fans.
Boxing is the last game on the disc and the only one to use both the Wiimote and the Nunchuck (the “other” Wii remote). By holding one remote in each hand, gamers will unleash their padded-fist fury by pounding their bobble-headed opponents into submission. Once again fun triumphs over technical prowess here – boxing fans will lament the lack of accuracy and control within this mini-game, while fun-seekers will over look this and happily swing wildly at one another. Boxing is probably the most physically exhausting of the disc’s five games. Your arms will be burning after this one
Wii Sports makes good use of the Wii’s Mii system. Miis are avatars that you create for gaming with on the Wii. Miis can be traded among friends online. It’s entertaining to see your friends show up as tennis opponents or members of your own baseball team.
Although it has faults, it’s hard to complain too loudly about Wii Sports. While some of the games are more fun than the others, they’re all playable. Each one does a good job of introducing players to the Wiimote, and they’re all easy to pick up within a minute or two. When gamers unacquainted with the Wii controller drop by to check it out, this is the game you’ll toss in. My five-year-old son beat me 3-2 in Tennis last night, so a complete mastery of videogames is not required to enjoy (and gosh, have fun) playing these games. Those looking for a bit more depth will likely find it in any of the consoles other $50 games – those looking to kill a few fun-filled nights with those non-hardcore gamers in their lives will find Wii Sports fits the bill nicely.