Wii Sports Resort

More concerned with your well being than you are.

The proof-of-concept that was Wii Sports has gone on vacay, and now its dated self looks downright dull compared to this snazzy, Hawaiian print option. You begin the game with an interesting sky diving routine soaring down to Wuhu Island with a bunch of other resort-bound Miis. This arrival at Wuhu is the first taste of the tacky glue that is a single environment playing host to the myriad activities offered in Wii Sports Resort, a welcome change from the amorphous Wii Sports. Wii Sports Resort is, at its core, crack, for teeny tiny whores. If you can’t afford a vacation, or a frisbee, this may well be your best bet.

WiiMotionPlus (WMP) tacks onto the end of your WiiMote and tracks linear motion as well as rotation. You can see the change in responsiveness immediately in familiar games like bowling, golf and ping-pong. Yes, there are old favorites here, with tennis given a tabletop spin and all the improvements that WiiMotionPlus brings. Bowling and golf experience a more direct reincarnation, with greater realism and fun additions like 100 pin bowling and a Spin Control mode with lane obstacles, forcing you to take advantage of the WMP capabilities. Frisbee, however, represents the darkest side of WMP requiring that you understand the principles of frisbee well enough to bend them to suit the version you play in WSR. It is about this time that you will notice the delay between releasing the frisbee in real life and onscreen (I expect they’ll release a power of premonition peripheral in time for Christmas). I tank at frisbee in real life, though, and Resort approximates my level of suck all too well.

Adding to the cohesion of one locale is that the plane you arrived in becomes part of the Resort sportiness as you take part in events like dogfighting (you will only have to overcome the sense that Wuhu Island is host to a saccharine horror film a couple of times). The jabbing motion of plane controls in Air Sports was a little undesirable as far as repetitive motion goes, but flying the plane was fun – even if the dogfighting errs on the side of under-aggressive. In Island Flyover you steer your plane around Wuhu seeking out eighty points of interest. It sounds about as lively as any guided tour, but is a very good time.

Swordplay is a high point of the title. The object slicing game is a fun test of reaction time, and another mode gets a little weird tasking you with taking down droves of fellow resort residents as they charge at you across the lawn at night. I just find going samurai on grinning vacationers a little too close to a bad trip for this casual gaming drug. Another mode allows you to enter combat with another player, trying to knock them off a platform to the water far below. When you are dueling against friends and family there is a keen awareness of the brutality in raising the Wiimote high above your head to bring it down on your opponent in a death stroke. Swordplay has, overall, more visceral appeal than the boxing of Wii Sports, and better controls.

A focused game, archery is another bright spot. I can’t help but try to channel all sorts of Robin Hood ideals tackling this one, drawing back the nunchuck and letting the arrow fly with the sound issuing from the Wiimote in beautiful accompaniment. You can take on other players, tackle moving targets, and assume a very different tone than the goofier games in the title.

There are instructions and tutorials all over the place and grown-up type people may feel like you are being babysat. There is always the option to practice before you play a game, though I don’t really see the point unless you are downright dumbfounded by the controls. Some are just going to be unfair, no matter how much you play. Like wakeboarding, in which you must hold your control out horizontally in front of you like a handlebar, then turn yourself over the boat’s wake and perform stunts which are only counted if the controller is held level on landing. The game will then cruelly interpret “level” with the consistency of gelatin. Incredibly bizarre is that the camera remains centered on the boat pulling you, which means that when you swing wide you are often off the screen. It’s frustrating, and achieves both frustrating and boring when you have to sit and watch someone else subject themselves to its mediocrity.

Power Cruising is like wakeboarding, with a race instead of tricks, and the ability to compete simultaneously earning itself a spot on the “meh” part of the scale. Basketball seems way too finicky for something that doesn’t offer feedback and Cycling is also half baked. While there’s potential for a bit of a workout spinning your arms and tilting to turn it’s rather dull pacing yourself to catch your breath. The motions feel like you’re performing some kind of terrible mime routine, not partaking in an intuitive control scheme. Canoeing joins the middle of the road party with ridiculous control motions but a cheerful wackiness trying to steer the tiny vessel.

Playing against the AI is actually pretty fun, even if it has nothing on standing wide in your living room screaming Xena style and bringing your WMP powered sword down in a crushing blow across your friend’s Mii skull. Overall, the Wii Sports Resort controls are very good, and you have to impart precision rather than hapless flailing. However, all this precision apparently requires a remarkable amount of recalibration. This activity is required so often, it should really be the 13th game in the title and reward me with points.

While I’m on the cranky train, between games the title constantly urges you to take a break. I am a grown, fit woman and I have played for approximately five minutes worth of mini-games. Get. Off. My. Back. At times I vindictively wanted to take them up on the offer and shelve the title indefinitely, after all it isn’t the sort of compelling competitive or cooperative play that will have you playing for hours on end. This sort of patronizing over-attention to getting gamers up and about in the midst of a game that gets gamers up and about is just, well, obnoxious.

From the characters to Wuhu, everything is all very pleasantly rendered (though your in-game counterparts are still alarmingly arm-less). Good attention has been given to the sound with all sorts of nifty audio cues for actions, and though I still think sound emanating from my controller is silly (and doesn’t really sound very good), it is kind of fun and fits with the Wuhu whimsy.

Each of the events has a couple different takes, and the talented can progress to more difficult challenges, taking their character all the way to Pro. Additionally, every game has five “stamps” you can earn, and there are some little secrets to dig up like playing table tennis with a sandal. However, there is no online, which is a bummer of an omission for any game so tailor-made for leader boards. Nothing breeds replayability like competition.

Yes, it may well be a tech demonstration of MotionPlus, but on the upside somebody built a game around it for us to have some fun with, and to experience how much WMP really does improve on the original controls. It is a worthy pick for everyone that enjoyed Wii Sports and likes to play mini-games with friends and family, particularly with stand-out games like the Swordplay, Archery and returning classics like bowling and golf.