Review: Target Toss Pro: Bags (WiiWare)

This is one cornhole you might want to take a closer look at!

Nintendo’s Wii Remote is truly a marvellous thing. With it you can throw a ball, swing a bat, slash with a sword, or shoot a gun. It can even make even bland, boring games more enjoyable. Thank goodness for the Wii Remote, because it makes games like Target Toss Pro: Bags not only playable, but also fun.

Target Toss Pro is based on a real game, popular in the American Midwest. Gameplay is exactly like you would imagine a hybrid of darts, curling, and shuffleboard would play. The object is to throw beanbags at a ramp-like box at varying distances. Scoring in the traditional game is unexpectedly complicated and strategic, although there is a simpler system available here as well. Essentially in each round of play you’re just trying to land more beanbags on the ramp than your opponent and you get bonus points if you manage to toss your beanbag into the hole.

This is deceptively simple. Although the game is often derisively described as merely throwing beanbags at a target, it can be just as intellectually rewarding as any other game requiring precise throwing of objects. For starters, you have your choice of toss styles: "flop," "bounce,", or "slide,", each with its own strategic uses. Sometimes you might want to bounce your bag over an opponent’s to try to get yours into the hole without pushing his in as well. Other times you might want to slide your bag onto the ramp to intentionally ram your opponent’s bag to knock it off, thus costing him his point when the score is added. One of our favourite moments in Wii gaming came when we threw a slider to knock two opposing bags off the ramp and our own into the hole all in one toss!

Getting the bag into the "cornhole" is a bit like getting a strike in bowling. It requires experience, but it’s not impossible and is just difficult enough that the game likely won’t ever degenerate into repetitive "cornholing" (I think we just created a word there). Among experienced players, the strategy comes in deciding when to purposely try to use your shot to knock off your opponent’s beanbags, and figuring out how to do so without making things worse.

As far as realism goes, it feels like the real thing. This is not saying much, as you basically just have a wind meter and you’re just adjusting your aim slightly left or right to compensate. The bags do feel like they fly farther than they would with a similar toss in real life, and the Wii Remote is obviously lighter than the real thing. But regardless, the learning curve is not too steep and in no time you’ll be landing bags exactly where you want them.

Options are pretty sparse. You can choose between male and female characters, but you’ll only ever see them from behind and they have no discernible differences in play strengths. There is the choice between right and left-handedness, but this is just an aesthetic choice and will have no impact on play. This isn’t tennis, after all - you’re just swinging your arm forward.

An additional feature is wind adjustment. Other than to experiment, you might as well just leave this option set to "random." But turning the wind off entirely is just crazy, as this one random variable is the only thing that forces players to change their aim ever so slightly with each shot as the wind shifts. Without this randomly adjusting element, the game really would be as simple as finding one perfect grip and swing and repeatedly throwing the same shot and getting the same result each time.

The biggest choice you will make is between the Bags scoring rules and the Classic rules. The Bags scoring system is from the arcade version and is designed for shorter play, and ends after a set number of rounds. This is fine for short spurts of gaming that WiiWare games seem to excel at, but true fans of the sport will switch over to Classic whenever they have time for a longer, more gentlemanly match. Like Bags, Classic scores points for each player each round based on accuracy, but the difference here is that in each round your score is compared to your opponent's, and only the difference between the two is added to the leader’s overall score. This means if you are evenly matched and you both score the same amount in a round, then neither of you will score any points on your overall score. A game lasts for as many rounds as it takes until one player reaches 21, or whatever number the players agree to at the beginning. This can take quite a long time and has the benefit of encouraging more unconventional play as each round plays more intensely and rewards strategic thinking over just trying for a cornhole each round like in Bags mode.

The last option is the "Cards" feature. This is nothing more than a tiebreaker and is a lot less complicated than it sounds. With this option selected under Bags rules, you get a card from a standard deck each time you toss a bag into the hole. In the event of a tie, the player with the best poker hand wins. This seems like overkill, as the Bags game already rewards you plenty for getting a bag in the hole, but tiebreakers are rarely needed so this feature can be safely ignored.

Lastly, much has been made of the multiplayer option in Target Toss Pro: Bags. As a social, multiplayer game at its heart, Target Toss is only really fun when played in competition with someone else, so make sure you have at least one local friend to play with before downloading. Two players is fun enough, but up to 16 players can play in a tournament-style multiplayer match. However, there is no on-line mode, so you’ll have to find chairs for everyone to sit in while they wait their turn. Given the social nature of the game, this may not be as bad as it sounds, and currently there is no better form of entertainment for 16 players on one Wii to be found anywhere.

Conclusion

"Casual" Wii games that you can play while socializing with friends are popular these days. With a simple pick-up-and-play style and strategy to reward repetitive play, Target Toss Pro: Bags fits in perfectly with this type of play. Although it is difficult to imagine fans of the sport giving up their outdoor play for this, other sports-based video games have never had much of a problem with that, so Target Toss Pro: Bags should find a market as well. After all, you can’t have perfect weather all year long and late at night, in the dead of winter, while hosting a party, a simple to learn and competitive game like this can actually be a big hit.

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