Despite taking over the casual gaming world and introducing millions to our beloved hobby, the Wii's just about hit rock bottom among the hardcore this past year. Games like Animal Crossing and the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy 2 feel like the same old same old, while high profile "edgier" exclusives like Mad World and The Conduit failed to set the world on fire as they were meant to. In their wake? A whole load of shovel ware and casual kiddy crud.
|Wii MotionPlus is a peripheral that...sorta turns the Wii into what it always should have been. It could well be too little too late though...|
Like many, I'd lost faith in the Wii as a hardcore gaming platform...particularly with Sony and Microsoft aping its one unique feature and now introducing their own motion sensing capabilities this past E3. Those are both a ways off still however, so let's not count the Wii out just yet, eh? One could argue in fact, that hope remains in the form of the recently released Wii MotionPlus add-on. What is it exactly? Well quite simply, it's a small device that clicks onto your Wii-mote and instantly beefs up its sensitivity.
'Cos let's be honest, now. The motion sensing capabilities of the Wii have never been perfect, have they? Hitting balls in Wii Sports and head-shotting zombies in Resident Evil was fun, unique and new, but over time it's become increasingly noticeable how some games feel laggy, others imprecise, and some can even be complete-able by merely...waggling around randomly. Ahem, Soul Calibur Legends.
Wii MotionPlus aims to fix all that. It boasts true 1:1 movement, in real-time, with zero lag, and full willy waggling responsiveness. Sensing your hand movements with unrivalled precision as we'd always hoped of the Wii. That's the promise anyway. Having just picked it up this past month for myself though, I thought I'd detail my findings on whether or not it delivers on that...
|This is complex business as you can see|
Once clipped onto the bottom of your controller, the MotionPlus certainly adds an extra degree of sturdiness previously lacking. The extra length feels good in the hands - a fair bit more "lightsaber-y" - and a lot more comfortable in games that require a 2-handed grip. Unfortunately, MotionPlus comes with a mandatory condom-like protective sheath that you can't remove. The idea being, you "slip" the Wii-mote into this sleeve before snapping it in place, and should you fling the Wii-mote across the room, no TVs or household pets should die at Nintendo's hands. Which I suppose is a good thing, but it would be nice to have the choice. Bear in mind most docking and charging stations won't be compatible with the 'mote in this state either, meaning a whole lotta attaching and detaching whenever you wish to charge her too.
It's worth mentioning that MotionPlus is only compatible with games that specifically program for it, so don't go into Zelda and Mario Kart expecting to reap huge benefits. As of now, there are only three games released that actually make use of the improved functionality, with just a handful more announced. That's what Nintendo tell you at least. In reality however, I actually noticed minor improvements across the board with my Wii-mote. Even just in the system menu, my 'mote used to flicker and jerk around the screen quite erratically at times. This could be the layout of my room, or the fact the TV sits in front of a bright window - who knows - but since clipping on the MotionPlus, that's gone. Completely. So while that and older games may not be utilizing the MotionPlus directly, it's definitely made my system act...well, as it should. It's a huge plus I most definitely wasn't expecting, though your mileage will most definitely vary.
Wii Sports Resort
|Resort offers up more of that good old Wii Sports goodness. Thankfully Bowling returns, rendering your original disc mildly useless...|
Naturally, it's Nintendo who offer up the best example of the new controller as far as games go, with their sequel to Wii Sports - the most successful game ever made - that aims to provide more thrilling mini-game fun for all the family.
Let us not underestimate the importance of this game either. Cute, cuddly and simple it may be, but its predecessor has been pretty much the sole reason this system has found its way into millions upon millions of households worldwide. A follow-up not only makes sense, but couldn't have come sooner.
Resort, as its name suggests, takes things a little more adventurous and...vacational. Set amidst a glorious beach community, and the many activities contained within, the five games of the original Wii Sports have been replaced by 12 this time around, with only (somewhat spruced up) Bowling and Golfing making a reappearance. I'll run through the rest, super quick-like, though it's worth noting that each game has a good 2 or 3 distinct variants that you can unlock, beefing up the content quite considerably.
|Sword fighting with the Wii-mote was already a solid fit. It's now perfected thanks to MotionPlus|
- arguably the best example of MotionPlus' new enhancements to be found right now, just swinging the sword around alone shows off perfect responsiveness that accurately renders your movements to a T. The aim of Swordplay is to clobber your foe with a foam baton until you knock 'em off a high ledge - Gladiators style - and though hardly decked out with Street Fighter-esque levels of depth, it's fun to smack and poke at people with such beautiful controls. You can even squeeze B to enter a block mode, which works just as wonderfully, and provides immense satisfaction against the AI Mii drones. An alternate mode sees you roaming across this island resort while battling dozens of enemies in quick succession too, like some kinda third person Streets of Rage for babies. Too much fun.
