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Nintendo Wii game reviews
(To jump straight to the games list, click here.)
This page provides very short reviews of games for the Nintendo Wii game console. While some people put down the Wii as "crap", it is a fine piece of equipment, in my opinion. Cheaper than the XBox 360 and the Playstation 3, the Wii should be considered to be on the lower end of the game console spectrum, but is nonetheless a capable machine. (This "lower endedness" is primarily visible via the lower-quality graphics capabilities of the Wii, compared to the PS3 and XBox360.) i never considered buying one until i played the boxing game at a friend's house and immediately fell in love with the Wii. The motion-sensitive controls work remarkably well and i look forward to seeing what innovative game developers will do with it. The worst thing about the Wii's motion-sensitive controls is that reaching up to scratch (or pick) your nose during play can have an effect on the game!
General notes about the Wii:
Here are some notable Wii pros and cons (reminder: my own opinions), in no particular order:
Here is the list of Wii games i own. Click on one to see my rating (on a scale of 1 to 5) and any comments:
To try to put these reviews and ratings in perspective, one must understand my play style: i am NOT a "power gamer". i play for relaxation and entertainment. i enjoy looking around the content in a game and moving along at my own pace. i like to play through each level once or twice, and get extremely frustrated if a game is so difficult that it requires you to fully master each level (via 3+ playings) before continuing to the next. i really appreciate when a game has multiple difficulty levels, so that i can start on the simplest and work my way up (or not) as i become more proficient. As a software developer, i am fairly tolerant of bugs in software, but not at all tolerant of major bugs in console games because once the ROM ships the game cannot be fixed. Thus, console games which exhibit more than the most minor of bugs immediately get added to my shit-list.
The games...Battalion Wars 2 (BWii), Rating: 3.75
BWii is a cartoon-style combat game in which the player leads groups of soldiers into various missions. When i bought it i wasn't quite sure what to expect, as the screenshots on the box are too small to make a judgement on. Once it was running, i was pleasantly surprised. Compared to other Wii titles, this one has remarkably good graphics (though still low-quality when compared to the high-end platforms). (The music, however, while of decent quality, quicky gets repetative.) The controls are suitably simple, with no outrageously tricky combinations required. Controlling friendly units is also simple - toggle to the unit (using the left/right arrows), point at the target and tap 'A' to perform a context-sensitive action (capture, attack, etc.). Throughout the game you can control a number of unit types, from infantry and tanks to various sorts of planes. During play it is possible to take control of any given unit, so you can play the one(s) you enjoy the most. The story is a tad bid weak, and the dialog nearly as so (but not as weak as that of Heatseaker), but the cuteness of the presentation makes up for this. One aspect which quickly gets annoying is how often play is interrupted by cutscenes. The levels are mostly quite short (par time is under 10 minutes), which makes the interruptions stick out even more than they would for longer missions. That said, there's also no checkpoint feature, meaning that if you fail a mission you must start from the beginning, making longer missions a nuisance. BWii is one of the few Wii titles with online support - you can play both co-op and head-to-head games over the Nintendo gaming network. This adds a great deal to the replayability factory, but the game is not enthralling enough to make me want to spend weeks at a time playing it online. All in all i am quite happy with the game. It's fun, and the presentation lends itself well to a light-hearted play style. It is recommended for any fan of shooter games.
Battle for the Pacific, Rating: 1
Two great names: Activision and The History Channel. It could have been nice. i gave up before even reaching the end of the first level. The difficulty level, even on Easy Mode, is absurd. The controls are non-fluid and inaccurate, aiming seems to only be possible in increments of about 15 degrees, making it damned near impossible to hit anything at all. Some weapons are aimed using the Wiimote, some with the nunchuk stick, making for a jarring, unnecessary contrast. If you do attempt to play this game, here's a hint for the first level: if you sit and shoot the bad guys, and do not advance forward, they will come at you in endless waves. You must move forward while they are still coming at you in endless waves (and don't expect a break in the waves of more than a few seconds). Yes, your lone, under-gunned soldier has to charge groups of Japanese soldiers to make any headway in the mission. The jerky aiming controls make actualy shooting them as you run by next to impossible, so just keep on running, because if you stop to shoot them then more will take their place. After 5 attempts at getting to the 4th or 5th checkpoint, i turned it off, and probably won't turn it back on.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII, Rating: 3 (but see review text!)
