This game comes with the most comedy controller in the RealPlay range - a foot-long golf club. You press left or right on the d-pad to "aim your golfer", according to the manual. There aren't any actual animations to show your golfer moving when you do this, but the camera rotates. So does the white arrow on the map at the side of the screen; this indicates the direction you're aiming in.
To take a shot, you press and hold the green button then swing the controller like a real golf club. Your on-screen character will copy your move, albeit a good half-second after you. It's easy to pull off powerful shots, but a lot harder to send the ball short distances as the game can't seem to recognise gentler swings.
Sometimes it can't even recognise the controller. At least once every few minutes, often mid-swing, our game was interrupted by the message "Warning! REALPLAY Golf controller not detected". To be followed almost immediately by the message "A REALPLAY Golf controller has been detected. Press the green button to continue." These almost-constant interruptions do not add a great deal to the experience.
The ball physics are appalling. Balls aren't even animated flying through the air properly; they jerk and judder their way across the sky. Frequently when a ball hits the ground, the direction of travel will reverse and it will bounce back towards you. Magical.
At least the game is visually stunning, hahaha of course not. The grass looks like it is made out of Lego. The golfers look like mobsters or power lesbians. Rocks and trees are as realistic as the idea this game is as good as Wii Sports golf.
Topping it all off is voiceover commentary by a Partridg-esque figure you never see. He says things like, "Ooh, flirting with the undergrowth! Whoa, whoa, whoa." Sometimes he tries to be funny: "You currently have an extremely high score - which is a disaster!" Come back Alan Hansen, all is forgiven.
At one point, after yet another shot had gone wrong because the game can't register anything but a huge swing, we were greeted with the on-screen message "UNPLAYABLE LIE". That about sums it up.
The most imaginatively titled of the RealPlay games has a spherical controller about the size of a tennis ball. It's held in the palm of the hand and you tilt it around to control the sphere shown on-screen. This makes you feel like David Bowie in Labyrinth, which is the best thing we can say about PuzzleSphere.
To be fair, it's slightly better than the other RealPlay games. The idea is you roll the on-screen sphere around a series of platforms, Super Monkey Ball-style, without falling off the edge. You brake by pressing the green button and there are various power-ups to collect (two).
Because the controller has no real life equivalent, using it doesn't feel as silly as, say, swinging a foot-long golf club. You do feel like you're controlling the action with your moves as the d-pad doesn't come into play at all. There's still a delay between your moves and what happens on screen, but it's less noticeable than in the other titles.
However, controlling the sphere is often tricky to the point of frustration. The game isn't forgiving enough when the ball rolls near the edges of platforms. Sometimes the controller gets confused and the ball starts careering off of its own accord. The brake helps you stay on top of things, but you end up using it so much gameplay feels very stop-start.
It all looks rubbish, you will be amazed to hear. The first level takes place against a backdrop of flat, jaggedy skyscrapers. When you crash you fall into a blurry mess of lines on the ground. The lighting is weird and the whole thing is just wrong. The effect can be replicated by going to Croydon, drinking a bottle of absinthe and waiting for the sun to come up.
RealPlay PuzzleSphere does have more novelty value than the other games. However, it's still rubbish, so this just means you're likely to tire of it in six minutes rather than three. Speaking of which...
The RealPlay games are in no way an acceptable alternative to the Wii, any more than two yoghurt pots and a piece of string make a decent iPhone. Everything from the wording of the press release to the shoddiness of the visuals suggests these games have been churned out in the quickest time possible to cash in on Wii shortages. It's like Bob Geldof saying, "We're going to feed the world with these delicious cakes!" and then charging starving people GBP 34.99 for onions he found in a bin.
Don't buy any RealPlay titles. And warn any relatives who know you like those computer games not to get sucked in by the gaudy packaging and novelty controllers when they're Christmas shopping. These games are going to cause nothing but disappointment come 25th December. The only entertainment to be had is in laughing at the hilariously poor graphics, but you can check out our retro section for that. It's free, so you can keep your GBP 34.99. Or throw in another three quid and buy some different crap that will at least be of some use to someone.