Happy Holidays: Christmas Review
Posted by Sean Aaron
We must have been very naughty indeed...
The holiday greeting card is normally innocuous enough. Often purchased with a feeling of obligation to declare one's genuinely heartfelt feelings via a mass-produced combination of sentimental/humorous messages and art/photos, they've been a staple of the holiday season for decades. For nearly as long as the World Wide Web has existed they've been in the online space adding music and animation to the equation much to the delight and irritation of email users the world over. 505 Games has seen fit to logically extend this virtual greeting card phenomenon to the Wii via the disaster known as Happy Holidays, and we really really wish they would stop.
After Happy Holidays: Halloween you would think that 505 Games might have seen fit to improve upon their original card-making program when moving on to Christmas. Clearly they felt that having the most rubbish card-making interface imaginable their job was done and now all that was required was swapping out some graphics and changing the name. If the goal was to earn another one of our most infamous honours then they've succeeded in spades.
If you've had the misfortune to experience Happy Holidays: Halloween you'll be right at home: now making cards is even easier than before due to the thoughtful reduction of choices in terms of your subject material. You have a choice of having a virtual Christmas tree on your card, or not. Your tree can have decorations like snow or ribbons in yellow or red - the snow is only in white sadly; yellow snow would have been quite appropriate - and flashing lights of either red, blue, green or yellow. You cannot mix ribbons and snow, nor can you mix different colours of lights - presumably the tree would collapse from the weight or the mixture of lights presents some kind of fire hazard. Thankfully 505 Games has taken our health and safety into account when designing this fine product.
You can festoon your virtual tree with all manner of baubles including glass balls, wreaths, candy canes and more - indeed there's a decent selection of these. Simply click on what you want and drag it to a highlighted part of the tree. Of course you may wonder why the upper quarter of the tree cannot have any decorations on it, or why you can have three spots remaining for placing ornaments only to place one and then be told there's no more room, but it's probably for the best. You can rotate your tree and cover it with decorations all around, which is nice until you remember that the flashing lights, the music (a choice of three tunes again) and the card animations aren't visible to anyone who isn't opening their card in their own copy of this utter waste of time.
Your choice of card "frame" (how is a background a frame, exactly?) is a bit more relevant this time around: the front of a snow-covered house, a snowy field with the moon overhead or a house with a fireplace, though our personal favourite is the formless void. Again, you cannot move your tree (if you're using one) and again you have a selection of dozens of stickers to choose from with the most crappily-calibrated pointer-controlled zoom function ever. As with the last stellar card program, you're supposed to move the Remote closer to the screen to shrink your sticker and pull back to make it larger, and just like before this doesn't work. Your virtual sticker will strobe wildly between sizes until you've either been successfully implanted with the suggestion to assassinate a political leader by the nefarious agents of evil hiding in your lounge cupboard (who also compelled you to buy this application) or given up on having anything as basic as a star on top of your tree (no, that's not one of the standard decorations - sorry kids. Oh, and there's no Santa either).
You can do the point-and-click method of inputting a message to go with your card image (and no, there's still no USB keyboard support) and then inflict your creation upon any of your Wii friends, whether they like it or not. Once again you can store 100 of your own cards (there's still three card-making weeks before Christmas after all) and 100 from all your crazy Christmas card-making Wii friends. One saving grace is that the stickers include messages for both "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" so we've probably got until February before Happy Holidays: Valentine's Day is released. Of course we can always hope that Nintendo will exercise some degree of quality control over WiiWare releases like this and stop that from happening.
We've said before that a greeting card application would be appropriate for the WiiWare service - of all the consoles, the Wii certainly would be the place for such a thing and with the Remote as an interface it could be a fun, creative and worthwhile enterprise. Happy Holidays: Christmas is the opposite of this in every way, having a minimum of creative expression and being almost completely worthless. We fervently hope someone, anyone, will step up to the plate and create a proper greeting card program, if only to convince 505 Games that the market is sewn up tight and there's no point in issuing any more "Happy Holidays" titles. Please make them stop!