Wii Play
Platform:  Nintnedo Wii
Players:  1-2
Memory Usage:  1 block + Mii data

    When Nintendo was first introducing the Wii concept at the larger consumer electronics and video game shows, they showcased a series of demonstration games.  While these games were simple and designed to allow show patrons to get a feel for how the Wii Remote would work, they were still polished and entertaining.  Shortly thereafter Nintendo announced that the mini games from these demonstrations would be compiled into a single volume and released as a retail product.  Retitled as Wii Play and bundled with a Wii Remote, it became the perfect first game for new Wii owners to pick up.  This was especially the case for those who wanted a second Wii Remote as after deducting the cost of the peripheral the remaining game was only $10.00.

Description:  Wii Play features nine mini games connected via a central hub.  As with Wii Sports the player's Mii takes center stage in nearly all the games.  For the few that don't use the player's Mii due to a first person perspective, other Mii's on the system make appearances.  The included Wii Remote is exactly the same as the stock controller bundled with the system at the time of its launch.  However this may change as the Wii Remote has went through at least two revisions concerning external design since the original launch.  A central hub allows easy access to each of the nine mini games.  The games themselves range from simple target shooting and fast reaction to smooth control and rapid response.

Shooting Range plays like an updated hybrid of some classic NES Zapper games such as Duck Hunt, Barker Bill's Trick Shooting and Hogan's Alley.  The Wii Remote controls an on screen crosshair while the A or B button is used to shoot.  Targets begin as balloons (reminiscent of Trick Shooting) then move on to target discs, clay pigeons (Duck Hunt), soda cans (a bow to Hogan's Alley) and finally flying saucers.  During the entire game ducks from Duck Hunt quickly fly by, shooting them down will net bonus points as will consecutive hits without a miss.

Find Mii is like those old "Where's Waldo?" books with a time limit.  A criteria is given such as "Find the fastest Mii" in a crowded crosswalk.  Click on the correct answer to the criteria and bonus time is added, incorrect selections take time away.  This game tests both your visual reaction time and your reflexes with the Wii Remote.  Some of the tasks on the later levels will really stress even the best players.  Table Tennis plays just as one would expect.  Simply volley back and forth with increasing speed. Pose Mii places the currently selected Mii on screen controlled by the Will Remote as if the Mii was a pointer.  Rotating the Wii Remote rotates the Mii and the Mii's stance can also be altered.  Bubbles will begin to appear with your Mii's silhouette and it's the player's task to match the shadow and pop the bubbles before they reach the bottom of the screen.

Laser Hockey is a cross between the classic Pong and air hockey.  Of all the games on the disc this one takes the longest to get used to as controlling a small paddle via holding the Wii Remote in mid air is no easy task.  The CPU opponent is notorious for becoming nearly unbeatable once the human player begins to build up a lead.  In other words Laser Hockey plays much better with two human players.  Billiards is a classic game of pool, nothing incredible here and it has a steep learning curve.  Imagine the Monkey Billiards mini game from the Super Monkey Ball series with Wii controls.  Fishing plays like an advanced version of fishing from Animal Crossing, which is still pretty simple.  Basically you have a pond full of fish and the Wii Remote acts as the handle of a fishing rod.  Drop the hook into the water, dangle it in front of a fish and when it bites down, rapidly yank the Wii Remote back to pull it up.

Now come the two games that people buy this collection for.  Charge! is better known as cow racing to many because that's exactly what it is.  The Will Remote is held on it's side and used to steer a cow your Mii rides atop.  A curvy course with scarecrows and hurdles lies before the player.  Plowing into the scarecrows yields points, moving scarecrows are worth more as they are harder to hit.  Hurdles must be jumped over by quickly raising the Will Remote.  Tilting the Wii Remote forward increases the cow's speed while tilting it back will make the cow slow down.

Tanks! is why every Wii owner should have this game as it is also my favorite Wii title at the time of this writing.  Imagine the tank portion of the classic Atari 2600 game Combat with enhanced graphics and gameplay.  Instead of one on one game play, your lone tank is up against hundreds of opponents.  Your tank can fire up to five bullets at a time, each of which will ricochet once before exploding on the next contact or contact with another bullet.  Your tank can also drop mines which will explode shortly after being planted or immediately if run over by a tank or hit by a bullet.  Tanks! is the only game on Wii Play that can use the Nunchuk accessory.  It might as well be a requirement as the game plays far better with one connected.  When connected, the Nunchuk stick is used to move the tank while the Wii Remote controls aiming and firing.  The missions start out simple enough with stationary and slow moving targets.  However soon enough rocket firing tanks appear, then tanks that drop mines, tanks that match the player's tank in speed and firepower, tanks that are the player's equal but have more advanced artificial intelligence than before, tanks that fire rockets that ricochet multiple times, even tanks that are invisible.  Needless to say the game gets pretty intense in the later stages which gives it more depth than the other games on the disc.

Graphics:  While nicely detailed, the graphics aren't any better or worse than the Wii Sports pack in game.  Everything is portrayed in a simple and colorful style with smooth details.  As the game predominately features the Mii's one can't expect the visuals to be too detailed but the graphics lend themselves to the bright happy world that one expects from the Wii.  Games that use Mii's exclusively such as Find Mii are nothing more than all the Mii's thrown in a dozen or so environments from the ocean to outer space.  Pose Mii uses the player Mii against static photo realistic images of nature such as birds nesting.  The sports related games stick to showing only what one would expect, the playfield of the sporting event.  While Billiards puts the face of the player's Mii on the cue ball and other Mii's come to watch Table Tennis games as the intensity of play increases, Mii involvement is minimal so the graphics are standard.  For Charge! more effort has been put forward as everything from the cows to the scarecrows appear to have a woven patchwork look to them. almost as if the entire game is a living craft project.

