Strike a pose
Pose Mii, the fourth of the nine stages tests your ability to twist the Wii remote accurately and also tasks players with matching one of three poses before their opponent. To begin with it's just a case of selecting the right pose and pointing it at the appropriate silhouette before it falls to the bottom of the screen. Soon enough, though, you have to also make sure you've twisted the correct Mii pose to the desired angle as well - not easy when there are several silhouettes all falling down at the same time. If either player misses three of their silhouettes, it's Game Over for them, and the player with the highest score wins.
Laser hockey, meanwhile, is reminiscent of those air hockey games in the arcade where you have to try and whack the puck into your opponent's goal while doing your best to defend your own goal. Once again, this game's designed to not only improve pointing skills, but also give players practice in twisting the Wii remote. With an added bit of angle applied to your paddle, you can ricochet shots in off the sides of the court and bamboozle your hapless opponent - or end up getting yourself in a horrible muddle and score some embarrassing own goals by trying to be too clever. Like a logical progression of the kind of bat and ball Pong variants that many of us played in the late '70s and early '80s, Laser Hockey is definitely one we'll be returning to repeatedly.
Even better is Billiards - a fantastic demonstration of the Wii remote's potential. Displayed in familiar 3D view (or overhead view with the A button), you first have to line up the direction of your shot by holding down the B (trigger) button and pointing it left or right of the ball (or using the d-pad). Once you're happy with the direction, you then have to tentatively position the precise spot where you want to hit the cue ball, allowing you to apply the necessary backspin or topspin as required. And once that's applied, you use the Wii remote like a proper cue, pulling back on it with a cue motion (with B held down), slamming it forward to connect the cue with the ball and releasing B at the same time. If you mess up you'll be deducted points from your eventual total and the other player gets to place the cue ball anywhere on the table. As a quick demonstration of what the Wii remote is capable of, this is hugely satisfying, although Pool would have been even better.
A nice hook
Fishing, meanwhile, is one of the mini-games which has much in the way of potential, but seems rather too fiddly for its own good. The premise and execution is easy enough - simply dunk your rod in a small-ish pool and try and coax your hook near the mouths of the (rather large) fish that swim around obligingly. Once you get a bite, the Wii remote vibrates slightly, giving you a small window of opportunity to swing the controller upwards as if you were hooking it out of the water. Often, though, the fish will get away unless you're quick, leaving you to try and reposition your rod at the same time as your player. Sometimes you'll find yourself going for the same fish (especially the larger, more valuable, bonus fish), so just make sure you're wearing headgear - as there's a tendency for the Wii remote to be used as a weapon when you win.
The eighth stage, Charge, is a pretty simplistic racing game where you're basically tasked with riding a cow and score points by knocking down as many scarecrows as you can along the way. Utilising a mixture of tilting and upward swinging, you first have to use the Wii remote in the unfamiliar horizontal orientation - rather like a handlebar. Effectively all you have to do to win is push forward to speed up and steer left and right to guide your cow towards the many scarecrows that litter the course, with optional upward swings to jump over the hurdles, or tilt downwards towards you to slow down. With a simple 'most points wins' premise and an easy control system, it's a good demonstration of how it will be used in racing games, but ultimately too shallow to offer much entertainment for more than a few attempts.
The last of the nine stages, Tanks, is the only one to make use of the Nunchuck directional control - and it's optional at that. The action is displayed in old-school bird's eye view, and the general idea is to use shells and mines to destroy all the enemies on the screen. Doing so requires not only being able to aim and shoot at your target successfully, but steering your tank as well - either via the d-pad on the Wii remote or the easier method of hooking up the Nunchuck analogue stick. Once you've cleared the screen, you move onto a slightly more difficult stage - often with walls obscuring your target, thus requiring a little more effort in terms of steering properly. Again, it's one of those stages which is simple and mildly amusing for a few goes, but spectacularly lacking in long-term depth. It certainly serves its purpose in preparing Wii owners for similar games that require dual aiming and movement co-ordination, but beyond that, its inclusion is questionable.
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. The likes of Billiards, Shooting Gallery and Laser Hockey have the sort of Everyman appeal that Nintendo is right to place front and centre in an introductory budget release like this. 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. Wii Play has a few timeless gems that should prove to be party favourites this Christmas, but regular gamer, in particular, shouldn't expect the novelty value to endure much beyond that. Think of this as commercial tutorial.
6 / 10