And now, for the continuation of part one of the mother of all Wii game reviews…
8. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz: 1/5
This is another easy place to start, because Super Monkey Ball is terrible. For your own sanity and wallet, do not even rent this game.
Super Monkey Ball has two game modes. The first is classic Monkey Ball, where you roll your crazy little monkey down a Marble Madness-esque course encased in a balloon. The only challenge is in trying to master the frustrating controls. Level design is boring, frustrating, or both.
They didn’t even make the Wii remote enjoyable to use in such an obvious avenue for motion sensitivity. The controls were fairly responsive, to the point of oversensitivity, but were not customizable. You have to hold the remote pointing toward the television, as opposed to sideways like an NES controller, which would make much more sense to me. It became uncomfortable after only two levels. On top of the discomfort, your wrist is just not designed to make quick movements in the manner they intend, which could even lead to RSI.
So, let’s ignore the first game mode. The second is even worse. Sad, really. It’s a collection of 50 minigames a la Wii Sports or Wii Play, though shorter, not replayable, and less fun in general. In fact, most of the games don’t even behave as the (briefly shown, opaque) instructions claim. Several don’t work at all. I can only remember two or three of the 50 minigames. My only guess is that the “monkey ball” portion was in development when an executive saw the success of minigame-style Wii titles and insisted on their inclusion. The result is truly painful.
9. Super Smash Bros. Brawl: 4.5/5
Great little fighter. I don’t think Brawl is as expansive as most other reviews say, but there is a lot of content. The main fighting mode is great. There are at least 40 characters and 50 levels, and with the level editor you can make interesting new ones. If you’re new to Super Smash Bros., you might be surprised to find that fights aren’t just melee combat. Levels come alive and present various obstacles throughout the fight. They’re also much larger than in most fighting games and present multiple areas and tiers for variety. Many aspects of the rules of combat can be adjusted to your liking. Some are serious, some for fun, like wearing a flower on your head or breathing fiery curry breath.
On top of standard combat, one of my favorite challenges is the Event mode. There are different events for single player and multiplayer, and there’s a good amount of variety in the goals. One mode involves killing 50 enemies in one loop around the course. Another involves beating all of the original Smash Bros. characters in one round. Another involves beating colored koopa troopas in a certain order. They’re challenging and they offer difficulty levels and trophies to keep you coming back.
There is a single player mode, called Subspace Emissary, but it feels… odd. It’s reminiscent of an old-school platformer with new graphics. Honestly, this is my only complaint about the game, and it’s why I can’t give a perfect 5/5 score. There just isn’t enough unique about this mode to keep my interest. It has its moments – I particularly like the Donkey Kong levels – but there are just as many annoying moments. You can’t pick your characters for a large portion of the mode, and you often get stuck with Pit. Since Pit is a new addition to Brawl, I can understand the reason for this, but he’s also not as polished as the returning characters and tends to annoy.
There are a few other mini-modes, like a coin-shooting game and sticker collection, but they’re not really worth discussing. Feel free to ignore them and enjoy the Brawl and Event modes, which really are classic. Recommended for almost anyone, though I’d strongly advise you play with a friend or three.
10. Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection: 4/5
I love this game. I am a pinball freak, and The Williams Collection has amazing physics and camera control, two key elements to replicating the pinball experience. The only reason I can’t give it a 5 is the fact that you must be a pinball fan to appreciate it, and that if you’re not, the content might seem a bit light. You do have to practice quite a bit to get all of the content out of this title.
There are 10 tables ranging from 1970 to the mid-90’s. They’re all well-selected and offer a lot of challenges to master. Once you complete the standard set of 6 challenges on a table, you open up the “Wizard Challenges” that are significantly harder. These often involve hitting a perfect streak of targets to get the ultimate jackpot of the table. Not to be taken lightly. I’ve only managed to complete all of the wizard challenges on one table, Space Shuttle, but I’m definitely working toward the rest. Completing challenges earns you credits that you can use to play other tables or unlock tables for free play. Highly recommended if you’re a pinball fan, and recommended for anyone to see if you secretly have the bug.