This WW2 flight sim provides a variety of challenges, from the typical shooting down of enemy planes to taking recon photos of embedded German positions in the Sahara during a heavy sandstorm to navigating a meters-wide tunnel of ice in the Norwegian fjords. While a few of the missions are difficult enough to require 5+ tries to get through them, i have had so much fun blowing up things along the way that that has not lowered my enjoyment of this game (most games which require so many tries get thrown into my do-not-play pile). The use of the motion-sensitive Nunchuk control to fly the planes is exceedingly intuitive, making one a master of flight after the short tutorial mission. (And if you do not like that control, the game offers a suprising number of different layouts, one of which does not require the Nunchuk at all.) Most of the missions are quite short, but that is balanced out by a relatively large number of missions (20 if i am not mistaken, whereas most mission-oriented games have 12-15 missions). i have one significant complaint about this game:
Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood/Road to Hill 30, Rating: 2.5
Earned in Blood and Road to Hill 30 are two separate games but come bundled in a two-pack called "Double Time". i love WW2-era games, and the Wii controls are a good fit for this style of game. That said, i don't care for the Brothers in Arms series at all (i've also played them on the PC and the Sony PSP, and didn't care for them there, either, for the same reason i'll name in a moment). They are actually well done, with fair graphics and engaging gameplay, but a bit heavy on the cutscenes (the first 3 missions of Road to Hill 30 feel like 2/3rd cutscene and 1/3rd play). My problem with this whole franchise of games is that they're so frigging difficult. IMO, on "Beginner" difficulty i should be able to walk through the battlefield at my own pace and come out with only a few scratches. Instead, i've gotta fight like hell for each meter of advancement and keep telling my squad what to do at the same time (the difficulty selection dialog claims that in Beginner you don't need to use the tactical features of the game to win, but this simply isn't true). If these games had a better sense of difficulty level (i.e. Beginner was truly easy and Veteran was truly hard), i would have a lot more fun playing them. As it is, i don't have the patience to play through more than the first 3 levels at the Beginner setting.
Call of Duty 3, Rating: 4
Beautiful! This shooter is really nicely done. My only major complaint is that my controller always freaks out during the last couple minutes of the very last level, requiring me to try it 4 or 5 times before getting through. Also, some of the motion controls don't work quite as well as the game designers certainly intended (mainly the "pulling the pin" motion needed when setting explosive charges, which often takes 8 or 10 tries before it actually works. Also, the melee combat motions are a real pain in the ass.). Aside from that i had nothing but fun playing this. The graphics are lovely and the sound is nice, but the developers REALLY SHOULD have added a way to skip the cut-scenes, because some are quite long and you are forced to watch them between chapters or when playing individual chapters (which are unlocked as you defeat them in campaign mode). This long wait severely reduces the replay value because you cannot simply jump into an arbitrary game chapter/mission on a moment's notice. In all cases you'll have to wait through 1-3 minutes of cut scenes before you can start shooting. You can't even pause the game during most cut scenes, which means if someone knocks on your door or telephones while you're waiting, your character will probably be killed when the level starts and you are off answering the door or telephone (yes, this has happened to me).
Call of Duty: World at War, Rating: 3.5
Fast and fluid, the designers of this game took the good aspects of Call of Duty 3 and mixed it with one of the worst from the Brothers in Arms series: it's very difficult (i think i died five times on the first level, on the easiest difficulty setting). They largely make up for this by providing checkpoints at very generous intervals for most levels (for others the intervals are way too far apart, requiring many repeated attempts for certain levels). Unlike Call of Duty 3, the cutscenes can be skipped, vastly increasing the reply value over the CoD3.
Cons include: except for the last 2 or 3, the missions have absolutely nothing to do with one another, making the whole experience seem a bit disjointed. The voice content, at least on the German edition of this game, is too low to hear 95% of the time. Even when turning up the TV to more than twice normal volume levels, the voices are almost inaudible. With the background explosions and such, it is impossible to hear the commander's orders telling you what the next target is.
Pros include: fast, fluid action. Most levels have checkpoints every few feet (and they need them, because even on Rookie level you'll get killed often).
Far Cry Vengeance, Rating: 3.5
This game got some poor reviews on the internet, but most of those came from long-time Far Cry franchise fans who were comparing it to Far Cry games from other platforms and bitched about the graphics not being up to par. My only complaints with this product are relatively minor, such as its save support - it saves at nearly arbitrary points, and some of those are while bad guys are shooting at you or even right as you are dying from falling off of a mountain. The levels in this game are huge, causing the Wii to read the CD a great deal (the only thing annoying about that is the constant drive-read sound coming from the device). One level in particular is buggy, in that it allows you to perform some actions in the wrong order, and if you do this then the whole level is botched and cannot be completed without completely restarting it (but it does not tell you this - you simply cannot access the necessary exit point and you will have to google around to find out why). That said, all in all this is a really enjoyable shooter game. It makes good use (but not over-use) of the motion controls, and is the first game i have seen where to jump you actually have to make a jumping motion with your controller (makes sense, right?).
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as Dark Lord, Rating: 3.5
This WiiWare title is a spin-off of My Life as King (see below), but it approaches the problem from the other direction: you play the role of Dark Lord, defending your castle from an onslaught of adventurers. It is not a clone of My Life as King, but is a whole different game. Dark Lord is largely a real-time-strategy, but any time you take an action or make a choice the game pauses, so much of the hectic of RTS games is (thankfully!) gone. It's also part puzzle game - how best to deploy your monsters to deal with the abilities of the incoming adventurers (this very important to winning). All in all the game is very well done. Like My Life as King, it's visually nice and has nice audio, but is also quite repetative. However, it also moves at a much different pace than its predecessor, and holds its charm a bit longer (IMO). It's played in stages (each battleground a different stage), and stages can be replayed as often as one likes (and, in typical Square Enix style, must be replayed several times in order to accumulate enough points to improve your army). The ability to re-play any stage allows you to practice your tactics and experiment with different setups. Like My Life as King, you can purchase add-on content which provides certain bonuses like new monsters and improved statistics, and i can imagine that the game is much more difficult without these bonuses. All in all, My Life as Dark Lord is well done. Even with the repetativeness, it's got at least 5-10 hours of play time in it, which makes it overall significantly cheaper than going to a movie (even if you buy the add-on content).
