Wii (insert pun of your choice here)

I've finally been able to play the Nintendo Wii, and sure, I want one. I had decided not to buy yet another version of Mario Kart and that the new controller would not yield itself to most games, that it would only work for some very specific ones. After I've tried it, I still think that couldn't be my main gaming machine, but I want one anyway.

The controller works very well. I didn't have the impression that it was any more precise than, say, a Gyration mouse (it was quite clumsy to use on the menu screens), but it reacts accurately to fast movements, which is what matters in games. By the way, Nintendo has already succumbed to the pitfall of thinking the movement detection was a universally good idea. It isn't. The simple design of the menu system would be about a hundred times easier to use with the D-pad than it is with the pseudo-mouse that is the Wii-mote. I was a little shocked that the D-pad isn't even an option. The controller is shaped like a remote, and it should act like one in this context: this is simply what works best on a 10-feet interface. Another incomprehensible mistake is that when the controller points outside of the screen, the pointer goes away with it. Like a mouse cursor, it should always be on-screen. As it doesn't, I found myself confused a number of times, trying to bring it back to the screen. This failure to look at what already works and reproduce it is quite maddening seeing how the rest of the design is pretty well done. Another thing I found interesting is that Nintendo is very explicitly trying to get you to play less. They tell you so when you switch to another game: how about doing something else than play? Wow. I was really surprised at first but it actually aligns well with the whole idea of appealing to different demographics. They're trying to get more people to play, a lot more, and if they play less, that's fine by them because there will be so many of them. Kinda makes sense as a strategy, annoyed me a little as a gamer. But enough bitching. The point is, the system works as a gaming system and that's what matters.

The game that comes with the console, Wii Sports, does a good job at showcasing the potential of the new controller. It is also an excellent party game if you have a very big living room and are extremely careful about your surroundings. I can see how people got hurt: when immersed in the game, it's easy to get carried away and do wide and dangerous gestures. In sports games, the controller acts as a natural extension of the hand. While it is possible to play some of the games with small movements, I think it would be missing the point and is a lot less fun. You'll want to do the actual moves you would do in the real sport, which is dangerous if anything is in your way. The sports I preferred were Golf and Tennis. I wasn't so thrilled about Bowling or Boxing. I really enjoyed the golfing game because it showed me the real potential a better simulation had to help me improve my real-life swing. The Wii Sports version is a joke with its nine holes (not even 18? come on!) and three clubs. It shows only potential but it does that well. Wii Sports as a whole has this problem: it lacks any depth. It is a party game and a Wii-mote demo and that's about it. I can't wait to try a properly done Golf game on this platform (even Mario Golf would do).

Oh, and the graphics can make your eyes bleed. Especially on a HD set. They're really that bad. Even more so if you've been spoiled with a 360 for a year.

All in all, the whole thing is very reminiscent of the Nintendo DS. Great potential because of its control scheme and despite being technologically backwards, fundamentally different from the others, needs games that have been designed for it.

I want one. I know I will still play the 360 a lot more but I want one anyway. Well done, Nintendo.

Archived comments

  • Robert Erickson said on Thursday, December 28, 2006

    omgee, I really had so much trouble when I couldn't see the mouse cursor on screen when it was pointed away. But then I found out that pointing the remote back to the object I wanted to focus on the cursor came back immediately. It was such as daunting task to find that cursor after that event. I hate nintendo, all their products are non-american garbage. Get that stuff away from me, I'm sticking with my made in China Xbox 360. Go america!
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Friday, December 29, 2006

    Robert: yes, I see your point, it should be easy enough to just point to the object but for some reason, it doesn't quite work naturally. It's hard for me to explain exactly why it feels weird, but it does. Must be years of mouse using that got us used to pointer movement being relative whereas the Wii is absolutely positioned. I guess you get used to it. As far as the non-american-ness, I don't know about you (I assume you're joking. You are? Right?) but I'm French so I don't care that much... I care more about the Xbox being designed by my employer...
  • niall said on Tuesday, January 2, 2007

    Why is this blogs showing in MS Ajax when its about a silly computer game. I am not interested in computer gamnes, just MS Ajax.
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Tuesday, January 2, 2007

    I find it very flattering (and a little scary) that you're "just interested in MS Ajax", but this blog's title is "Atlas and more", which should give you a good hint that it's likely to talk about more than just Atlas/MS Ajax. Furthermore, it's very easy to filter out the contents you're not interested in: in the left margin, you'll find a "tags" section that will give you the contents filtered by topic.
  • ndnsoldat said on Friday, January 5, 2007

    Go AJAX, the old fashioned way!
  • Robin Debreuil said on Sunday, January 7, 2007

    Man one says you are too American, the next says you aren't close enough to MS Ajax... tough crowd : ). Just getting into XNA now, very cool. Not sure if the developer matters as much for consoles, but if so the XBox clearly has a leg up. Not only is is easiest, but everything you learn can be applied to Windows programming as well. Oh, and it helps that you are actually allowed to develop for it!
  • James Gregson said on Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    The reason for all the "why not play something else" messages has to be to cover their own ass, so people can't sue for repetitive strain injury, or becoming addicted to their games!