Unless you've had your head buried in the sand for the last few months, you may have heard that Nintendo is doing things a little differently these days. They're not part of the 'next generation' of gaming and would rather see Wii as a 'new generation' of gaming. If Wii is about anything it's expanding the market for games, bringing different people in and by extension making more money.
Wii Play, which will retail for around £35 with a Wii remote included, is aimed squarely at that new audience. When you consider that a remote alone will cost £30, Wii Play is essentially a £5 game and it delivers nine pint sized mini-games that aim to bring fun to the whole family. Playable alone or with another player, each game utilises the remote only and boils gameplay down to the very depths of simplicity. It needn't matter whether the player is five or eighty years old, as anyone can play these games.
First on the list is Shooting Range, which plays exactly as it sounds and is very much reminiscent of light-gun games such as Duck Hunt. Using the remote to point at the screen, you shoot at a variety of targets for points and are rewarded with a medal based upon the number of points you gain. As with many of the Wii Play games it's considerably more fun when playing against someone, but there's no real depth and even complete novices will tire of it fairly quickly.
Slightly more challenging is Find Mii, which is the gaming equivalent of 'Where's Wally?'. Here, Nintendo uses the Mii character system to generate a host of challenges where you need to pick the odd one out, or pairs, or your own Mii from an ever growing crowd of other Miis. You play against the clock which starts on thirty seconds, and each time you're successful a few more seconds are added to keep you going. Once you run out of time it's 'game over' and you're given a score based on how many rounds you passed.
The third game in the compilation is Table Tennis, but surely this should be called Pong? The similarities are certainly there but it's subtlety different because, unlike its venerable forefather, the aim of the game is to keep to ball in play rather than getting it past your opponent. You simply move the remote left or right to move your paddle in toward the ball, which will automatically be returned. For a while, this can prove mildly addictive in a "don't drop the ball" kind of way, but once again the lack of depth tells very quickly. One does wonder why there couldn't have been more than one mode to this game, with one allowing for a points scoring game against the AI or a friend.
Pose Mii has to be one of the stranger concepts in Wii Play, though not quite the strangest. In this game you have to match your Mii's pose to the pose depicted in falling bubbles. There are three poses in all, and you switch between them by pressing A and B on the remote. This game actually does a better job than most of demonstrating the abilities of the remote, requiring you to twist and rotate to get the right angle to match the pose. As the pace builds up it can get quite complicated, but it's quite good fun too.
Laser Hockey, derived from the old fair ground favourite Air Hockey, is another game that actually works quite well, simply because Air Hockey is a really fun game in real life. It also makes good use of the remote, allowing players to apply angle onto their shots. It's very fast paced, sometimes manic, and is good fun when played against a friend or member of the family.
The real stand-out game, however, is Billiards, which actually has some depth and shows that snooker/pool games could find Wii to be a perfect format. The basic control requires you to swing back and then push through with the Remote, just like you do in real life, and you can also adjust direction and impart spin by changing where you strike on the cue ball. The physics involved are basic but quite realistic, and there's a real sense of achievement when you manage to drop the cue ball where you want it. If anything it's somewhat wasted on the Wii Play compilation and might have been better off as part of the Wii Sports package.
No mini-game compilation would be complete without a fishing game, and Wii Play doesn't disappoint. Control is as simple and intuitive as ever, requiring you to flick forward to cast your rod and flick back when you've got a nibble. It's fun for a about five minutes, but there's simply no depth to it whatsoever.
Much the same can be said of Charge, a truly bizarre racing game where you ride a cow around a track, jumping over barriers and running over scarecrows. The controls are quite a good introduction to the popular racing configuration of holding the remote horizontally to steer your, erm, cow around the corners, and flicking the controller upward makes it jump. What is it about cows that makes them so comical?
The final game in this little compilation is Tanks, and it's probably the worst of the bunch. On paper it seems like a good idea, with you controlling your tank on an overhead viewed map using the D-Pad (or analogue stick if you attach a nunchuck) and aiming with the remote. Unlike all the other games, however, it just doesn't have any real charm and the presentation is particularly dull, dominated as it is by khaki coloured browns and beige blocks.
Reviewing Wii Play was never going to be a simple task, and by ordinary standards there's simply nothing here - bar Billiards - that offers anything worthy of more than a few minutes play. As an introduction to the Wii and its unique control scheme it just about works, but beyond that there's very little here to get excited about. Because it comes bundled with a Wii remote it's not a bad package, and certainly worth picking up if you're after a second controller.