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as King, Rating: 3
This is my first "WiiWare" title. WiiWare titles are downloadable from the Wii store, directly downloaded to the Wii instead of loaded via a disk. While the price was a bit high (at 1500 Wii points, or 15 Euros), i decided to try it out because i have, in general, been impressed with other titles by this publisher (Square Enix). MLK is basically the same as other Final Fantasy titles... except that the role of the player is reversed. Instead of playing a party of adventurers, you play the king who sends adventurers out on quests. While they're out hacking and slaying, you stay home and build up your kingdom (as represented by a small city, enclosed in the grounds of a castle). As the player, you will never experience any of the fighting. Your job is administrative in nature. You keep the city growing (building new buildings), keep the people happy (e.g. by talking to them as they walk around the streets). MLK can be expanded (e.g. with new races and building types) by purchasing new content online, available via an in-game menu. Purchasing new content requires Wii points, which can be purchased (with real-world money) via the online Wii store. The value of the add-ons varies - some are simply cosmetic (new costumes for your avatars) and some add new places for your adventurers to explore (not that you'll ever see those places - you send the adventurers there and they do the dirty work).
There's really a lot to say about this game, but this page is about brief reviews. Final Fantasy fans will probably enjoy it. Hard-core city-simulation fans probably won't - this game isn't anywhere nearly as detailed as such sims, and simply can't satisfy people addicted to that level of detail. It is, for me, quite repetative but also mildly addictive (on the same scale as most other games in this franchise), and will certainly get one or two complete play-throughs before i tire of it. My hope is that the game will eventually be expanded (significantly, though also incrementally) via the content download features. That is not at all a far-fetched notion - the question is simply whether it's worth it (financially) for Nintendo and Square Enix to do so.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time, Rating: 1.5
i should have known better - i didn't at all like the DS version of this game. The Wii version is even more disappointing. First off, the DS/Wii versions are designed to be played together. But they cannot be used together, it turns out, without the Nintendo USB LAN device, which only works with MS Windows operating systems (which i do not use - i've been an exclusive Linux user since the 20th century). The game's box downright lies on this point, saying a WLAN router or Wi-Fi USB Connector is required.
The fact that the game is a DS crossover should have been the first hint that something would be amiss, because such games must meet at a lowest common demoninator when it comes to features. And boy, did Square Enix find the lowest common demoninator. Like the DS version, the UI is split-screen, but side-by-side instead of one atop the other (of the three screenshots on the box, only one is shown split-screen - yet another deception alongside the WLAN claim). It's impossible, even on my 110cm (46-inch) TV screen, to read most of the text without zooming in one side of the screen (which is easy to do but horribly annoying to have to do). The graphics are 100% the same as the DS version - imagine hooking up your DS to a projector, and that's what it looks like, flickering screen and all. When it finally comes time to get your first mission, you are told to find a Buffasaur "somewhere near water", but no amount of wandering around the one place on the map with water reveals a Buffasaur. So, just like on the DS version, i'm stuck some half-hour into the game trying to find a Buffasaur. Trying to pass the time by taking on optional quests leads to even more disappointment. The quests are not quests in the conventional sense, but are mini-games, most of which would appear to be poorly thought-out or poorly executed (e.g. carrying buckets of water to put out fires would seem to be reasonable, except that it's about impossible to aim the buckets such that they actually land on the flames: see an example of this in this video). All of the quests i've tried so far have time limits, and TIME LIMITS JUST PISS ME OFF. When creatures drop treasures, you've got to manually pick each of them up. This is because in multi-player mode it's the only fair way to handle pick-ups, but in single-player mode it's just downright annoying (especially since monsters wait about 2 seconds after they fall before the treasures pop out, and bosses drop 10-15 pieces, each of which has to be approached and picked up individually). Not only is it annoying, but if other members of your party are nearby (which they almost always are) you end up picking up a party member half of the time, rather than the item.
i finally found the Buffasaur (by googling for it), and was sorry i did. While lurking around the dungeon i found that the controls are even more poorly thought out that it initially seemed. The (C) button has 3 distinct uses (casting magic, calling party members, and diving underwater), and it regularly took three attempts to get the use i was trying for. The other party members do not pick up items, even to heal themselves, and one is forced to continually switch characters just to heal them or restore mana points. Using the default controls, if your Wiimote pointer is not in the 1/3rd of the screen where the action is taking place, then it does not register attacks at all (this can be changed, but not without reseting the game). Apropos attacks, instead of mapping the Trigger button (B) to attacks, they map the (A) button to attack, and the Trigger to jump, which is exactly the opposite of intuition and just feels fundamentally wrong. And while trying to explore the dungeon, the camera often works against you, placing dungeon fences and such between the camera and the PC, making tracking the PC nearly impossible at times.
