Friday, December 15, 2006


I've had my Wii for a week now and, while I haven't been able to spend as much time getting used to it as I would have liked, my initial impressions are very favourable indeed.

When it arrived last Friday, Amazon had kindly omitted to include the games I ordered, so my first experiences were solely based on Wii Sports - which is bundled with the console.

The five sport simulations are more proofs of concept than in-depth gaming experiences, but they showcase the versatility of the Wii's motion sensitive controllers perfectly. Playing tennis, in particular, is incredibly intuitive. A flick of the wrist makes your on-screen character thwack the ball and there is an instant sense of connection and immersion that I've never experienced before with a video game. This is Nintendo's unique selling point, of course, but I do wonder whether it will give grist to the mill of campaigners who say video games encourage violent behaviour in children.

While the tennis game is pleasantly broad in it's interpretation of your movements, the golfing game require a bit more precsision. I have to say the controls seem somewhat more fiddly and less responsive in this scenario - and it can prove frustratingly difficult to make delicate putts. It seems that subtlety is not the Wii's strong point.

After a brief weekend visiting the in-laws, I returned to find two more games on my doorstep. The first of these, Zelda: Twilight Princess, is Nintendo's so-called "triple-A" title for the console's release. Now, I've never really gelled with the Zelda series before - it always seemed a bit to dungeons and dragons for someone who prefers the company of humans to that of orcs and elves. But I have to say this installment has won me over. The plot is typically geeky (someone steals the daylight and you have to get it back) but the game draws you in like a seductive whisper.

The graphics are superb, too, drawing on a beautifully muted colou palette. It's hard to see why people are complaining about the Wii's graphical inferiority when you look at this game which, to my mind, is on par with early Pixar films.

Zelda also puts paid to any qualms about the Wii's control mechanism in traditional games. Control stick movements are smooth, while the energetic sword-play fits in seamlessly. I still find myself searching for the second analogue controller on occasion as I attempt to swing the camera round, but I expect I'll lose that instinct very quickly.

The final game, which I'll only mention briefly, is Rayman Raving Rabbids. It's basically a collection of mini games, in the style of Wario Ware, with a Python-esque sense of mischief. It had me laughing so hard I was unable to hold the controller.

So is the Wii the future of gaming? To be honest, it's not going to please everyone, but it is a brilliantly capable machine. I've never played games this accomplished so early in a console's lifetime - so it'll be interesting to see how things develop, particularly when it's multiplayer online games launch (that's you, Mario Kart). Hardcore gamers will probably want an Xbox or PS3 sitting under their TV but this is the machine you'll be coming back to with your friends.

* Enough of these dreadful puns for now, yes?

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