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Wii Sports


Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

"DS" has never really stood for anything. Well, that's not entirely true - it's stood for Drill Spirits, Dual Strike, Dawn of Sorrow, Deadly Silence, Dal Segno, Dermatan Sulphate - but in the grander sense it's never really been given a purpose.

From the Wii's perspective though (and you'll excuse me if I apportion sentience to it within two paragraphs, but it makes me feel better when I'm hugging it), DS must seem like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, its phenomenal, delightful success paints Nintendo as a company admirably determined to innovate and capable of doing it. But on the other hand, its phenomenal, delightful success took a while to justify itself, with a slack launch line-up remembered more for novelties than imagination in depth.

And so to the Wii, where initial expectations are similar. Wii Sports, for one, has been devalued by the preponderance of pre-launch pondering, and instead of rescuing the game, Nintendo has only amplified its perceived slightness, bundling it with the console to capture the interest of gamers outside traditional channels, and failing to demonstrate any depth during celebri-tedious presentations featuring Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski and Germany's own Mystery TV Man.

All of which was a bit silly of them, really, because Wii Sports is marvellously good fun.

As even Gabby Logan knows, Wii Sports is five games that use the legendary Wii remote control to direct the action. In tennis it's a racket, in bowling it's the ball, in golf it's a club and in baseball it's a bat. The exception to this rule of simplicity is boxing, where the remote joins up with its friend the nunchuk, and you clasp them in your fists so the console can measure your weaving jabs.

Best of the lot, this, with more to it than Henman realised. (No wonder he lost.)

In Rob's house, Sports has already kindled the multiplayer fire with more speed and spice than a Concord passenger snorting wasabi. Over there, they're already comparing it to Samba de Amigo, because it's so simple, approachable, and enjoyable. But more important than that from a Eurogamer's perspective, I suspect, is that it's a deceptive simplicity, with genuine subtlety lurking beneath the surface. Not all of the games justify the hyperbole, but the ones that do will see the disc creeping to the top of the pile more often than you'd think, and the others - well, we all get drunk and bring people home sometimes, don't we?

Tennis is my favourite. Flick the ball up and then swing to serve, with forehands and backhands played much the way you'd imagine, and height and spin available to those who master the gestures that command them. Knee-jerk criticism has focused on the fact the players move about on their own, but that's surprisingly unimportant in the long-term as you become obsessed with mastering your swing. Timing is essential. Receive the ball on the right side of the baseline and you can place it wherever you like on the other side of the net - swing early to play it cross court, swing when it feels most natural to hit a safe return, or swing just as you feel the ball slipping away to push it down the line. Finding the sweet spots that keep the ball just within the tramlines is rewarding, and developing the ability to find them regularly is satisfying.

Bowling's another winner, standing poised to replace Monkey Ball as the 'pin-up' of choice.

Bowling doesn't demand quite as much, but the rewards are similarly worthwhile. After positioning your bowler so he's on the line you want and facing the lane at your preferred angle, you hold the Wii remote aloft and grasp the B trigger. You then draw your arm back behind you as though the remote were a bowling ball, and as you swing through again you release the B button to send the ball down the lane. Timing is key to speed, and by flicking the wrist left or right as you release the ball you can add varying degrees of spin, with the curve of the ball tightening as it reaches the pins. You may be surprised in the short term at the success you glean, but you'll have great fun in the process, and it proves itself the perfect multiplayer game. Like Monkey Ball's classic bowling effort, understanding the technique can only get you so far, and the rest is skill and practice. Like all the other games in the Wii Sports package, you don't need much understanding to have fun, either way.

Indeed, the same's true of baseball, golf and boxing, although these don't fair quite so well as the above examples. Baseball is just batting and pitching, sensibly, but where tennis and bowling transcend novelty, this one is stuck at the plate. In the long term it's as dull as that metaphor, really - too one-dimensional next to the flowing panic of tennis - although if you're trying to exhaust yourself while having fun, this is certainly the one to go for. Swinging at pitches is, again, about timing, while pitching uses particular button combinations for fastballs, curveballs, screwballs and splitters. Boxing, meanwhile, has more problems - the idea is to clasp the remote and the nunchuk in your fists, jab at the TV screen to, well, jab, and punch downwards diagonally to aim for the body, with the ability to duck and weave by holding the sticks to your chest and (yes) ducking and weaving. Except it doesn't do as good a job of registering input as the other games, and feedback isn't as satisfying.