Wii News Channel hands-on

Wondering what it's like?

Nintendo's Wii "News Channel" went live earlier this morning, allowing system owners to browse an Associated Press newsfeed in a variety of ways - several of which are unmistakably "Wii".

Installing the channel is as simple as visiting the Wii system menu and submitting to an update process, which takes just a few minutes. With that done, the News Channel button appears in the main menu.

When you first load it up, it confirms the time and date and then downloads information while a little cat sits on top of an advisory notice and you're left to listen to the sort of music typically associated with sleeping at the end of a "tough day" in a Final Fantasy RPG. Or maybe that's just us.

The download takes a good little while, but once it's done you're off, able to browse news by category (national/regional/international, sports, arts/entertainment, business, science/health, technology), clicking through to get a list of headlines that span the width of the page.

When you click on a story, it unrolls itself quickly with a scrumply paper sound effect, allowing you to scroll up and down in a few obvious ways - perhaps using the B trigger to drag the page around - while a little locational marker on a NASA-labelled map beams happily from the right side of the screen.

Alternatively, you can click "Globe", at which point you're transported to a close-up of wherever you are in the world. Ours showed London and a bit of mainland Europe. Key locations like Berlin and Moscow have bits of paper on top of them with numbers in brackets, signifying how many stories are tethered to each spot. Clicking an area loads up a list of stories. To go somewhere else, you simply click back and drag the world around with the Wiimote. You can also zoom in and out.

The other thing you can do on the News Channel is view a Slideshow. Like Sky News without all the sinister manipulation, you're left watching headlines appear on the bottom half of the screen one by one, as the world map sits happily on top. Pressing A as a headline appears lets you bring up the story, from which you can then either rejoin the slideshow feed or end it. It's all very intuitive, as you'd expect.

Of course, whether you'll choose it over GMTV remains to be seen, but since "GMTV" is the only morning television show we can now remember at all, it's probably safe to say all the present ones are rubbish and this is much better. Wait, hang on, Ellie says we ought to be watching Jeremy Kyle. If only.

Anyway, Nintendo has said that the News Channel will relaunch later this year - still free, mind - offering a greater regional focus. We will of course let you know when it does. In the meantime, let us know what you make of the current version. Useful, or pointless?

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