Mother of All Wii Game Reviews: Part One

by redshift

We at Halffull don’t take the easy route. It would be too simple to write ordinary reviews. Let’s up the ante.

How about fourteen Wii game reviews?!

1. Super Mario Galaxy: 5/5

This is an easy place to start because the game is delightful. It’s a true spiritual successor to Super Mario 64 and is every bit as fun to play.

The addictive elements are there – quick gameplay, content that’s always fresh, beautiful graphics, and intuitive controls. You can play for 10 minutes and feel a sense of accomplishment by getting a star, or you can play for hours and complete whole worlds.

The controls are intuitive, even in a vast 3d setting, and the levels are forgiving if you misstep. Motion controls are used just enough not to be cumbersome. You point at the screen with the remote to shoot projectiles, and shake the remote to spin Mario like a top, which is now one of the main gameplay mechanics.

The game design is classic Miyamoto. You never repeat the same puzzle twice. Each level feels like a new adventure. Visually, you can see the trend towards a younger audience that started way back with the Yoshi games on SNES , but it’s almost endearing. Plus, if you really don’t like the children’s stories, they’re entirely optional. You still get a great game. Highly recommended if you’ve ever liked a Mario title.

2. Warioware: Smooth Moves: 4/5

Reviews of Warioware have been polarized. Metacritic shows generally favorable reviews, but scores range from 56 to 100 and user reviews average 6.5. I assume this is because of the nature of the game – a sort of extreme version of the minigame trend we see with many Wii games.

Personally, I like minigames, whether standalone or baked into full games. They give you an opportunity to try different things at a rapid pace. Warioware takes this to the extreme with just about the shortest games imaginable – 3 to 5 seconds on average. It gives you just enough time to get a sense of what’s going on, then you immediately have to solve the puzzle by moving the remote in whatever seems like the correct way. There are so many microgames that they built a full game on 3-5 second experiences. Sure, it won’t last you as long as Super Mario Galaxy, but it’s the type of game you can return to many times because you definitely won’t remember all of the challenges.

The games are based on a set of controller styles, such as “The Elephant,” which involves you holding the remote straight out from your nose like a trunk, or “The Waiter,” where you balance the remote flat on the palm of your hand. You have to change styles very quickly between microgames , particularly near the end of the game where you’re only given a second or two to change posture. This keeps the energy high and keeps the strange looks coming.

The game was challenging enough to stay interesting for the 3-4 hours it took to beat. (This does not include any time going back and replaying the games.) For the most part, the controls worked as expected, though there were one or two games (out of around 100) that I couldn’t figure out. Recommended if you like minigames and have a sense of humor.


3. Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis: 2/5

I’ve been a table tennis fan my entire life. Whether you’re a fan or not, this game disappoints. For the newcomer, it’s overly complex and doesn’t offer enough introductory content to get you interested. For the veteran, the controls seem awkward and arbitrary, which makes the game frustrating and, ultimately, boring.

There is a short series of tutorials that teaches you the basics of play. However, the controls and the ball mechanics seem like they were designed by different people. The ball mechanics, by which I mean the way the game simulates ball motion, are complex and fairly accurate. The controls, on the other hand, feel mushy and inaccurate. I just couldn’t get the game to perform the moves I wanted. When I contort my arm to make the ball hit the back left corner of the table, while holding several buttons to impart the proper spin, it would just drop flat on the wrong side of the table. Meanwhile, your avatar is blocking your view of the action.

Frustrating. Not recommended unless you really, really like table tennis and are willing to put up with the warts. The tennis game in Wii Sports is more fun and offers better modes of play. Speaking of which…

4. Wii Sports: 4/5

Wii Sports is the pack-in title for the Wii, so anyone with a Wii should have played it and formed their own opinion. My opinion, being a fan of all the sports in the game, is that it’s a perfect complement to the spirit of the system, and that the games are more addictive than many you’d have to shell out real money for.

My personal favorite is Tennis. The controls are amazingly responsive for being so simple. The practice mode is replayable for hours. Each sport has three practice modes of increasing difficulty, and once you get good at Tennis, you can play the third practice mode (hitting the ball to specific targets) for quite a while without stopping.

