Wii Play may seem like an apt title for Nintendo's minigame collection, but the Japanese equivalent is even more fitting. Translated as "Your First Step to Wii," the package seems to be designed as a beginner's guide to the Wii Remote. Bundled with the peripheral at launch in the UK, Wii Play offers a total of nine wildly different games which each offer a chance to practice with the motion-sensitive controller. With GameSpot's UK Wii here at last, we put all of them to the test, including two games which we hadn't seen before.
The first game is Shooting Range, and it uses the Wii Remote as a firearm with which to destroy balloons, clay discs, cans, and UFOs. The remote is pointed at the screen, and you use the A button and trigger to shoot. Using the remote like this proves to be satisfyingly accurate and fun. Shooting Range offers plenty of nods to previous Nintendo titles, most notably Duck Hunt. Those who played the NES classic will immediately recognise the mallards, although the laughing dog fails to make an appearance. One of the highlights is the ability to pick up a second remote and go double-handed, firing on targets with both hands. Like all games on the disc, Shooting Range accommodates a two-player mode.
Find Mii is an observation test where you're tasked with finding look-alikes and odd-one-outs. The screen is usually full of Mii characters, and you have to point the remote at the one that's looking to the left instead of the right, for example. As you progress through the levels, this becomes an increasingly tricky task, with characters strolling down a street or swimming down a river, but the controller responds quickly and accurately throughout.
A rather basic version of table tennis comes next. Unlike the tennis game on Wii Sports, this is about positioning your racket to receive the ball, with the hitting action done automatically. This makes it rather strange to play, as all you're doing is moving the remote left and right. The single-player challenge is to reach 100 points, which means that this particular game could become pretty dull. This is followed by Pose Mii, where you point and twist your wrist to guide your floating character into the matching silhouette shape. It starts off at quite a sedate pace but becomes more frantic as the shapes drop faster and the rate at which poses need to be switched increases.
Laser Hockey is an obvious homage to air hockey, but instead of the paddle directly mimicking the actions of the controller, you use the remote as a pointer, which lets you twist the paddle and smack it against the puck to send it flying into the opponent's goal. Not only does this seem like one of the more visually stylish games in the compilation, with vibrant neon sparks bouncing off the sides of the table as the puck rattles around, but it also has more depth than you might assume. The amount of tilt put on the remote can produce dramatically different results, while turning the controller completely and using the other side of the paddle produces superslow shots, allowing for a wider range of tactics and a greater sense of control.
Like Laser Hockey, Billiards is a rather energetic game which simply cannot be attempted sitting down. You line up a shot by using the directional control pad and then hold down the B button and pull back your arm before driving it forward to take the shot. While this initially seems a bit unusual, it is easy to adapt to, and you can soon start to experiment with backspin and topspin for trick shots. While this degree of control is a good selling point for the Wii Remote, it's not found in the final sports-themed title on the disc, fishing. This one is a rather shallow game, and the only thing you need to master is placing your rod near the biggest fish. The game is intended to offer a respite from some of the more frenzied games in the collection, but it seems too flimsy to encourage repeat play.
The final two games (which were locked away in preview versions of Wii Play) are fairly bizarre curiosities. Charge! has your Mii straddling a knitted cow, riding it down a track, and smashing scarecrows out of the way. The remote is held on its side, as with racing games such as Nintendo's Excite Truck. The controller is tilted forwards to increase speed, back to slow down, and left and right to steer the bovine around the course. You can also give the controller a quick flick to make your Frisian steed jump. It's refreshingly original and proves to be as entertaining to play as it is to watch, although it appears there is only one course to try--which is disappointing considering the minigame's potential. The other new stage, Tanks!, is probably the most conventional game of all, with the aim being to destroy an enemy fleet. The task is made trickier because all the commands are squeezed down onto the controller, although there is the option to use the Nunchuk, which makes the control mechanics vastly easier. By default, though, the tank is moved by using the remote's directional pad, and you aim and fire at the enemy by pointing the remote and pressing the trigger.
While the amount of game time that can be eked out of Wii Play seems limited, there are challenges to keep you occupied. Medals are relatively easy to obtain, and some levels have more two-player appeal than others, but at just £5 more than the remote on its own, this package could be an attractive proposition. Those expecting something similar to Wii Sports may be disappointed in Wii Play's simplicity and brevity, but for those who want an extra little bonus and a few more minigames to demonstrate the Wii's potential, Wii Play may well be worth a purchase.