The publishers of this game get several big, fat F*** YOUs for this release.
Though this game uses the same engine as FF Ring of Fates, this one is somehow much worse, probably because it's implemented on a console many times more powerful than the DS, and should be correspondingly better. i'm exceedingly disappointed in Square Enix for puting this on the market and robbing me of 40 Euros.
Heatseeker, Rating: 3.5
This flight sim is more action-packed than Blazing Angels, but with a much less compelling story. It offers some pretty exciting shoot-em-up flying using a wide variety of planes. Unfortunately its only play mode is Campaign mode, but the missions can be played in arbitrary order once they are unlocked by playing through them. Winning the missions can unlock different bonuses, depending on which difficulty level is used (out of 3 possible levels). The flight controls are much different than those of Blazing Angels, but are no less effective (and arguably more effective). Unfortunately, however, there is practically no in-game tutorial information, so you have to figure out how to do important things, like changing missile types, by trial and error or Reading The Fine Manual. As an interesting marketing gimmick, if you register your copy of the game you get 3 "free" cheat codes to unlock certain content. Additionally, you can buy cheat codes online, for about 5 Euro, to unlock all the levels, planes, weapons, etc. The cheat codes are calculated based on your Wii's unique ID, and thus are unique for every player, meaning that codes you buy are useless for a friend of yours who also has the game.
Lego Batman, Rating: 3.5
Yet another installment in the wildly successful Lego game series, this one covers our long-time favourites Batman and Robin. It adds some new gimmicks to the line of Lego tricks, but is otherwise essentially the same game as Lega Indiana Jones (see below) with different characters and much darker graphics (they're sometimes hard to see on a CRT TV screen). If it was more original (and a bit less dark, which gets difficult on my old eyes), i would rate it a 4, but in my eyes it doesn't really differentiate itself from the other Lego games all that much.
Lego Indiana Jones: the Original Adventures, Rating: 4+
Impressed with [all but one of the] previous Lego-themed titles for the Nintendo DS, Gamecube, and Wii, i had to try this one out. Players of the previous Lego titles will be right at home - there's a lot of familiar territory here. There are also several new gimmicks, including new ways to build (or repair) things and new types of interactivity. The game includes an absolute boatload of unlockable characters (including some from Lego StarWars, including (of course) Han Solo) and other unlockables, and cheat codes are available for the impatient or frustrated players out there (google for them!). The level graphics are remarkably detailed, the characters are fun, and a second player may join in at any time. Since it's all light-hearted fun, it makes for a good distraction while discussing other things with your play-mate (e.g. "Honey, how are we going to make the - Pick up that blue stud! - house payment this month? I spent our rent money on Lego Indiana Jones.").
Marvel Super Hero Squad, Rating: 3
Like Spyborgs, my local GameStop had this game on sale for 10 Euros, so i picked it up without too much hesitation. Anyone who's played any of the LEGO family of console games, like LEGO StarWars, Indiana Jones, or Batman, will recognize the style. The superhero characters, all of which will be familiar to males between the ages of 5 and 45, look almost Lego-like, and i suspect that designers of the game were going for a LEGO feel without infringing on (or having to license) the LEGO label. MSHS gives the player two heroes per level, whom he can freely switch between while he romps around a 3D/isometric-like environment mashing up bad guys and certain elements of the environment. The game has multiple difficulty levels, nice graphics, and allows two players to play in co-op mode. In effect, it's largely the same gameplay style as the various LEGO games except that the levels are not littered with puzzles and the characters are more varied in their abilities. Anyone who enjoyed any of the Lego games will almost certainly enjoy this one.
HOWEVER... note that some of the levels have elements are extremely non-intuitive in regards to how to solve/perform them. Players will almost certainly have to google to figure out how to properly interact with some of the "puzzles". If it weren't for this aspect, and all of the time i wasted trying to get Hulk to throw a damned rock at the right spot, i would have rated this game higher.
Rampage: Total Destruction, Rating: 3
A classic from the 1980's arcade era is back in beautiful form. The monsters look almost claymation-like, which i find entertaining. Unfortunately, starting at the third level ("London") it gets pretty difficult. As a redeeming feature, though, each level (city) is quite large, and destroying Las Vegas and San Francisco have not yet become boring. It is great for stress reduction. It has over 30 monsters (most of which must be unlocked through play), but they aren't fundamentally different from each other, differing mainly in their collections of powers (which must be unlocked through play). As an added bonus, the 1980's arcade game is also included. (After playing the classic version for a couple minutes you will probably think "wow... we used to spend 25 cents per game to play this crap?")
Resident Evil 4, Wii Edition, Rating: 4+
Despite the fact that i've never played a game in the Resident Evil series, and didn't consider the films to be terribly interesting, i've been waiting on the release of this game. It has gotten several excellent reviews at various gaming sites, and it is easy to see why.
