Wii Review Round-Up 58

Wii Play Motion

Wii Play Motion builds upon the runaway success of Wii Play by including a remote which is not only a special colour (red), but integrates the increased accuracy of spatial positioning offered by the Wii Motion Plus add-on and is consequently referred to as a Wii Remote Plus.

To be honest as a solo gamer I don’t find the line-up as compelling as that of Wii Play. Where this collection really shines is in multi-player; especially with kids. Outside of the red Remote my primary motivation was to get a game that I could play with my daughter and in that respect it’s well worth it.

The stone skipping game takes a real knack that I frankly don’t have and it’s the only game my daughter can beat me at without my intentionally tipping the balance. Another big hit is the ghost-hunting game which cleverly uses motion plus and the remote speaker to turn the Wii Remote into a ghost detector you point around your room to find scary ghosts. Once captured in your Ghostbusters-style particle stream, you need to slowly point your remote back at your screen and guide the ghost into a trap. Really big ghosts (featuring outlandish decorations) require the cooperation of both players to capture. Another two-player game involves the joining of both player’s Miis at the feet. They constantly bounce about like tumblers and each player gets to control the orientation of the pair when their character is upright in a cooperative game based around bouncing up the screen into a goal.

There’s a fair number of games to explore and although they play differently solo versus multi-player, they really don’t grab me enough to recommend this to anyone who only plays alone (unless you really want that red Wii Remote). If you have a household of Wii gamers though, you’ll find some good fun here so you should definitely pick it up – just be sure you get another Wii Remote Plus or Motion Plus add-on as the regular Wii Remote on its own isn’t supported.

Hello Kitty Seasons

My daughter, like many little girls, is a big fan of Hello Kitty. She started out playing games on my DSi LL and has a couple of DS Hello Kitty games (they’ll be given the mini-review treatment in the future), so it was no surprise she would want this. I did resist however, because I hadn’t read anything terribly brilliant about it and it transpires that instinct was correct.

In theory Hello Kitty Seasons sounds pretty cool: you travel around Sanrio Town and meet and help your favourite characters and build up the town Sims-style. The “seasons” gimmick involves the game changing seasons to match the local weather by keying off the Wii’s date/time settings. Who wouldn’t want to play an Animal Crossing game with Sanrio characters in a world that changes to match the real world?

There are several disappointments here for the die-hard Kitty fanatic: firstly you don’t actually control Hello Kitty or any of the Sanrio characters. Instead you create a human child avatar which has unlockable customisations like clothing and hairstyles. Secondly you don’t actually build up the town: you perform various fetch quests for different characters and once you’ve collected enough of certain items you merely upgrade existing structures. Lastly the mini-games played to earn items for town improvements are rubbish. I don’t mean the games themselves – this is an all-ages title so they’re necessarily simple, but they often use motion controls and the motion controls suck.

A good example of the poor control on display is a gem-sorting game featuring Dear Daniel, Hello Kitty’s paramour. Red and green gems come down a conveyor belt and you need to motion up or down to put the gems in the matching colour basket and then motion sideways to crush rocks which match neither. The motion detection is awful and it’s pretty much impossible to perform any of these actions with any accuracy. For young or beginning gamers it’s needlessly frustrating and could have benefited from more fine-tuning or a different control interface altogether. None of the mini-games really stand out unless it’s due to problems like this, which only adds to the likelihood of this title collecting dust on the shelf.

If you have very young children, say under five, then this might be okay, but honestly I don’t see why your five year-old would be playing video games in the first place. For older children the frustrating controls and lack of real interaction with the game world will likely mean a loss of interest after a few plays. In my household we didn’t get to see one change of season – not that this would have mattered. Of course being able to control one of the Sanrio characters might well have made the difference, but I’m not sorry to have seen it traded in.

Harry Potter Lego: Year 1-4

My daughter is midway through the Harry Potter series of books so it’s no surprise she was keen to play a game based upon it. I’ve played Lego Star Wars on the Wii and the Mac so I figured this was a safer bet than the typical movie-license tie-in. Although it’s proven a big hit with her there are a couple of issues that are worth highlighting for parents who may also be harangued into purchasing it.

If you’ve ever played a Lego game on any platform then you know what to expect: control one of two characters (like other entries in the series a second player can jump in or leave play at any time) with the Nunchuk and the Remote and navigate through various platforms to an exit which must be unlocked by destroying and building things made out of virtual Lego bricks in order to proceed to the next level.

The starting point is a pub called the Leaky Cauldron. From here you’ll start the various years or play through individual missions in Free Play mode once completed. Once you start a year you’ll often find yourself at Hogwarts Academy and here you’ll need to roam around the school grounds following a ghost who leads you to various lessons to learn more spells used to complete missions and unlock more areas of the school where you can earn special items and unlock additional characters. The school and its grounds are so expansive that players can spend a lot of time simply exploring and messing about for ages without undertaking a single mission.

Fans will love the funny cut scenes and numerous references to events in the books. According to my daughter (who in fairness has seen only clips of the films) the game appears to be a combination of movie and book, with the look of the characters more closely following the books than the films – well, as much as Lego characters can.

Although it is a game featuring Harry Potter and Lego, it’s definitely not for beginning gamers as a fair amount of coordination is required to move the on-screen character with the control stick whilst casting spells; many of which involve tapping and then holding down buttons and pointing at the screen with the Remote. My daughter has really improved her hand-eye coordination playing this, but it’s still challenging in places.

Most notable of the new platforming challenges are staircases built by grabbing and placing Lego bricks using the Remote pointer in order to access elevated areas. For younger players this will be the greatest source of frustration; especially when there are background and foreground areas on either side of the staircase, requiring players to line their character up properly and make precise jumps to ascend. There is often a picture in the background which shows you how to stack the different-coloured bricks, but it’s easy to get it wrong and sometimes targeting specific bricks with your levitation spell can be difficult. Consequently Mum and Dad will likely be summoned for these bits.

Of course if you play for any length of time with another player you’re going to encounter another new aspect of this Lego game in comparison to others: the dynamic split-screen. Game levels aren’t really any larger than in Lego Star Wars, but the camera tends to be closer to the characters, making them larger on-screen. It’s also more dynamic in its movements (more on this in a bit) and when characters move away from each other the screen will suddenly split diagonally so that players can freely move wherever they like.

Although the split-screen can bit a bit disorienting the worst is when one player’s character is in the background and the other in the near foreground. This causes the camera to move in response to the foreground character alone. For the player whose character is in the background this can be rather nauseating because the camera moves won’t match their character’s movements. I’ve been playing games for over 30 years – a lot of them with a first-person perspective – and I’ve never had a game make me feel physically ill until this one. It’s actually bad enough that I cannot play it with another player for more than 20 minutes at a stretch unless it’s during a boss battle where the camera is fixed.

It’s also worth noting that in the hub areas either player can begin the transition from one room to another just by walking through a door, which can be frustrating if the other player was in the middle of doing something else.

For a Lego game it’s very deep: there’s loads of characters and virtual Lego kits to unlock, numerous bonus levels, great multi-player (provided nobody suffers from motion sickness) and vast environments to explore. Without a doubt fans of Lego and Harry Potter will enjoy it, just be prepared to lend a hand to your wizards in training.