Review: Arcade Sports (WiiWare)

Jack-of-all-trades, master of none

Perhaps better named, “Bowling Alley Sports”, Arcade Sports is a collection featuring pool, air hockey, and of course bowling. All of these games are available elsewhere on your Wii, but here you can get all three for one download. We’ve seen plenty of minigame collections on the Wii before, but is this latest bargain-buy just too good to be true?

The game takes place in a selection of bowling alleys, even when playing something other than bowling. Players can choose to play a single match at a sport, or engage in a longer league match, and there’s even a multi-game tournament mode that lets you compete in every game triathlon style. Taking the time to play through all these modes will unlock additional items such as stylised bowling balls and different pool tables.

This range of choices lets the player decide how casual or committed they want to be for any given play session so the overall presentation is good, but the usual problems creep in when we take a closer look at the games themselves.

For starters, let’s take a look at bowling. Given the bowling alley theme of the game, it makes sense to include this sport even though the game can be found in Wii Sports, but the problem is that Wii Sports is a good deal better. Icon Games did manage to produce a better bowling simulator than its WiiWare competition, Midnight Bowling, if only in that the controls are closer to those found in Wii Sports and not an unintuitive mess like Midnight Bowling. In fact, although the controls are not very sensitive to the subtle nuances of your swing, the bowling here is quite playable, though it’s still nowhere near as realistic as Wii Sports. It's also quite barebones in that it does not include anything like the fun diversions of Wii Sports such as bowling around obstacles or trying to knock down insanely large numbers of pins. So ultimately bowling, though serviceable, just is not a strong selling point for the collection as every Wii comes bundled with a better version of the sport.

Although bowling is the theme sport, the real meat of this collection is pool as both pool and snooker are included along with several variations of each game. Like the other pool games on WiiWare, players aim with the D-Pad and then hold down a button while treating the Wii Remote like a pool cue. Both Midnight Pool and Cue Sports did the same thing but with far more precision to the controls.

A worse problem is found in the advanced controls. The game features both novice and advanced control options, with the main difference between the two being that the “stroke” is largely performed for you on the novice setting, but on the advanced setting players must perform this full motion themselves, pulling back and then pushing forward. Again, these motion controls worked quite well in other WiiWare pool games and seem like a logical choice for players wanting a little more realism in their game but here, in our experience, the controls were inconsistent and unusable. What actually happens is that you push back and forth repeatedly like you are rowing a canoe until eventually one of your “strokes” registers, most likely not at the speed you were intending. At one point we tried standing directly in front of the sensor bar and pushing the Remote back and forth at the closest range possible and still got no result on most attempts.

The last game in this set is air hockey. Even this sport has seen its fair share on the Wii, most notably as part of the Wii Play minigame collection, although the presentation is quite different here, with a more realistic flavour to its appearance and a proper behind-the-goal perspective rather than the ‘Pong’ perspective found in Wii Play. Like the other games, this is a barebones presentation without so much as the option to change the score that a player must reach to win and the controls, as simple as they are (just move the Wii Remote to move your on-screen paddle) are hampered by a limitation in the Wii Remote interface. In order to control your paddle, you must be pointing the Wii Remote at the television screen: if your pointer goes off screen, you will lose control of the paddle and will have to find the screen again with your pointer before you can regain control of the stationary paddle. This means that, although Air Hockey encourages you to frantically move your paddle in quick, sharp movements and to give a strong shove to the puck when striking it, you must temper your motions for fear of getting too excited and losing your connection with the paddle. Needless to say, this is a bit of a buzzkill.

Conclusion

All of the aforementioned problems with the games included in this package are bookended by the fact that this collection of multiplayer games features no online play and is local multiplayer only. Additionally, the “world rankings” promised in some of the promotional material turn out to be nothing more than an in-game scoring system and not actual “world rankings”. Between these limitations, as well as a general lack of options or control precision, this collection is only for casual gamers and even then only if they are looking for a collection that will let them play a lot of different games but none of them well.