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Critical Reception: Nintendo's  Wii Play

Critical Reception: Nintendo's Wii Play

February 14, 2007 | By Danny Cowan

February 14, 2007 | By Danny Cowan
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More: Console/PC



This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Nintendo's latest Wii release, Wii Play, a compilation of multiplayer-centric minigames that showcase various applications of the Wii Remote.

Though it was a Wii launch title in both Europe and Japan (where it carries the title Hajimete no Wii), Wii Play will finally find its way into stores in the United States on February 15th. Wii Play is this week's most anticipated U.S. release across all platforms, according to IGN's GamerMetrics data, and sales are expected to match the impressive numbers the title has already racked up overseas.

Wii Play's worldwide popularity is due in no small part to its inclusion of a free Wii Remote, as the accessory has remained a difficult find at retail since the Wii's launch in November. With Wii Play priced at only $10 more than the cost of a Wii Remote on its own, many gamers see the title as an obvious bargain.

Despite its popularity at retail, however, Wii Play has not fared as well with critics. Earning scores that range from as high as 91% to as low as 30%, Wii Play currently averages a mediocre review score ratio of 58% at Gamerankings.com.

David Low at PALGN rates Wii Play at a 7 out of 10 -- one of the highest scores on record at Gamerankings. Low feels that while the title has its faults, it accomplishes all that it sets out to do in a satisfactory manner.

"The purpose of Wii Play is threefold," Low begins. "The first playthough of the game serves as a deliberately paced introduction to the functions of the Wii remote."

Low explains that each of Wii Play's minigames focuses on a particular application of the Wii Remote, and that all games must initially be played in a specific order.

"The second purpose of the package is as a set of casual minigames for some quick fun," he continues. "There is a medal system designed to keep you playing for high scores, and in this way it's a bit like an old arcade, with a bunch of specific-action games that are addictive simply because you get better at them every time you play."

As for Wii Play's final purpose: "Thirdly, and likely most importantly long term, are the games multiplayer options. Due to the points-based goals of each section, every game is two player enabled (some split screen, some not), and while some work better then others, all are worth a go or three."

Wii Play may be successful as a teaching tool, but whether it offers deep, compelling gameplay is another matter entirely. Low admits that Wii Play, "doesn't quite match the wow factor of Wii Sports," and that it, "lacks the longevity of its pack-in brother."

However: "Wii Play excels at what it sets out to do, and as a package deal with a Wii Remote is a no-brainier purchase for new Wii owners."

Eurogamer's Kristan Reed is less enthusiastic, but feels that the package is still adequate enough. "Wii Play is a product that you'd arguably give a wide berth to on its own, somewhat limited, merits," he explains in his 6-out-of-10 review, "but for the price it's a fun, social means of being shown the ropes for a new type of control device that new Wii owners will be hungry for."

Reed advises that while many of Wii Play's minigames have little depth, nearly all of them are best enjoyed with two players. "Each of the games are designed as straightforward score-based versus games," he notes, "so if you don't have any mates on hand (sob) then bear that in mind before you contemplate shelling out for it."

As for the games themselves, Reed finds that they vary wildly in quality. Shooting Range, for instance, is "simple, easy to control, and one of many of the games which literally anyone with any semblance of co-ordination could play," while Fishing is, "one of the mini-games which has much in the way of potential, but seems rather too fiddly for its own good."

"Wii Play is definitely a good means of making sure players from less experienced backgrounds get to get used to various game types and control system before they're unleashed into the wider world," he concludes. "On the other hand, the very fact that Wii Play is so deliberately basic by design means that it's a compilation that only scratches the surface of the types of games we're likely to see designed to exploit the Wii remote."

NintendoWorldReport's UK correspondent Lasse Pallesen, however, is less forgiving than many other reviewers, and brands Wii Play with a score of 4.5 out of 10. "If youre looking for a Wii Remote, you have a couple of options come February 15," he says. "You can either buy the standalone version for $40 or get Wii Play, which comes bundled with a remote, for ten bucks more. Since Wii Play is a compilation of nine mini-games, you basically end up paying a little more than one dollar per mini-game."

"Surely these mini-games are worth this low price point, right?" Pallesen asks. "Well actually, most of them are not."

Pallesen came away from Wii Play distinctly unimpressed with any of its offerings. Even as a teaching tool, Wii Play's minigames, according to Pallesen, "all fail in showing off the exciting potential of the kind of gaming experiences that the Wii Remote can offer."

"This feat is handled much better in a game like Wii Sports," he adds, "which you probably already own."

On the plus side: "The on-screen action reacts instantly to your motions, and you always feel in control. With Wii Play, Nintendo truly has a showcase for the accuracy of the remote that third party developers could learn a lot from."

However, as a whole, Wii Play, "lacks depth, meaning that youll grow tired of it within minutes even with a friend."

As noted by several reviewers, Wii Play's low price and its inclusion of a difficult-to-find accessory may result in gamers being more forgiving of its lack of depth and challenge. For those who are not in particular need of an additional Wii Remote, however, Wii Play might not be as worthy of a purchase.


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