Golf, Boxing, Baseball, and Bowling are equally fun. Each has simple controls, fun graphics (play with your own Mii!), and lots of replayability. The only reason I’m not giving the game a 5 is that you might be less interested in the game if you’re not interested in these sports. Still, it’s a great title, and one you can play with almost anyone. My game-confused family has proven that.

5. The Godfather: Blackhand Edition: 3/5

The Godfather is a GTA-style open-world game where you complete missions for The Don’s organization and try to move up in the world. The story is recognizable if you’re a fan of the movies. It’s not a rip-off, but rather a side plot that takes slight liberties with the movie canon to fit a new character into the scene.

First, the good: the controls are very good. You use the remote and nunchuck to simulate your mobster’s hands, with which you can punch, grapple, choke, and throw your enemies in old New York. These actions are handled well and feel intuitive and realistic. You probably don’t need a manual to tell you how to choke someone or throw them into the wall. The remote also serves as a pointing device for your many guns, if you choose to enter free-aiming mode. Over time, you build up the repertoire of moves you can perform.

And then, of course, the bad: the storyline does get a bit dull when your mentor, Luca Brasi, dies within the first few minutes of the game. You’re left on your own to figure out the city, and the game does not guide you. Normally in a open-world game this would be fine, but you at least expect side missions to keep the action moving. There are very few. Even when you’re told about upcoming story events you’re left without a clue of how to find them, and when you do, they don’t always work. It can be quite frustrating. After the second occurrence of a missing plot event, I was ready to give up on the game.

It’s worth a rental, at least to check out the motion-sensitive street fighting controls.

6. Link’s Crossbow Training: 4/5

Link’s Crossbow Training is offered as a pack-in game with the Wii Zapper, a piece of plastic that combines your Wii remote and nunchuck into a stylized gun. I would highly recommend skipping the Wii Zapper altogether and picking up a used copy of Link’s Crossbow Training from your local game store for $5 like I did. It doesn’t need the Wii Zapper and actually plays very well with the remote and nunchuck alone.

It’s a simple target shooting game with bits of adventure shooting and boss fighting thrown in. You can earn medals on each of 9 levels by shooting the various Zelda-themed monsters and targets. In some stages, longer hit streaks will multiply your score, so there’s an element of strategy in choosing whether to try hitting every target or to take your time and go for the big points in the center of the targets. In other stages, you need to fire as fast as possible to take down enemies advancing on you from all directions. In others, you use the analog stick to move around a stage and track down enemies hiding on roofs and in buildings.

For $5, you can’t go wrong. Recommended if you like target shooting in any capacity.

7. Madden NFL ’08: 3/5

I have a long history with Madden games, starting with Madden ’92 on Sega Genesis, so I was interested to see how they’d handle the jump to the Wii . In some respects it was successful, and I enjoyed playing through some of the new training modes. Overall, though, it was a disappointment to see the many downsides overpower the fun of shaking your Wiimote around to tackle someone.

I’m actually not a big football fan, so football games have to deliver on gameplay to hook me. One of Madden ’08’s new features, a single-player career mode, seems to focus more on a corny life simulator than fun content. You spend more time in a tiny apartment with all of four selectable targets than you do on the field. You actually have to tell the game to advance day by day to get to the next event, whether it’s training, an interview, a draft, or a game. The only options of value are games and the training mini-games, which you can play separately. I’d rather not virtually tear days off a calendar, but thanks anyway, EA.

If you ignore the useless new features, the gameplay is fairly entertaining. You can shake the remote and nunchuck in certain ways to enhance tackles, catch passes, or run past defenders. Doing a Power Tackle in two-player mode by punching your fists forward and shouting is endlessly entertaining. The controls aren’t as intuitive as I’d like, though, and it took some time to adjust to the different play style.

Overall, I think the Wii controls and training modes bring some life back to Madden, and the controls simplify things a bit for new users. You might have to ignore a lot of junk on the way, though. Recommended for die-hard Madden or NFL fans, or as a rental for someone who wants to try out the controls in a sports game with friends.

Stay tuned for Part Two, another seven games, coming soon.

Update: Here’s part two.