- a Pilot Wings-like airplane game (which apparently started out as a tech demo many moons back), Air Sports is another of my picks of the bunch. Flight controls are seamless and responsive, while exploring the island from the sky proves most enjoyable and relaxing. For those with more of a taste for death and destruction however, there are dogfight modes available in this game too, along with a cute skydiving option in which you snap pics of your Miis as they hurl to the ground at immense speeds. The beautiful flight controls here simply make one yearn for a StarFox Wii above anything else though.
|Graphically Resort isn't gonna blow anyone away, but the island looks suitably lush as you'd expect, and the whole thing does boast a certain charm|
- Resort's rendition of ping pong is a whole lotta fun, and possibly my fave of the lot. Somewhat similar to the original Wii Sports' Tennis game, Table Tennis controls your avatar's position automatically, with you merely taking care of the ball hitting. With that in mind, it's no Rockstar's Table Tennis beater. The MotionPlus controls are what make it shine though, acting just about 100% perfectly, so much so that spins and backhands become second nature within seconds, while knocking the ball off target and missing the table becomes worryingly easy. In fact, I enjoyed this more than either of the "real" tennis games that I'll come to in a minute...
- Resort's water ski game is the lamest of the bunch, with very little to it sadly. Dragged along the water by boat, it's simply a case of holding your hands out to simulate the rope, while steering left and right to jump and perform stunts. Gets old. Quick.
- Wakeboarding's jet ski counterpart is far more enjoyable thankfully, with full 360 degree controls and a series of time trialled courses to steer through. Revving back on your Wii-mote fires off a turbo, while the physics and buoyancy of the waves feels appropriately bouncy and giggly beneath your aquatic hog. There's a free roam mode available in this should you prefer it too. Dig it.
|Nintendo originally toyed with something similar to Archery in Twilight Princess, but ultimately failed to make it work and pulled it mid-development. Resort on the other hand, nails it right off the bat. Yay|
- Archery's quite fun also, and somewhat nicely implemented to boot. Using the nun-chuck and Wii-mote, it has you emulating the look and motion of pulling a bow back, while simultaneously trying to keep your aim steady and take into account distance and gravity throughout your Legolas impressions. There's not a lot to it beyond that, but it's neat, different, plus...rumor has it the next Zelda will use similar controls for its archery, so you better get used to it.
- A pleasant surprise for me. There's little here that benefits from MotionPlus, but cycling is enjoyable and also somewhat unique. Using the 'mote and nun-chuck, the player has to shake them up and down to emulate the cycling motion of your avatar's feet - I guess - but it's very much stamina-based, in that pedaling constantly will tire your character (and you) out, up to the point where he'll have to stop and drink. Knowing when to pedal and when to glide becomes pivotal then, as does steering left and right to avoid fellow cyclists (these are 30-man competitive races by the way). It's nice to have a wee little explore of the island on the back of a bicycle...I just wish it had a true free roam mode to go off on your own is all.
|Some Balance Board stuff would have slotted into Resort nicely, but alas, t'was not to be|
- I fear most will detest this due to its tiring nature, but it was a pleasing surprise for me. Like Power Cruising, the water physics work beautifully here - truly Phil-Harrison-PS3-duck-demo-good - while your alternate paddling from left to right has just the right effect on your canoe as you'd expect. There's not much to it, but canoeing does what its name suggests perfectly, and I can't wait to try it out with three comrades.
- Basketball is something of a pointless and skill-less addition that does little for me. You mimic the motion of tossing hoops rather well with the Wii-mote, but it becomes instantly clear that throwing balls at the apex of your jump sees it score 99% of the time. There's little else to it, and even a 3-on-3 mode adds nowt of interest.
|Air Sports has an assortment of modes, but my fave was simply exploring the skies and admiring the island views from above. Luv-erly|
- Frisbee is surprisingly fun, but way, way
hard. The motions are rendered accurately once more, even just waving the frisbee around in your hand before chucking it, but I had a nightmare aiming the disc at first, lobbing it miles off in the wrong direction constantly. Until, that is, I realized a more advanced mode lets you squeeze "B" to designate when to release it, ala Bowling.