The graphics are excellent, at least by Wii standards. This game easily has the best overall graphics of any Wii game i've played to-date. Despite the large levels, unlike Far Cry, it does not suffer from the "terrain at the far edge of your vision distractingly just seems to pop into existence" syndrome. The graphics are fluid and highly detailed, with only a few small glitches here and there. This goes a long way to helping the "suspension of disbelief" as one plays through the game.
As far as atmosphere goes, it's sufficiently creepy. The game does not hand out ammunition readily, so it keeps you carefully selecting your shots. In fact, the relative lack of ammo gets quite annoying after a while. Rather than being able to save at arbitrary points, you can only save at selected points on the map (where you find typewriters). The game provides 20 save slots, however, which is well beyond what any other Wii game offers.
The things which get on my nerves the most are the motion and aiming controls. They do not allow you to straffe (move sideways) and moving the camera around requires the movement stick, instead of pointing with the Wiimote. The Wiimote only lets you point/aim within your current field of vision, and you must use the stick to pan your field of vision around, which feels quite unnatural once one has gotten used to using the Wii to pan around (in other games, that is). Aiming with a zoomed-in telescope, on the other hand, uses the stick, which is highly inaccurate compared to aiming with the Wiimote, and makes sniper-style shots really difficult to aim properly.
The limited capability of the Wiimote as a pointing device makes me wonder whether this game's use of the Wiimote is any sort of improvement at all over the old-style (Gamecube/PS2) controls. A side-effect of the controls is that it's impossible to move and shoot at the same time, which means you cannot back away from zombies and shoot at them while doing so. You have to back up, stop and shoot, back up some more, stop to shoot some more, ad nauseum. If the movement/shooting controls weren't so awkward i would rate this game at 4.5, but as they are i find myself fighting with them too often, which detracts significantly from the game.
Tip: here is a local copy of a pretty good walkthrough for the game (295k plain text).
Rogue Trooper: Quartz Zone Massacre, Rating: 4+
When i saw this on the shelf, my memories went back to a late-80's advertisement for a roleplaying game called Rogue Trooper which had a picture of a soldier which looked uncannily like the only on this game's box. Always interested in seeing the return of retro gaming material, i hastily picked it up. In this game you play the role of the last Rogue Trooper - a genetically-modified warrior trying to track down the traitor who's actions lead to the death of your brethren. While several other websites have given this game poor ratings, i simply cannot agree with them. i get the feeling that they're trying to compare it bit-per-bit with the graphics and sound quality of the higher-end consoles, with which the Wii simply cannot be fairly compared.
My opinions are:
The graphics are, as of this writing (April 2009) the best i've seen on the Wii. The levels are huge (some of them have taken me 45-70 minutes to complete), the controls are mostly comfortable to use (grenade aiming being the only major exception), the soundtrack is good, and did i mention it has great graphics (by Wii standards)? The combat system is full of options and fun to play, especially when you can shoot the enemy soldiers' air tanks and watch them scramble around for a few seconds before exploding and flying off the screen. At the end of each level you get to see how many shots you fired, your hit/miss ratio, and other ultimately useless but nonetheless interesting information (like how many air tanks you hit).
For any fan of single-player shooter games, i have to highly recommend this one. (While the game has split-screen multiplayer support, i'm not one of those players who will ever get around to playing it.)
Scarface: The World is Yours, Rating: 2
i bought this because i wanted something senselessly violent, but not as downright gory as Manhunt 2 (a game where you use saws to cut people apart... not my cup of tea). The first level is a real bitch! It's difficult! And, unfortunately, it gives me motion sickness. i often get motion sickness when watching people play 3D games, and any time i try to read while in a moving car, but only rarely does playing a 3D game trigger it. This might even be tolerable if the graphics were halfway impressive, but they're notably mediocre.
After spending 2 or 3 hours playing, i'm completely underwhelmed. The vast majority of the time - 75% or more - you spend driving a car all the way across town to talk to your next contact. Not only does that get really old really fast, the controls for driving are weak indeed. There is no way to hold a constant speed, which makes driving far more problematic than it should be. And few of the other drivers on the road pay any more attention to red lights than you do, so banging up the car significantly during any given trip is almost a given.
The only time this game has actually been enjoyable have been the two scenes where the main character (Tony Montana) takes on huge numbers of thugs single-handedly, but even those parts are highly annoying because they're quite difficult and the checkpoints (points in the game where it re-loads if you die) are so few and far between.
Aaarrrggg... and then there are so many time limits imposed on you. Even the first level has one. Time limits in games just piss me off.
i won't be playing this game again.
