Sunday, August 9, 2009

'Wii Sports Resort' impressions

In an event so rare it ranks up there with Bigfoot sightings, solar eclipses and Jeph Loeb books of redeeming value, I was given both Friday and Saturday off this weekend.

I'd cue the choir of angels for celebratory music, but they're probably exhausted from my cuing them so often already.

Anyway, the bad news is, I was far away from my Xbox 360 all weekend, so I have still yet to get my hands on the "Batman: Arkham Asylum" demo. Rest assured that I'll be fitting that in between "True Blood" and "Entourage" once I'm out of work later. The good news is the girlfriend and I finally got a good chunk of time to try out "Wii Sports Resort."

Keep in mind, this is no formal review, as I generally don't review games until doing more than playing for three hours with a Wiimote in one hand and stuffed-crust pizza in the other, but it doesn't require very much time to see "Wii Sports Resort" does, in fact, fall into that rare category of party games for the Wii worth your time — a category so rare I wouldn't even include "Wii Play" in it, were it not for the pack-in controller.

"WSR" includes 12 mini-games, most of which are new to the "Wii Sports" series, and all (ok, most) do have that same easy precision control that made the original title such a party-game favorite. Included in the 12 games are a new bowling (which I didn't try), ping pong (which plays similar to "Wii Sports' " tennis) and golf.

Surprisingly, of all these 12 games, I may have spent the most time of with golf, partially because the "Wii Motion Plus" makes the game very smooth and partially because of the inclusion of 18 holes, including nine taken directly from the very first Nintendo golf game ever, simply titled "Golf." My dad and I may have played over 100 rounds on "Golf's" lone course, so playing those holes again is truly a thrill, even if the nostalgia is lost on 98% of those who pick up "WSR."

If any of these new games break out in popularity like "Wii Sports' " bowling did the first time around, I predict it will be archery. With three different difficulty levels, each with four different competitions, this mini-game tests your ability to aim through differing levels of wind, elevation and obstacles. It can become competitive very quickly, especially since one bad shot can make it tough to come back, and concentration is a must. Unfortunately for me, the girlfriend is apparently a natural when it comes to firing virtual arrows ... let's just move on.

I also really enjoyed the frisbee mini-game in which you need to throw your disc as close to a target as possible, and also get your little virtual puppy to catch it. While not the toughest game ever, there's something enjoyable about having a happy little dog go that extra mile to catch your throw and score points for the team.

Unfortunately, this game falls a little short in the depth category. A couple of the games require very little skill, like wakeboarding and sword fighting (the game I was most looking forward to and consequently most disappointed by), while others were hampered by bugs, like basketball which was just very awkward (and I play basketball!) and canoeing, the only game that really had difficulties reading the "Wii Motion Plus" sensor when switching from one side of the boat to the other.

And you know, I really hope that I just gave up on sword fighting too quickly and find out that I love it once I give it another chance, because isn't that the game we all hoped to get the most out of the "Wii Motion Plus" innovation? Upon first try, sword fighting just feels like the player who whacks the other as fast as they can is the winner. There's very little reward for strategy and patience. And really, if this version of sword fighting stunk so hard, what does that mean for our future hopes for a lightsaber game? As I said, I really hope I just gave up on the mini game too quickly. I guess you can judge for yourselves.

Overall, I'm very pleased to have "Wii Sports Resort" in my game library, and yes, "Wii Motion Plus" does make a world of difference in Wii games, even if the sensor has to be reset from time to time.

Will it reach the same wild popularity that "Wii Sports" had? No, certainly not, but that's mostly because "Wii Sports' " popularity was mostly borne of the Wii's own novelty. That will never be reproduced, or at least not until Project Natal launches. In the meantime, the best you can say for "Wii Sports Resort" is that it plays and feels like the direct successor to "Wii Sports," and that should be all the endorsement you need.

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