Wii is the punching bag of the games industry, regularly (though not undeservedly) saddled with the “kiddie crap” moniker and more associated with forgettable shovelware than legitimately good games. Those of us who own and actively play Wii obviously don’t share this view, but it’s almost impossible to read any piece of Wii news, be it feature, review or just straight reporting, without weeding out the “Wii sux who cares” crowd.
This point of view is not without its place, but suddenly there’s an interesting twist: Wii is surprisingly strong right now, even without counting surefire Nintendo hits like New Super Mario Bros Wii. Listed here are four recently released, top quality titles available only for this system, plus four on the way that collectively make a strong case for buying (or hanging onto) your neglected hardware.
Play these right now
DEAD SPACE EXTRACTION (EA)
When EA announced a sequel to Dead Space, everyone was understandably excited. The first game was one of 2008’s most popular titles, selling over a million copies and, in a sense, showed the gaming community EA was capable of creating a strong new property instead of belching out barely improved sequels. A few months later, EA revealed the sequel was going to be an on-rails shooter like House of the Dead, and would be exclusive to Wii. Um, what?
Surprisingly, Extraction turned out to be much more than a repetitive shooting gallery. Its senses-shattering, guerrilla-style presentation made the game more of an intense film experience than an arcade blaster, easily outshining every other game in this genre in terms of oppressive atmosphere. Far more importantly, EA stayed true to the series’ gory reputation, with a nonstop barrage of horrifying, traumatic events that really make you feel for the poor survivors scrambling to stay alive.
Above: Lots of eye contact, camera movement and genuine shock
Extraction also manages to avoid the “it looks good… for a Wii game” curse by just plain looking good. Smart lighting, camera placement and emphasis on face/character animation make this pop off the screen more than most other titles on the system.
Our review: A heart-pounding thrillride the likes of which Wii have never seen [8/10]
MURAMASA: THE DEMON BLADE (Ignition Entertainment)
Wii is not the usual home to hardcore niche titles, nor is it thought of as a system capable of generating lavish visuals. In complete contrast to this stands Muramasa, a game that manages to offer some of the most beautiful scenes of any 2009 title while simultaneously providing a fast, frantic and immensely fun battle system fit for lifelong gamers or those eager to play something other than a lame party game.
Above: Stunning to behold even without 720p
Developer Vanillaware is known for its gorgeously animated action titles, a proud tradition most commonly associated with Saturn’s Princess Crown and PS2’s Odin Sphere. Muramasa is no less exceptional in this regard, proving that Wii is not incapable of dropping our jaw. All it takes is a developer who cares… and avoids motion controls by letting us use the GameCube or Classic Controllers instead.
Our review: Devil May Cry meets Castle Crashers in this stunningly animated slasher [8/10]
SWORDS AND SOLDIERS (Ronimo Games)
This is reaching back a few months (er, well, into June) but we feel this slipped past everyone except those reviewing it. That seems to be par for the course when it comes to WiiWare, as there are plenty of unique, entertaining options there that routinely drift into nothingness because they lack any kind of marketing push. Truly baffling, as Swords and Soldiers is one of the most colorful, addicting titles on the system.
Above: So, we hear it’s pretty good
The general idea is to push your enemies back along the horizontal plane until you kill ‘em all. It’s sort of like a 2D RTS mixed with the candy-colored visuals of Castle Crashers or Fat Princess. Soldiers also happens to be a WiiWare exclusive and slathered with praise from just about every gaming outlet on the planet – certainly not your typical kiddy fare.
Our review: It’s a Clash of the Inane Titans in one of the best WiiWare games yet [9/10]
A BOY AND HIS BLOB (Majesco)
It would be exceedingly generous to call the NES Boy and His Blob a “classic,” as we imagine most people reading this article either rarely played it, or never even knew it existed. Strange then to see a revival 20 years later, done in such a caring, charming manner that it almost feels like a AAA tentpole release instead of a game tossed to the holiday season wolves.
Above: So cute it’s… insert some cliched reference
Granted, Blob fits the Wii stereotype of being super cutesy and ostensibly for children or families, but underneath the captivating animation is a remarkable puzzle/action game that would stand out on any platform. We’re a bit baffled as to why it supports the Classic Controller but not GameCube though.
Our review: Still working on it, though the handful of published scores on Metacritic all fall in the high-7, low-8 range. Sounds lovely to us.
Next page: Four still-to-come Wii games that’ll have you playing well into next summer