Wii Play seems like such a great idea. About $50 for a brand-new Nintendo Wii remote and a collection of games that take advantage of said Wiimote. With games like pool, target shooting, and table tennis, it should be a sure hit. Well, we just got Wii Play in, and after a night of gaming I'm ready to offer my first impressions.
Wii Play is a lot of things, but it's not a sure hit. The games that should be instant classics--target shooting, table tennis, and pool--are instead disappointments.
Lots of nostalgic gamers are excited about the target shooting game and its homages to Duck Hunt. Unfortunately, it's mostly a game of shooting bland targets and bouncing tin cans. There were a few ducks and even a round of clay pigeons similar to Duck Hunt's alternate game mode, but they were few and far between. The Wiimote's sensor constantly displays a set of crosshairs onscreen, and players essentially have unlimited shots. The game simply lacks the charm of the three bullets, two ducks, and one laughing dog in the original Duck Hunt.
Table tennis should be another no-brainer success for Wii Play, but again that's not the case. The appeal of Wii Sports Tennis is swinging the Wiimote and actually hitting the ball. Wii Play's table tennis game takes away all that and instead uses the Wiimote sensor to move a tiny paddle back and forth across the screen. The end result isn't Ping-Pong, but merely Pong. It's a hollow game without the tactile appeal of the original Wii Sports Tennis.
The billiards minigame also takes an obvious and intuitive idea and manages to fall flat. Lining up the shot with the Wiimote is irritating and finicky, and sometimes the game simply doesn't detect the thrusting motion used to shoot with the cue stick. Its problems aren't quite as grievous as those of the target shooting or table tennis games, but it still disappoints, and lacks the visceral fun that a game of pool should have.
Most of the other games are barely worth mentioning. The Mii-centric games are incredibly simple exercises of picking specific Miis out of a crowd or spinning them around into certain positions. The other ones, such as fishing and cow racing, are little more than tech demos that fail to compare to Twilight Princess' fishing minigame or Excite Truck's controls. Ho-hum.
Despite all of these failings, Wii Play did have one game mode I really enjoyed and could see as a great party game. Laser Hockey might be the one aspect of Wii Play that could make it a viable party game and not simply an overpriced Wiimote with a demo disc. Laser Hockey is basically a neon-colored game of air hockey. As with table tennis, the Wiimote sensor is used to control the paddle. Unlike table tennis, the Wiimote can be twisted to turn the paddle at different angles for bank shots. It's one of the simplest games in Wii Play, but also the most fun.
This is just my first impression of the game, and you shouldn't consider me the final word on the subject. The experts at GameSpot will have their formal review of Wii Play in quite soon, and they'll be the ones who decide the score.