Tanks! contains the most graphic detail including smoke trails off bullets, fire trails off rockets, large blaring explosions from land mines, and many different tank colors representative of each class of tank's individual characteristics.  However my favorite graphical detail is that each tank leaves a trail of tread marks everywhere it goes.  This is especially helpful in locating the invisible tanks if you lose track of them.  Shooting Range also has a good amount of graphical charm considering it's a modern reimagining of many classic Nintendo shooting titles.  The Duck Hunt ducks are of course the centerpiece of Shooting Range and I'll have to say that they look great fully (and classically) rendered.

Sound:  Considering that all of these games were created as proof of concept and control demonstrations, one shouldn't expect much in the way of audio.  Especially since the electronic and digital entertainment shows the Wii debuted in, are far from a quiet environment where any type of audio can be properly appreciated.  However the over all sound design is on par with what is heard in Wii Sports.  The gentle music of the pack-in title carries over onto Wii Play with similar background tunes.  Charge! has an interesting little ranch inspired soundtrack as well as cute moo sounds from the cow.  When braking to round tight corners one will hear the sounds of screeching tires, a comedic addition of course but one that fits perfectly.  In Shooting Range the gunshot is sharp and crisp as are the different sounds targets make when they get hit.  Of course the ducks quack in their familiar 8 bit tones.

However as with the graphics, when one wants to talk about where the sound design really shines, one needs look no further than Tanks!.  Once again proving that the title could stand on its own, each tank makes a quiet mechanical grinding noise as they maneuver around each stage.  Canon shots have a clear hollow "pshoo" sound as they depart the barrel.  Rocket shots have an equally appropriate yet different sound as well.  Ricochets make a quick "plink" when bouncing off objects and the expected "boom" when coming into contact with other shots or their final wall.  Opponent tanks explode with a satisfying "bam" and the Wii Remote speaker sounds a quick trumpet signal for each successful elimination.  When set, mines make a "click" sound and of course a loud explosion when detonated.  Yet the coolest thing about the audio package in Tanks! is the background music.  The standard background tune is a simple military sounding march, very 1776 sounding stuff, simple like that. However as the levels progress the music, while the basic rhythm remains intact, becomes more elaborate.  Additional drum and flute tracks are added based upon what types of tanks are present in the mission.  The best example of this are the missions that feature invisible tanks.  An entire mechanical sounding accompanying track is added to the song, giving it a unique sound.  What this does is add a newness to each mission in the game.  Not only are new level layouts and new types of tanks added as you progress, the audio too renews itself as you work your way deeper into the fight.

Play Control:  Since the games that compose Wii Play were all developed to give the public a chance to experience and learn how to use the Wii Remote, control is simple and solid.  A tutorial for each game quickly explains the control method at the start and again during each change in game play.  Tanks! uses an easy first few missions to walk the player through the controls before letting them loose.  Using the Wii Remote turned to the left side for steering in Charge! works exceptionally well, especially when executing jumps and regulating speed.  If there was one stinker in the bunch it would be Billiards.  Aiming works well enough but it's simply too tedious to set up shots or to get an accurate view of your surroundings.  Positioning the cue ball where you want it to be after a foul is nearly impossible because of the massively zoomed out perspective.  Power regulation for shots is hit and miss as the Wii decides seemingly at random how hard your shot is or if your shot will even register for that matter.  While Billiards is still playable it feels crippled and it can become nerve-racking to have an excellent round be ruined by a random poorly read shot.

Replay:  There are four pre-defined score criteria for each of the nine mini games.  These follow the expected plateaus of Bronze, Silver, Gold and finally Platinum.  The lower two medals are fairly easily obtained after a little practice while the gold will require some skillful play.  Earning the Platinum medal, however, is where the real challenge comes in.  In many events such as Table Tennis and Tanks!, the Platinum medal can only be obtained in extended play that is opened up after completing the initial gold level of play.  The push to obtain higher and higher scores is the driving favor behind the replay of many of the games.  It's classic old school high score bragging rights on the table, a welcome change from where the industry has been headed in recent years.  Of course there is also two player mode in which you compete directly against a human opponent.  With games like Table Tennis and Laser Hockey, the classic competition of Pong style games of the early days returns, providing endless replay possibilities.  However the game that players will continue to come back to is Tanks!.  While the initial gold medal game ends at mission 20, subsequent plays will pass the twentieth mission for eighty more stages - that's right, 100 missions in all.  Still, all nine games provide a chance to kick back and get some instant gaming gratification.

Final Verdict:  In my opinion this is the first truly "must own" title for the Nintendo Wii and a game that should have been packed in with the system right alongside Wii Sports.  I've spent more time playing Tanks! than any other game on the Wii Platform and that includes completing games like Excite Truck and Super Mario Galaxy.  Even with the current crop of releases I still keep coming back to Wii Play when I want to sit down and have a few quick and fun games.  Tanks! still provides a massive challenge and there have been more than a few nights that ran into the next morning while attempting to close in on the final missions.  Honestly Tanks! could have been released on its own and been a stellar title.  If you think of it that way, you get a superb game, eight other excellent games, and a Wii Remote for $10.00 more than the Wii Remote would cost on its own.  An incredible value no matter how you look at it.  Thing is all nine of the games are of good quality and everyone will find at least a few in the collection that they enjoy.  This brings up another point, if you are looking for a game that a large group of different tastes would enjoy, Wii Play is the perfect match.  I can't say it any better than this one title alone is almost worth owning the system for.

Written on 08-24-08 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net

BACK to the Reviews Page!!!!