Review: Wii Play: Motion (Wii)

Too little, too late

What do Arzest, ChunSoft, Good-Feel Co, Mitchell Corporation, Prope, Skip Ltd, Vanpool, NdCUBE and Nintendo have in common? They all worked as developers on Wii Play: Motion, which acts as a companion to the Wii Remote Plus. It also serves as a sequel to Wii Play, a compilation largely criticised for its mediocre mix of simplistic mini-games. But with nine teams designing its successor, including former Sonic Team leaders Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima and the company behind 999, success is guaranteed, right? As it turns out, it's not.

The game has one thing going for it: the 12 activities on offer stretch the creative boundaries more than the table tennis, air hockey and ping pong of its predecessor, and by and large show off what the more accurate controls are capable of, yet at the end of the day still feel thin and underwhelming. There's some fun to be had, however, and we'll start with what we consider the most creative use of MotionPlus, the Prope-developed Trigger Twist. It's by far the smartest take on the shooting-gallery formula we've seen as of thus, having you point around your person instead of exclusively at the screen itself. The front of your Wii Remote becomes a sort of camera, your TV displaying what you're pointing at; your target might be to the left of you, so you'll have to point to your left, your view swinging to display what your Remote is now sighting. You'll initially find yourself inclined to point back at the screen when your intended prey appears there, but after you get used to the unique interface, it becomes one of the most immersive experiences we've seen in the subgenre. Unfortunately, there are only four levels – UFOs, ninjas, dinosaurs and all of the above – and while they each feature progressive stages, including one where you're asked to save fleeing Miis from their attackers, it's just not enough. It's certainly fun to return to, and you can bring a friend along to help out, but like just about every other segment of Wii Play: Motion it feels like the foundation of a bigger, better game rather than a stand-alone activity.

Another interesting mini-game is the Ghostbuster-influenced Spooky Search, which again asks you to point at certain spots in your room rather than exclusively at your set. This time it's to locate and capture ghosts that have flown out of your television, using the Remote's speaker to hear a buzzing sound that acts like a metal detector emission representing how close you are to your target. Miis on screen point behind you and say "To the left!" "So close!" and the like to guide your aim, and sometimes find themselves in a bit of a poltergeist situation you're to sort out, quite the charming touch. The two-to-four player multiplayer mode adds a bit of teamwork-oriented fun, tasking you with working together to rope in the big baddies, who put up a fight and force you to swing your arm around to draw them into the ghost trap at the centre of your screen. This activity gives you three levels to choose from, the last one culminating in a boss of sorts – really just a very big ghost, nothing too unique – and that's, once again, not nearly enough to make this feel like more than the foundation of a good game. It's fun enough to come back to, but its limited sense of progression and variation will keep it from hooking you for long. Another letdown is that it's just not as creepy as it could be – those scrambling Miis are cute no matter how spooky of a mansion they inhabit, and listening to an electronic noise from your Remote rather than a whispering ghost removes you one step further. Relying minimally on visual cues and depending on audio instead to build the ambience is an ambitious task, one at which Spooky Search falls short.

Treasure Twirl provides another great cooperative multiplayer mode, where you and a friend each pull up one side of a steel treasure-containing basket, avoiding obstacles and enemies along the way, and it really proves a formidable task to slow down and speed up both for yourself and your teammate and feels like you've really accomplished something by the time you reach your goal with as few spoils spilled as possible. Single player has you venture down and back up alone, picking up jewels, chests and oxygen tanks as you go and watching your health/air metre so that you surface alive. Again, enemies block the way, making you drop your booty as well as a few bars of life upon collision. You control this mode with the Remote held sideways, and good luck finding a way to wrap up that strap so that it's not flicking your wrist with each spin. All in all this too is a fun and challenging mode, but once again it's sadly limited – Solo contains four levels while Partner Mode features a miniscule two. They vary in complexity enough to make each unique, but there's just not enough here to hold one's interest past a few high score attempts.

Jump Park provides another mini-game that's fun for one or two players, challenging you to collect gems while bouncing around and controlling only your body's orientation as mapped to the upright Wii Remote and the ability to give your leap an extra boost with the press of a button. Cooperative mode has you and a friend make one capital I-shaped mass, taking turns as to whose feet land on the ground. While not as dependent upon teamwork as Treasure Twirl or Spooky Search, this provides a good way for two to work together as well as a fun and challenging task to accomplish. Unfortunately, once you get the hang of it, it goes by quick – while unique, there are once more only four stages total.

You're probably getting the gist – fun enough, but too few levels. You'll be happy to hear then that two activities offer a whopping 30 stages each. The first is Teeter Targets, which has you turn the Remote sideways to control flippers weighted at the centre to toss a ball bearing about. Challenge Mode has you aim for a series of targets in the somewhat increasingly complex aforementioned stages, but smart puzzle design is hard to come by here and you'll have no trouble getting through the majority of areas in short order. Versus Mode has you and a friend aim for sets of targets on the same stage, though there are only four available, and Endless presents three challenge levels that have you bounce your ball in specific ways for as long as possible. All in all, it's too simple and limited once more, though it involves enough skill to provide some replay value.

