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For the first time in two and a half years Nintendo has a game that plays exactly like it does in the advert. Guy hiding behind the sofa during Resident Evil 4? Liar. Lady lunging across the living room in Wii Sports Tennis? Sick in the head. Wii Sports Resort, however, doesn’t lie. Nintendo could front the campaign with a chorus line of MotionPlus doohickies and we’d still believe in its miracle powers.
The moment it clicked? It was more of a swipe, really. Facing another Mii in a sword duel we delivered a stinging shot to his right thigh followed with a hearty whack to the left ear. And it’s exactly what we wanted to do. All of a sudden we were ten years old again, belting the neighborhood kids with fallen branches. The opponent swung back and we dropped our hand to parry. You’re still leading an avatar on screen, but his faded silhouette tells you what you already know: you don’t need him there anymore.
You can sense Nintendo’s affinity for slicing ’n’ dicing from the fact the swordplay has multiple modes. Where in Wii Sports every event came with three training variations, Resort plays fast and loose – if the chaps at Nintendo EAD have a fun variant, you’ll play the fun variant. Speed Slice is a directional cutting task complete with amazing lumps of physics-enabled cake to hack. Carefully shave off a sliver and away it peels. Mentally replace the procession of cake, sushi and diamonds with Zelda’s Moblins and you get very giddy indeed.
Similar anticipatory synapses fire up during archery. Tilting a vertically held remote to aim a bow may smack of Mario & Sonic’s similar Olympic controls, but the real smack is the sound of Sega developer hand on Sega developer forehead as they see MotionPlus bring the goods. As delicate as pointer control, though obviously slower, it’s a great little bit of make believe mimicry. Okay, so pulling the string taut with the Nunchuk is phony (it’s the Z button that pulls the string, the Nunchuk gesture just zooms you in faster), but the twang and thwack belong entirely to you.
Resort’s big surprise is canoeing. Now, how to explain in a clever, writerly fashion? Er, pretend you’re canoeing and you canoe. What would have been (and was, in Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings) crudely handled with flicks now feels like a proper water scoop. They’re perfect controls for pursuing Mii ducks (joining Wuhu Island’s zoo’s worth of dogs, seagulls and whales) around the pond. Multiplayer speed race is also a highlight, as thrashing fools disrupt your god-like strokes.
These disciplines are the A-listers, the beautiful faces blazoned across Resort’s brochure. The next strata of games houses subtlety. Reggie’s E3 basketball face-off looked unremarkable; MotionPlus’ grasp of angles and spin as the ball leaves your hand is anything but. A second outing for Wii Sports Bowling is particularly telling. All those times you weren’t sure the ball recognised your spin? You weren’t crazy. MotionPlusless, the remote can be a bit flaky. With it, you’re Woody Harrelson in Kingpin. Pre-hand-loss, natch.
Golf’s return also answers to wrist twist – the power meter now sways to show spin – but would it have hurt Nintendo to find new outlets for motion trickery? Bowling and Golf are only two of 12 options, but they boast more attention than better, newer events. Perhaps we’re tainted by Tiger’s giganto golf package, but even with an island dedicated to it, it’s hard to get excited about Resort’s golf. Bowling’s reliable new spin sees it fare better, if only for ludicrous trick shots (encouraged in a revamped version of Wii Sports’ spin control training).
Not to resort to playground catcalls, but Resort’s Frisbee is better than Tiger Woods’ Frisbee. EA have the added benefit of enough golf courses to wrap around the world three times, but the motion of Nintendo’s disc feels a smidgen more realistic, more tactile. Whether throwing one to appease a spherical mutt in Frisbee Dog or playing more straight-laced Frisbee Golf, your Mii’s hand is perfectly synchronised with your own, setting a new standard for one-to-one control. And yes, just like real frisbee it’s way too easy to lob it into the stratosphere.
So, eye-opening tech and thoughtful games all round? Alas no. Nintendo’s world famous quality testing ensures it all works, but a few events fail to prove their MotionPlus worth. There’s nothing in the plane air sports, for example, that couldn’t be done in Wing Island. Imagining the remote as a plane fuselage is not exciting and fresh. Extra slaps on the wrist for not being Pilotwings. And how is flicking the remote and Nunchuk up and down to pedal a bike not a colossal waste of MotionPlus’ time?
The weakest, however, is Power Cruising, which has the audacity to pair up MotionPlus with Nunchuk tilt control. The Nunchuk was the idiot child of the family before MotionPlus came along; seeing it stick its grotty prong into the magic box is quite awkward. One cancels out the other. Sorry, folks, this is not the Wave Race Wii you’re looking for. Not even close. Hell, canoeing is closer – in that it involves water and is, y’know, actually fun.
Through Resort’s 12 core events, MotionPlus’ future flashes before our eyes. Some games will dazzle. Some will subtly change things for the better. Some will miss the mark completely. Amazing how one tiny white cube can clean the slate for Wii. In this sense, Resort is every bit as vital in your collection as Wii Sports – don’t you want to be there when it all begins? Of course, your collection had no choice but to have Wii Sports. And so the grubby issue of price appears…
Fifty bucks for a nubbin, a gross rubber skin and an island of activities to show it off? Sounds fair to us. But what of the wealth of multiplayer modes? The most fun we’ve had with Resort has been against fellow humans. Table Tennis is designed for two. Sword fights are lonely with one combatant. Four men in a canoe is a hoot. Even the miserable biking becomes entertaining when a tandem enters the equation. With every extra MotionPlus unit, the fun climbs.
This is the problem: the adverts don’t lie. MotionPlus does enable emotive control. Wuhu Island is a fun place to be. Buying three extra peripherals and playing with others will make you happier. If those three others happen to be the rich, good for you: they can fork out for the lot. The rest of us, as always, will have to save up for that perfect day in the sun.
Jul 26, 2009