The first Wii Sports came packed-in with the system in the US, but in Japan players were forced to buy it separately. That didn't stop it from selling in the millions. It was first thought that the game was a harbinger of things to come, but when things shook out the Wii Remote had little more to offer. Now Wii Sports Resort is here to put Nintendo's MotionPlus plug-in through its paces. Only time will tell if it also wrings the possibilities dry, but what really matters is if it captures that same innovative spirit as its predecessor.
Wii Sports Resort feels a bit more like a tangible experience than a collection of mini-games tied together with a menu. It all takes place on Wuhu Island, and this singular location is cleverly utilized to provide a sense of cohesion across all the events. You begin by skydiving onto the landmass-a nice chance to calibrate your hands and mind to the MotionPlus' capabilities.
This is where things get familiar as the game reverts to a simple menu system, allowing you to select from one of 12 events. You still get multiple difficulty settings for each game, and you can unlock all-new variants that utilize the same mechanics by completing specific objectives. Bowling and golf are the two hangovers, but both are revived with MotionPlus support and the subtleties it provides. The other 10 games are brand new and of varying levels of depth.
Swordplay, bowling, and air sports really impress with three different challenge types, while frisbee, basketball, and table tennis all the have two. Wakeboarding, archery, golf, jet skiing, canoeing, and cycling all have one variant with some having versus options. It all adds up to a game several times the magnitude of the first Wii Sports.
With no online leader boards, the motivation to go it alone wanes quickly. There's a stamp system in place that acts like achievements, but it's not tied into any sort of profile that others can see online. Wii Sports Resort sparkles in the multiplayer spotlight, though. One to four players can participate locally, and it's a great party starter no matter the age. We'd like to see more simultaneous multiplayer events, but at least you can play most of the games with just one Wii Remote. The lack of any sort of online support doesn't help the single-player prospects, but you'll get countless hours of wholesome entertainment with friends and family in the living room. You get more of just about everything.
The Wii MotionPlus is already a proven commodity at this point with its impressive implementation in a duo of sports games from EA, but many more possibilities are explored here. Golf and tennis are both handled better in EA's full-fledged games, but there are some implementations in Wii Sports Resort that feel even more natural. Archery is definitely one of them. It just feels right as you pull the Nunchuk back to the corner of your mouth, stare across the top of the Wii Remote to line up the target, and release a shot. Shooting the basketball is almost scarily accurate as taking your eye off the back of the rim and not following through is a sure way fire off a brick. Yet the three-on-three variant is far too clumsy to enjoy over the long haul, MotionPlus dunks or not.
There are definitely some surprises. Wakeboarding is incredibly simple as you slide from side to side and lift the Wii Remote as you hit the wake to pull automatic airs, but its simplicity is also what makes it fun. The air sports are also surprisingly engaging as they channel the same intrinsic fun that the Pilot Wings series supplies thanks to sky diving with a photo element, exploratory flies over Wuhu island, and dogfights for up to two players.
Then there are some disappointments. Swordplay sure looks fun, and for casual players it definitely will be. But if you really dig into it, there isn't enough depth to separate the skilled from the newbs, making each head-to-head match a spamming contest. It fares better in the speed slicing competition where precision is key, but overall it's a missed opportunity, and there's more strategy involved playing against the computer. Cycling is a total waste and not a bit of fun as you churn your arms like the pedals on a bike, minding your rider's fatigue level. Both Frisbee and golf can be frustrating because MotionPlus is so sensitive. Take a real swing with a club or whip the disc the way you really would and you're in for trouble. Canoeing will definitely garner some laughs as people flail their arms from side to side, but there's just not enough depth for the long haul.
Some events are just as expected with table tennis accurately replicating just about any type of spin you can imagine and power cruising really making you feel like you're piloting a Jet Ski across impressively realistic waves on six different courses.
Just like the first Wii Sports, Resort is split between events that will make people look silly while playing, but lack depth, and those that do an amazing job of replicating the real thing and remain fun. The game does a solid job of expanding on the mechanics it should, providing more opportunities to put the MotionPlus through its paces, but there are a lot of throwaway events that you'll rarely come back to a week later.
There was something to be said for Wii Sports' simple presentation and Mii integration. It was a charming game that would elicit some chuckles because of it. Present day expectations aren't as kind to Resort. It basically looks the same, with the exception of the events that break out of claustrophobic confines. Yet, get up close to just about any object and the textures are a blurry mess. Repetitive objects give the entire game a redundant feel, and overall, this engine doesn't begin to push the technical boundaries of the hardware. The upbeat music keeps things light and you'll hear fans cheering at key points in many of the environments, but otherwise, the audio is just as spartan as the visuals.
What you basically have with Wii Sports Resort is a tour of what's possible with Wii MotionPlus. You can already see the genesis of the next Wave Race, Zelda, Pilot Wings, or Star Fox. Only time will tell if the gadget has more to offer beyond this. Yet, as far as mini-game collections go on the Wii, this is undoubtedly the cream of the crop. You'll be surprised how much fun you have with some events, and how little you garner from others, but there are still some rock solid experiences that you'll come back to again and again when friends and family gather.
Reviewed on Nintendo Wii.