StarTrek Conquest, Rating: 3
StarTrek Conquest is an overly-simplistic turn-based strategy game with colorful spaceship combat added to it. It is fun but monotonous, and once you figure out what single button to press at the start of each combat engagement, it's basically impossible to lose ship-to-ship battles unless your fleet is hopelessly out-classed. i would have liked to see more variety, at least in the combat system. All in all it's fun, but repetative, with acceptable graphics and sound, though some of the sound-effects are sorely out of place (e.g. one of the Klingon captains continually screams "shields are at 63 percent!" regardless of the shield level). The only really negative thing i can say about this game is that in about 1 game in 5 or 10 it locks up, either while it is starting up or during ship-to-ship combat. Lock-ups are fairly infrequent, though. The game is good for some stress relief, but is not deep enough to provide much strategic enjoyment.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Rating: 3.5
It's not quite fair to rate this game yet, as i have so far only played through the first three missions, but... it seems to be fairly entertaining. It got horrible reviews throughout the net, but i'm not quite certain why. Like other games in the Splinter Cell franchise, it is about stealth rather than about shooting all of the Bad Guys. The graphics are nice, the controls are fairly well laid out, and the camera controls are good. This game isn't for "twitch gamers", as it requires lots of patience. Normally i wouldn't have bought this game, because Spliter Cell: Chaos Theory for the Gameboy DS proved way too tough for me to get through, but it was on sale.
Tip: if you search the web for a walkthrough for this game, you are unlikely to find one for the Wii version. The PS3/XBox360 versions of this game are very different, and their walkthroughs do not apply here! However, the PS2 edition of the game is apparently identical (or nearly so), so the PS2 walkthroughs are also useful for this edition of the game. Here is a local copy of one such walkthrough (195k plain text).
StarWars: the Force Unleashed, Rating: Most Impressive
i was extremely hesitant about buying this game, mainly because i had doubts about the Wii's ability to do justice to any StarWars game. Let's dismiss that immediately - this has got the best graphics i have seen to date (October 2008) in a Wii game. My initial suspicion was that the Force powers would be limited to a few level-specific items, and probably be klunky to use. Again, throw that idea out - there's all kinds of stuff one can throw around with the Force here, all kinds of Force powers to accumulate and try out, and they're fairly easy to use. And cheat codes for the impatient. The graphics are, for the Wii, remarkably detailed, though it often sacrifices detail in favour of better shadowing, which gives the illusion of higher detail in places (e.g. take a close look at some of the ships in the cutscenes). The characters and levels are, however, quite detailed (again, by Wii standards), movement is fluid, and the controls are easy to use. There are two negative things to say about this game. First: one has to remember tens of different control combos as one accumulates various Force powers. Second: it's difficult or impossible to play for hours on end because one has to move the controls so much (my arms give up after 30-60 minutes of play - maybe you are more fit than i!).
Tetris Party, Rating: 4
My girlfriend hates games of all sorts. Computer games, card games, dice games, strategy games. Games in general, she hates them. She has, however, a sick fascination with Tetris. We've spent endless hours playing Tetris on our DSes, and when she just happened to see "Tetris Party" on the screen as i was browsing the Wii online shop, she excitedly asked, "do we have that game?" A couple clicks and a few minutes later, we did. Like Tetris for the DS, this Tetris rendition has several new variations on the game (6 varieties, if i recall correctly, and the one where you have to help a tiny chipmunk-voiced person climb to the top of the screen is probably the most original). Aside from supporting multiple players in the same room, it also has support for online play. Like the DS variant, Simone and i will almost certainly spend many hours playing this.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007, Rating: 4
i hate golf, i really do, but this game is wonderfully done. It is jam packed with various courses (18 of them, some of which must be unlocked by defeating certain "challenges"). You can play any of the 35 built-in golf characters (most of which must be unlocked during play) or create up to 5 custom golf characters. The character editor includes a powerful appearance editor, so you can customize your golfers' appearances to an amazing degree. The "pro shop" has over 1000 items which can be bought to equip your golf characters (using money which you earn via participating in events), and some items increase your characters' skills (such as adding driving power or helping you control the spin of your ball). Sadly, the developers apparently did very little, if any, usability tests on some of the out-of-game UI elements. That is, a significant number of the UI elements are clumsy to use, and having to click through 4 dialogs every time you save is exceedingly annoying. The in-game controls and play are superb, however. Even golf non-fans will certainly enjoy this one. The night we got it, Simone and i played it for four hours straight. (The only computer games she will play are Tetris and this one.) After some 12 hours of play in the first 24 hours of owning it, my right shoulder hurt for 2 days (you've got to swing the control to simulate your golf club, of course). If the UI were not so clumsy in places i would rate this game a 5 out of 5. (Luckily, the clumsy parts are all out-of-game, meaning before/between/after golfing sessions.) The number of modes and difficulty levels make the replay value the highest i have yet seen in a Wii game.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008, Rating: 4
This second installment in the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 200x series makes some subtle improvements on the 2007 version, but then blunders up some other (more important) aspects of the game. First let's get the bitching out of the way...