That's your lot anyway. All in all, Resort provides more of what you loved in Sports, with far
better controls. The lack of an online mode is a huge let-down, true, but then again the fun of this thing comes from the crowded living room, not the solitary couch. With that in mind, the inclusion of just one MotionPlus add-on with the game grates slightly (additional players will need one to play all of Resorts' games), and as a result, I've not tried out any of the multiplayer stuff at all so far. I'll tell you this though...just playing solo, it's become one of my fave Wii games yet.
Downhill From Here
|It looks nowhere near this good I'm afraid|
While I haven't put enough time in with the rest of the MotionPlus line-up to proclaim those ever-important scores, early thoughts are not quite so positive.
Tiger Woods 2010
- There must be few things as boring as reading about a golf game...other than perhaps writing about one. But I will say Tiger's latest Wii outing is a welcome surprise at least. There's a reason people are calling this the best golf game ever.
Yeah, it's nothing to look at, with simplistic character models and some of the lamest weather effects I've seen in about a decade (which, in its defense, are at least pulled in real-time off the Forecast Channel). The courses look nice though, suitably green and epic.
I dunno really, golf just suits the Wii shockingly well though. The act of pulling back and thwacking a ball is mimicked perfectly, while online modes and an expert putting model round it off superbly.
What of MotionPlus though? Having played Tiger both with and without
the add-on, I have to say I...didn't see a huge
difference, but take note I'm most definitely not a die-hard golfer. When prepping for your shot, Tiger's on-screen model copies your bodily movements 100% perfectly with the MotionPlus - rather than the more jittery and unreliable animations without - but in terms of actual playability, I think the average punter like myself would be a little hard pushed to spot a massive difference, given a blind coke test.
|I want to love Grand Slam, given the ardent following it's developed online, but so far? Ain't really happening|
On the other hand, my golfing ability did indeed shoot up with MotionPlus installed at least, with my scores proving far superior in its wake. Which I suppose would be the most important point to bear in mind, and on the whole made me feel dead pleased with both Tiger, and the add-on. Even if the actual gameplay wasn't quite as "before and after" as I'd hoped.
Grand Slam Tennis
- The other EA sports game recently released with MotionPlus support, I'm on the whole pretty let-down by Grand Slam though. A pity, as on the face of it it sounds awesome. Grand Slam's one of those oh so rare titles that embraces its place on the Wii you see, by never going the photorealistic route, and instead opting for a more cartoony, almost Sims-style look and feel. The characters are exaggerated and animated spot-on, while performance is smooth, and there's even some calorie-counting Wii Fit-style craziness thrown in for the lolz.
Sadly, I can't really tell any difference between using and not using MotionPlus in this one. Precision and depth is improved over, say, Wii Sports tennis, but I still found a simple "shake" of the mote returned the ball at times, which...didn't seem to alter a massive amount once clicking in the add-on. Though granted, you won't win a ton of games this way.
Virtua Tennis 2009
|VT is far more realistic on the visual tip, and a whole lot uglier for it, even exhibiting framerate problems here and there|
- VT does at least have better MotionPlus support, with your character's hand movements responding more accurately to your movements in real-life, and tennis aficionados will be keen to point out that the type of swing you pull off allows for perfect shot placement and accurate spin (both of which I had a lot more trouble with in Grand Slam) - but I guess ultimately I just...don't think full blown motion-controlled tennis games are all that well suited to the living room. Both this and Grand Slam give back as much as you're willing to put in with them - and do indeed have some decent depth and technique to really master if you put your mind and body into it. I almost feel like with some of this stuff you're just better off picking up a racket and going to a park though.
On the whole, it's hard to rate MotionPlus so far then. Sports Resort is dead fun, and as it comes with the add-on, proves a fab purchase for pretty much all Wii owners. But the others are far more hit or miss, while only the Red Steel sequel (pictured up top) looks particularly exciting on the future release front too. Especially for the more mature and dedicated gamer.
I don't think this thing could "save" the Wii as such with all that in mind then, but it does at least bode slightly better for the system's future. Providing we get the games...