11. Trauma Center: Second Opinion: 4/5
I hope you don’t have an aversion to blood and guts, or you’ll miss out on a fun, original game. You play a surgeon moving up in the world of Creepy Anime City (paraphrased) where everyone acts like a saint except you. You feel the need to leave patients hurting in the OR without being fully treated, or to be rude to your helpful nurse, or to ignore the advice of your elders. Ahh, Japan.
Anyway. The gameplay of Trauma Center is strong. It’s a lot of fun to figure out the different medical challenges, and the controls on the Wii are fantastic. The analog stick on the nunchuck picks your instrument, and the remote serves as your operating hand inside the patient. There’s a puzzle element to figuring out which tools should be used when. If you screw up, you have a bit of a chance to recover through the use of stimulants and supernatural powers (again, it’s Japan), but the difficulty ramps up until you really need to know your tools intimately.
My only nitpick, aside from the bizarre story, is the stage where you’re forced to defuse a bomb. It’s out of place and far more difficult than the stages leading up to it. Recommended unless you have a serious aversion to blood.
12. Wii Play: 3/5
Wii Play is a hit-or-miss minigame collection that you can get for $10 if you buy a remote. ($50 instead of $40, basically.) Since it’s hit-and-miss, I’ll devote the most times to the good bits.
- Good minigames:
- Shooting Range, i.e. Duck Hunt. I wish they had just called it Duck Hunt and made everyone happy. Classic shooting game, but if you want more, get Link’s Crossbow Training.
- Laser Hockey. A nice air hockey clone with the addition of paddles you can rotate.
- Billiards. Simple but fun, if you like shooting pool. You can even impart english. Minor control issues, but not enough to hamper play.
- Tanks! The best of the bunch. Reminiscent of Combat on the Atari, with the addition of mines and better cannons. Surprisingly addictive.
- Not-so-good minigames:
- Find Mii. Ugh. I suppose this is the best version of a “find the matching pictures” game I’ve played, but still boring.
- Table Tennis. Not terrible, but there’s nothing to the game except moving your paddle left and right to hit the ball. No real use of the motion controls in the remote.
- Pose Mii. Ugh. Painful to play. You have to line up goofy-looking bodies, attached to your Mii’s head, into patterns on the screen. Not much more to be said, aside from Ugh.
- Fishing. Could have been better. The graphics are cheesy and the fish look like construction paper. The controls aren’t as responsive as they could be.
- Charge! A silly game where you ride a cow around a track and try to jump obstacles. Fun to watch, but gets old fast.
Recommended only because it’s $10 if you’re getting a remote anyway.
13. Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles: 4/5
If you like rail shooters, this is a great way to bring the genre into your home. Resident Evil is the perfect setting for a shooter like this, and the Wii has the natural choice for control mechanisms. You play through part of the story from the first few Resident Evil games, blasting your way through zombies with the Wii remote. You shake the remote to reload, and you can evade some enemy attacks by performing the right motion when the warning pops up. The controls are good and the weaponry feels just right. You can always go back to levels to improve your rating, and single-player side stories will open up as you progress through the main chapters. Recommended if you’re a fan of shooters or of Resident Evil in general.
14. Wii Built-ins – Everybody Votes, Check Mii Out, Forecast, and News channels: 3/5
These are all free channels that either come with the Wii or are downloadable from the Wii Shop channel. News and Forecast (weather) are actually well-made, and have impressed some of my visitors, but they’d be a bit better if they opened quicker. You only get a brief summary when you select the channel, at which point you have to wait for the full program to load to get the 5-day forecast or world news. Handy to have in the living room if your computer is elsewhere.
Everybody Votes is a simple channel where you can vote on random questions of the day; sort of a democracy of useless trivia. Check Mii Out is a bit more interesting. You can submit the Miis you’ve created to various contests. For example, there have been contests to create Mario, Cleopatra, and opera singer lookalikes. Hey, it’s free, what were you expecting? You could probably skip these and lead a full life.
Next in line: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. These are two of my favorite franchises and I saved them until after I completed Super Mario Galaxy. Once I’ve played through, I’ll let you know my opinion and whether they live up to the legacy.