The other 30-level activity is Star Shuttle, and it's got the most niche appeal of the bunch. It tasks you with landing a spacecraft onto a larger floating body, attaching a piece of equipment at the correct spots. What makes it interesting is that you must steer with a series of blasters on all sides of your ship with the direction pad, A and B, turning it about with the Remote. Some of the machinery you'll have to place on-target adds another challenge as you'll have to point your Remote in non-intuitive ways to make the landing, thus changing which blasters are pointed where. There's also the occasional space storm to ride out, performed by pointing the Remote at the screen, and some obstacles to avoid, and if you go too quickly you'll crash and have to start over. Your greatest enemy is the floatiness of space itself, making handling extremely loose and somewhat frustrating. It tasks you with using a gentle touch, but combining this with the already purposely cumbersome controls makes for a bit of a headache. If you're looking for a workout in patience, then, this is perfect, though most will find it too slow and awkward to return to much. The relative multitude of levels is misleading as well, as while they progress in difficulty they are very similar. A two-player mode is included, but it simply tasks you with landing your equipment before your opponent over nine stages. This is one of ChunSoft's contributions, and we hope that Nintendo allows them to stick to game novels from now on.

Wind Runner could most easily see use as the foundation of a longer, more complex title, and is thus especially disappointing in its limitedness. It has you race down a track pointing your Remote in the direction of the wind, catching gusts with an open umbrella and hopping to avoid oil spills as you pick up gems. There's a solo and two-player versus mode, the latter of which has you complete the track before your opponent, as well as Long Jump and Time Attack. There are only three racetracks, however, and each is increasingly complex but too simple overall for much lasting fun. A larger, more diverse set would easily provide the basis of a quality game, and what's here is fun enough – it just, once again, is not enough.

Flutter Fly could easily fit into a fitness title as it'll give your forearms a work-out. You must send balloons through a track by fanning them with a leaf, moving your Remote around to all sides to achieve the correct direction. There are some obstacles like birds to zap, but largely track design is unimaginative. There are four for Solo mode and one for two-player Versus, and like a broken record we must criticise the game for including too little and too minimally fleshed out of a potentially good thing.

Veggie Guardin' is a virtual whack-a-mole game, a bit simple for 2011 but still surprisingly fun. Miis pop out to trick you and adorable gophers wearing Mii masks add personality to the mix. Single-player culminates in a big boss battle, though it's not terribly long before you get there. A versus mode for two to four has you compete for points, and Recall mode has you bop the varmints in a specific order, remembering how they popped up before. All in all it's quite entertaining, especially with a friend, but we'd have liked to see a longer individual adventure.

Pose Mii Plus will look familiar to anyone who's played ThruSpace, asking you to turn Miis in correct directions to fit through silhouette-shaped holes. It's simple and challenging, and again might compel you to return, but such a non-complex task only holds so much replay value as it doesn't get much more fleshed out than that.

That leaves but two, and we've saved the most simplistic for last. Cone Zone has you pivot your Remote to balance gigantic helpings of ice cream scoop by scoop in one mode, playing alone or competing with a friend, and while it doesn't require a lot of skill to swing a Remote back and forth with accuracy, it's still fun to see who can get their dessert tall enough to reach the cosmos. There's also Swirl Mode, which has you twirl your Remote to evenly stack up some soft-serve but without much chance of getting it to any remarkable height. This is quite tedious and only available for individuals, so you're not likely to return much.

Lastly is Skip Skimmer, where you skip stones across a lake either alone or competing with one to three friends for distance. It's quite relaxing, and the inclusion of special rocks that bark, meow, shoot lightning, drop feathers and more makes for a charming addition. There's also a Score Mode that has you launch your limestone at a target, again for one to four players. It's entertaining but limited once more, and once you get the hang of the somewhat temperamental controls you stand to have some fun with this simple, skilled activity.

At the end of the day, it just doesn't feel like enough. The activities included here would feel more at home in a set of 50-100 in a game like Wii Party or as the foundation of bigger, more complex titles. When it shines in cooperative multiplayer or control innovation, it does so brightly but briefly. What replay value it contains lies in the leaderboards, but these are poorly realised – you're only given a list of the top three, and the game only keeps track of one high score per user.

As you would expect of a Wii series title, presentation is clean, simple and attractive. The water and sky of Skip Skimmer looks quite beautiful and match the time of day at which you play, the gophers of Veggie Guardin' are charmingly animated and the storybook look of Teeter Targets is quite nice. The developers also make great use of the Wii Remote speaker, as in the aforementioned activity when balls clink and clack onto the paddles you're controlling and you hear it in the palm of your hand. The music is largely simple and well-composed while unmemorable, except for the obnoxious, repetitive score of Teeter Targets which you will mute almost immediately. The game controls quite well and with precision and creativity, showcasing the Wii Remote Plus quite nicely.

Conclusion

The 12 titles on offer in Wii Play Motion surpass their predecessor in creativity but are just as mediocre in their simplicity and limitedness. Each activity feels like it could be so much more, either as a smaller part of a larger mini-game compilation or as the foundation of a full, unique title. Nintendo has said recently that it wants to work more closely with third parties, but here it's taken eight of them and together created what amounts to about half of a game. There's enough fun to make for a decent experience and Prope's unique contribution of Trigger Twist is not to be missed, but all in all this is just as mediocre as its predecessor.

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