My first complaint is putting... the biggest foo-foo of this version. The putting system was completely overhauled and, in my opinion, bungled. The putt-preview system has been revamped to allow you to try out your putt before actually hitting the ball, but it is no longer "free". You only get a (short) limited amount of time per match to view the previews, so you have to carefully choose which putts you want to preview. Not only that, but the largely broken swing controls in putt mode (see below) mean that most of this practice/preview is taken up with just getting the club to register your swing. To make it worse, they didn't improve upon the confusing/annoying "red, blue, green" grid in putting mode, which i find infinitely more difficult to visually judge than i do the simple grid system used by Wii Sports Golf. Then the swing controls are nearly completely hosed in putt mode - i have to swing each putt 4 or 5 times before it will register my swing (but see below). Swinging also mis-fires a significant amount of time while putting, causing you to hit the ball too softly. (While many reviewers of PGA Tour 2007 complained about misfires in general, if you're careful about how you (don't) move your wrist, you can cut the misfire rate down to less than 1 shot in 200. That seems to not be the case with putt mode in PGA Tour 2008, at least when in Sitting mode (see below).) i also see, with annoying frequency, that the ball will fly over the whole (without going in) even when traveling at low speeds. When this happens, the commentators often shout, "that's impossible!" or "whatever happened to gravity?" Indeed! The putt previews are also often incorrect. That is, the preview will show you one thing and then executing the shot will do something else (even hit with the same parameters as the preview).
My second significant complaint is that the game now has a new mode for the controls - it can differentiate between sitting and standing. That's all fine and good, but read on... The game defaults to standing mode, and if you try to swing while sitting down (i.e. with the Wiimote pointed sideways) it won't let you swing. That's fine because the default can be changed to Sitting mode (i don't stand while gaming). But what sucks is that the game then completely ignores the global default setting and forces you into Standing mode at the start of each match (which then must be toggled by going into the Options menu during the match). Aaarrrggg.
[Addendum #1: After much poking around, it seems that the type of control can be set in the user's individual profile, under the Animations settings (why there?). Presumably, that setting sticks.]
[Addendum #2: After much trial and error, it seems that putting works more or less as expected, except for the hole-overfly, when in Standing mode. In Sitting mode i just can't get it to work properly, though.]
Enough complaining... there were also a number of minor improvements too numerous to list here, but here are some of them...
The often-clumsy UI of PGA Tour 2007 has been cleaned up somewhat, but it still has areas which are clumsy to use. Overall it is an improvement, though.
The graphics are slightly better than those of PGA Tour 2007, but not amazingly so. The grass looks a tad bit more detailed, but i could be imagining that. The players, in particular their skins, also appear to be touched-up somewhat compared to PGA Tour 2007.
A big addition to this is a course editor(!!!). i haven't used it yet, so i can't say anything about it. Another nice addition is that it is now possible to re-play matches against the AI players in the Tiger Challenge mode and some matches have multiple AI players (and you can play arbitrary matches against up to 3 AI players).
There are many more customization options and difficulty toggles, which means this version of the game has the potential to have a higher replay value than its predecessor. Well, it would if putting wasn't so fundamentally flawed/frustrating/difficult. If putting were's so frustrating, i would rate this game at 4.25 or higher.
And a final note for the EA developers (and this applies to PGA Tour 2007 just as much as this version): i frigging HATE being forced to play One Ball in the Tiger Challenges! (If you also hate One Ball, here's a tip: with your first shot force a Betrayal or Double Betrayal and let the AI player do the approach work. This works more often than not.)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2009 All Play, Rating: 4
If you haven't played Tiger Woods 2007 or 2008, then this game is a real treat. This is the best golf sim i've played so far, with all sorts of options for customizing one's play style. Many of the comments for Tiger Woods 2007 and 2008 apply here - an all-around good game. However, if you have played Tiger Woods 2007 or 2008, be prepared for some frustration with this game. The swing strength needed for a given shot is much different in this edition - what used to be a casual swing to get 100% power now results in about 88% power. Getting 100% or higher now requires puting a literally painful amount of energy into the swing. Putting, especially, is affected - what used to be a light tap to carry the ball 4 meters will now carry the ball about 20 centimeters. Not only that, but you get only one chance per hole to view a static (completely non-interactive) putt preview, a big (and painful) divergence from both the 2007 and 2008 editions. Once the swing strength differences are accounted for, this game is probably a lot of fun, but i haven't gotten that far along yet (i've spent so much time playing TW2007/2008, that my arms are finding it difficult to adjust to the 2009 settings). Switching between 2007/2008 and 2009 will be nearly impossible, unless one has an uncanny ability to judge his swing strength across the different versions. Additionally, i get the feeling that the swing strenght calculations are very inconsistent in TW2009 - an all-out swing might equate to 106% power in one swing and 93% in the next swing (and in putting this is certainly true, by [annoying] design).
Aside from the swing power differences, there are several new swinging options (e.g. the ability to draw/fade a shot without using Advance Mode swinging), and other improvements (the graphics, for example, are nicer, and there is a swing practice/tuning range). However, EA kept the overall klunky menus (different skin, but same feel), and obviously haven't yet called in a UI design person to help them solve the various usability issues which have been around since TW2007.
