LOS ANGELES--If you were set loose among Nintendo's entire Wii lineup at its E3 booth, what's the first thing you'd play? What's the first game you'd begin your Wii experience with? Mario? Zelda? Nah, we went for a handful of goofy little tech demos that will probably never appear at retail in any fashion. They may not have been complicated, but they gave us a great sense of how the controller works--and, in the process, they quickly convinced us that this whole motion-sensing thing is a good idea.
First up was Table Tennis, which is played exactly like you'd expect. The CPU plays the far side of the table, and you just wave the Wii remote around to move your paddle and smack the ball back. No buttons are required--you just line up your paddle with the incoming ball and nudge it back. The object here was to volley 100 times, but we managed only about 60 before it got so fast we couldn't keep up--better than the last person, who got only like 17! Anyway, we were honestly surprised at how intuitive this game was as a first try at the Wii controller--we were keeping up with the ball almost without having to think consciously about our hand movement.
Next we tried Obstacle Course, which was far more complex--and a lot harder. This was a two-player game where each player guided a little flying person through a side-scrolling obstacle course full of little dinosaurs coming out of the walls, bees flying around, and other dangers. We had to collect coins to boost our score and hearts to regain health (probably), since running into any wall will hurt your character. The most interesting part of the demo was that there were person-shaped indentations in the background, and lining up your character with them would score points. But these slots were rotated in all crazy directions, so we got to try rotating the Wii controller (as if our forearm were the axis) to rotate the onscreen character.
Finally, there was Shooting. You might as well call it Duck Hunt, though, since it had a background straight out of that NES classic. This one was also two-player and had multiple rounds, with progressively more difficult targets. First there were balloons, then clay discs, then UFOs that moved around erratically, and, lastly, ducks who moved around more erratically. Of course, we used the Wii controller like a gun to aim and shoot. It was self-explanatory, but just like with Table Tennis, we found this game to be intuitive.
We'd like to see a few little games like these packed in with the Wii (or even built into the console) for newcomers to acclimate themselves to the controller, as we found them a better introduction to the concept than some of the real games we played. Their inclusion remains to be seen, but in the meantime, we're growing more and more optimistic about games designed specifically for this crazy contraption.