A great set of tech demos, but not much more than that.
The origins of Wii Play are a set of tech demos first shown to the press and displayed at E3 2006 titled “Remote Pointer Demo." While I was hoping that E3 wouldn’t be the last time we saw the demos, it would have been more appropriate to include the Wii Play games either directly with the console or as free or cheap Wii Ware titles. Coming out months after launch, the release of Wii Play is a strange one since other games have surpassed almost everything it tries to do. Of course, its late release was partially due to the emergency strap replacement program.
Wii Play is a collection of nine simple games and is designed as a tutorial for using the Wii remote. Each game is intended to demonstrate ways in which the Wii remote can be used. The first time through the collection, each of the nine games must be played in sequence in order to unlock the following game. Though it won’t take long to complete the set, such an unnecessary limitation can impede those players wanting to take the game to a friend’s machine and play a specific game. Wii Play definitely does a decent job of introducing the controls, but its hand-holding approach is almost insulting when intuitive controls should be enough to get the player going.
Although marketed as a $50 game with a free Wii remote, since the Wii remote costs $40 by itself, buying Wii Play is essentially, and more appropriately, viewed as buying a $10 game. For $10, the compilation of nine games is certainly worth it. This brings up an interesting question of quality versus value, since the collection isn’t worth the price of a normal game. Also in question is the target demographic for the collection. The games are extremely basic, intended to expand the gaming market to those who wouldn’t normally play games.
Lasse has already described the nine games in his review, so I won’t recount them all again here. Though everyone will have their favorites, I personally found the “simpler" games more fun than the later games. Sadly, one of the more enjoyable tech demos, a Kuru Kuru Kururin-like game, is absent from the collection. Pose Mii is similar in operation, though significantly simplified and not a worthy substitute.
The game makes extensive use of Miis, beginning with random characters parading around the background of the title screen. And unlike their counterparts in Wii Sports, these Miis actually have arms. While normally carrying a certain charm, the inclusion of Miis may actually be detrimental to players’ experiences in Find Mii. Since the mini-game uses Miis stored on the player’s system, difficulty can vary depending on how similar the Miis found in the system are.
Wii Play could have done so much more, but Nintendo chose to essentially tack on a menu in front of their tech demos. More variation or customization would have gone a long way in some of the games, but each run-through is essentially the same, which quickens the onset of boredom. For instance, players must complete the same twenty Tanks! stages in the same order every time.
Wii Play is best played like its title suggests, “we play." The two-player modes are generally competitive, though Tanks! is more cooperative. In multiplayer, Laser Hockey, Shooting Range, and Pose Mii are perhaps the most fun due to their slightly more frantic nature. A bit of light competition (without the crazy arm swinging of Wii Sports) makes these games more fun than single player mode, and their brevity means that more than two people can switch off watching and playing. Unfortunately, the game is limited to only two players, even though some of the games would have worked just as well with four.
Since Wii Play is meant to introduce people to Wii and get non-gamers into gaming, I had several people who don’t play games try out the compilation. These newbies, some of whom had not actually seen the Wii remote before, had a pretty easy time navigating the controls (once past the character select screen). They found the games and control in general fun and enjoyable. In the end, however, Wii Sports is a more engaging experience for gamers and non-gamers alike. Nintendo made a good decision in including Wii Sports rather than Wii Play with their system. It also became evident that while the Wii remote allows non-gamers to easily play new games, it doesn’t magically give them the ability to play on par with experienced gamers.
Playing Wii Play is almost like taking a trip back to the very early 80s, when games weren’t expected to have much depth. The compilation serves to show us our increased expectations from games over the past 20-plus years. Each of these games could have been sold separately as a full game back in the early days of video gaming. Now, however, we expect more, and even bundling nine such games together isn’t worthy of a standard release and should be relegated to something like Xbox Live Arcade. Just like with the games of yesteryear, players will continue replaying the games in order to maximize their score.
Wii Play is probably a better title for non-gamers than it is for gamers. It has the ability to introduce people to gaming in a similar, but more inviting way than the very first video games did. Wii Play’s assets are surpassed in pretty much every way by other games, but there are a few mini-games on the disc are worth having even if they won’t be played much. Furthermore, Wii remotes are in limited supply, and ten extra bucks isn’t a bad deal for the set.