And a tip for the EA programmers: there is no frigging reason in the world why we should have to click through four dialog boxes to save our state! The whole "this profile exists, do you really want to overwrite it?" question is absolutely useless because we could not have possibly gotten to that save point without the profile in place! (This bug has been around since TW2007.)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 All Play, Rating: 4
Like its predecessors, TW2010 is a well-done game. It adds several new options, such as (optionally) tying in to the weather forecast channel to provide current weather settings for a given golf course, a new (IMO better) putting option, and access to detailed information about the rules of golf. It can also optionally make use of the Wii MotionPlus(tm) accessory to provide real-time swing feedback (which IMO provides for a much smoother swing experience). And, to top it off, they finally added spectators to the golf courses! i have only two minor problems with this installment. First, certain parts of the out-of-play UI are klunky or non-responsive (e.g. in the skill selection list, the '+' button often does not respond to a click, requiring one to fight with in). This series has a long history of klunky UIs, so this is not terribly surprising. Secondly, the swing options are All Play (where you have a 99% accurate preview of where you ball will land, which means you can score 20 below par or better on any course), Standard, and Advanced, but in the latter two the fade/slice options are always on. When All-play is on, losing any given round is not a possibility since you can always see (before swinging) where the ball will land. The Standard and Advanced modes, with their fade/slice features, are too frustrating for me because i cannot for the life of me swing without slicing. Thus i either get ultra-easy (which is too predictable to be exciting) or ultra-hard (which is too unpredictable and frustrating). i would prefer to have the Standard Mode without the fade/slice option, as in the earlier editions of the game. All things considered, however, this is a recommendable addition to he franchise, and the All Play swing option makes it accessible to young (or ancient, or physically handicapped) players.
Twin Strike: Operation Thunder, Rating: 2
i had really high hopes for this helicopter combat game. Instead i got a game with (A) lots of time limits (i HATE time limits), (B) an annoyingly weak array of attacks (which makes meeting the time limits extremely difficult), and (C) unduly awkward movement (which also doesn't help in beating the time limits). The graphics are of typical Wii/PS2 quality - acceptable but not outstanding. The accuracy of the controls is a bit off (and a bit jumpy at times), making targetting difficult (again, see point (A)), and sideways movement of the helicopters is not possible in the normal sense. Instead of a normal/intuitive/realistic sidewise movement you can "jump" sideways a set distance (about one screen-width), but it happens at a speed which makes it impossible to straffe and attack at the same time (again, see point (A)). A big let-down. i gave up after failing (multiple times) to come anywhere close to beating the time limit on the 3rd or 4th level. That type of gaming isn't fun for me.
Spyborgs, Rating: 3.5
GameStop, my local game store of choice, had SpyBords on sale, brand new, for a 10 Euros. As a basis for comparison: most pre-owned games cost 20 Euros or so. So of course i thought "for 10 Euros it MUST be crap... but i'll try it anyway." Spyborgs is an action-heavy sci-fi beat-em-up game in the side-scrolling 3D style of several of the superhero beat-em-up games the world has already seen (or any of the LEGO series of games). It has nice graphics and sound, fluid, fast-paced action, and multiple difficulty levels (and the easiest one really is easy). Even if it had been a full-priced game (about 40 Euros), it would be better than many of the other like-priced Wii games out there. But at 10 Euros it is an absolute steal. For fans of smash-the-bad-guys games, this one gives you a choice of three characters, two of which you can control during any one level (the second is A.I.-controlled or a second player, and in single-player mode you can switch between them at will). Each level is full of things to bash, including robotic bad guys, boxes containing powerups and money, and hidden items which are revealed only when the Wiimote pointer moves over them. While not all that original, Spyborgs is entertaining, and certain even more-so in two-player co-op mode, and is recommended for any fan of this style of game.
Wii Sports, Rating: 3
This is a collection of 5 games: boxing, tennis, golf, bowling and baseball. The tennis is difficult - returning a serve without hitting the ball out of the court is nearly impossible. Baseball just isn't my thing at all. The boxing game was my first Wii experience, and i had a blast kicking my buddy's ass. The golf game is suprisingly fun (even for a golf hater like me), but the repetition of the same 9 holes gets pretty boring after a few hours. That said, the golf game turned me on to purchasing more advanced golf games for the Wii (e.g. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007). If they re-published just the golf game with, say, 10 different courses (of 18 holes each) i would strongly consider buying it.
Zelda: Twilight Princess, Rating: 4
While i have never been a Zelda fanatic (in fact, i considered the early games to be crap), this one is a lot of fun. The graphics are nice and the gameplay quite good. It has got a couple of terribly minor annoyances, but is overall recommended for any RPG lovers. My main annoyance is the saving feature. When you're in a dungeon and you save, loading your file does not bring you back to the point where you saved it, but instead starts you back at the beginning of the dungeon. Since some dungeons can take a couple hours to complete, i find this behaviour to be remarkably inadequate. Also, after completing a dungeon you often cannot re-enter it (or can only access parts of it), meaning that if you fail to find some of the secrets in the dungeon then they are gone forever (you cannot go back and get missing Heart Pieces in some cases, for example). Players who are not Zelda fanatics will almost certainly want to have a good walkthrough guide at their side while playing (that particular guide is excellent).