The Nintendo Wii is a polarising device. Ask a gamer, and most of them will agree that the PS3 is overpriced, and the XBox 360 is unreliable. These are facts. The Wii on the other hand polarises people between love and meh. The graphics are decidedly last-gen, and the controller is either miraculous or just a pointless add-on, depending on who you ask.
I owned a Wii for a while when it first came out, but eventually sold it for a 360 when I realised that (a) none of the “major” franchises that I enjoy would ever come out for the Wii; (b) I can’t watch videos from my PC with the Wii; (c) the Wii wouldn’t drive my HD TV at decent resolutions; and (d) the waggly controller is fun for about 3 months.
None of this has stopped Nintendo from making the Wii more … waggly I guess. The engineers have engineered a new add-on for the Wiimote. This comes in the form of a small extension that you attach to the bottom of the controller. It incorporates a tuning fork angular rate sensor, but that doesn’t sound sexy so: MotionPlus. Apparently the MotionPlus increases the accuracy of motion, and enables new styles of gameplay. The MotionPlus also removes any doubt that Nintendo were serious about the padded silicone case for the Wiimote. The plug comes embedded in a silicone case with room for the Wiimote to slot in above it, forming one complete, padded unit.
Does it work? To be brutally honest, unless you play regular Wii Sports then Wii Sports Resort with MotionPlus one after the other, I’m not sure you’re going to tell the difference. There’s still no force feedback, so you’re left with a reasonable simulcra of the sporting motions required, but none of the feeling.
Wii Sports Resort comes with some improved and some brand new sports that ostensibly benefit from MotionPlus. A quick rundown of how I felt after a week with the console:
- I’d say golf is slightly improved – it feels like you have a little bit more control over the hook/slice mechanic.
- Swordplay is a better mano-a-mano option than boxing ever was, with a more satisfying strike and block system. Speedslice makes you feel like a total samurai, slicing sushi and flowerpots and … umm… giant pencils.
- Bowling is almost identical in mechanic. They have changed my favourite “Power Bowling” to a full multiplayer game of 100-pin bowling, which is remarkably satisfying. It’s like a combination of dominos and bowling.
- Frisbee is alright, perhaps better called golf-lite?
- Wakeboarding is a little frustrating. It’s hard to work out what makes you land correctly and what makes you nosedive.
- Canoeing appears to be designed as the optimal way to show just how frustrating a lack of force-feedback can be in a game.
But it all comes down to this: you get out what you put in. Watch any newbie using a Wii (or a promotional video), and you’ll see people thrashing about like epileptic cats, thrusting and swiping and poking with their full range of motion. Watch someone who has used a Wii for more than a few days, and you’ll find them sitting on a couch barely moving their wrist. Sure the Wiimote and MotionPlus will mirror your gigantic Tiger Woods golf swing, but it will just as happily register the same movement using a wrist-flick.
Ultimately, I think the Wii (with or without MotionPlus) has lasting appeal only for kids, and gamers who need their Mario and/or Zelda fix. This is not a Bad Thing.
Here’s a little video to illustrate, with compulsory Yakety Sax. In the final scene we’re having an epic sword battle, can you tell?: