Version tested: Wii
For a breakdown of exactly how Wii MotionPlus works with each event, check out our extra feature on the subject.
How was your weekend? I threw myself out of a plane. Actually, I threw myself out of about 50 planes, spiralling down through the clear blue sky again and again, whizzing past Bruce Springsteen, Dan Aykroyd, and my stepmother, gurning warmly for a few photographs each time, before the parachute opened with a cheery pop and I drifted towards the bright green grass below.
Skydiving in Wii Sports Resort captures just about everything that fans of its developer often struggle to put into words, and crams it all into the same period of time it takes to wash your hair. I guess you could call it the Nintendo Effect. Right there, in that simple, two-minute plummet is the whole deal: a control system so simple that most designers would either ignore it or over-complicate it with gauges and triggers, a range of goals that scale from charming pushovers to genuine one-more-go struggles with no apparent signs of stress, and presentation that manages to be both modest and quietly brilliant at the same time.
Jump from a plane, reach out to grab onto other free-fallers, pose for a camera, and score points with every smile captured: Skydiving's mechanics are so anaemic they hardly exist - as challenges go, it's barely interactive - and yet I've been doing it all weekend, over and over and over again, just to enjoy the clouds, the sense of wind and speed, and the chance to high-five Marty McFly at 20,000 feet. Will I still be doing it a month from now? Sadly I suspect that I won't, and that's where the Nintendo Effect meets the Wii Sports Effect.
Like a lot of games, the most insightful review the original Wii Sports will ever receive has come in the form of its sequel. Traditionally, the second outing for a series is where strengths are refined and enlarged, and weaknesses are either carefully eradicated or accidentally blown up into grotesque caricatures. So while quite a lot of time has already been spent picking apart the knockabout delights of the game that comes bundled with Nintendo's latest console, it's only with the arrival of Resort that you can truly see the original for what it is. And it's a skilful sketch, really: bold, self-contained, and occasionally careless, a game drawn in broad, perhaps hurried strokes, and only fitfully coloured in.
Not bad going, then. Wii Sports had to serve as both demo and tutorial - showing audiences what Nintendo's new console could do, while perhaps also giving developers a few hints for working around all the things it couldn't. Resort's also here to make sense of hardware, too, of course, but the MotionPlus is more of an incremental addition, and that leaves the game on uncertain ground. As a demo or tutorial, Resort does its job well - showcasing the add-on's new level of precision, and offering a range of uses that other teams might like to put it to - but as a sequel it's a mixed bag. Resort has refined, but it's also slipped into caricature. It's prettier, but it's a little hollow as well.
With 12 basic activity types rather than the first game's five, the first indicator that something's lacking comes when you spot a couple of familiar faces in the crowd - and not just in the form of the Mii Plaza residents you zip past while barrelling through the sky. Repeat performances from the original Wii Sports' golf and bowling games are enough to suggest that maybe even Nintendo knows it's packed the sequel with pretty distractions, but is lacking the big events to bind them all together.
That's not to say there aren't a handful of new classics to be found. WuHu Island, the hub for Resort's delights, is positively crammed with things to shake, swing, and place on the table to carefully recalibrate. Swordfighting, for starters, is the closest Nintendo will ever get to a seal-clubbing mini-game - barring a strategic push into the Norwegian entertainment market - as you either brain a competitor until he falls off a platform, or, more entertainingly, wade through an oncoming horde, smacking any and all comers over the head one by one. It's hardly a nuanced take on the gentleman's sport - in fact, there's a distinct hint of Gladiators to the whole thing - but the combo scoring system is smart and compulsive, and there's excellent feedback in the series of hollow thuds that accompany the cheerful parade of head trauma. Similarly, Table Tennis is an excellent game, genuinely tense as rallies progress, and one of the handful which really benefits from increased sensitivity, as the angle of the bat really counts.