Review: Wii Play Motion

Like a particularly well-coated Dorito, a few of the mini-games’ rather ingenious design is an unexpected treat in a familiar package.

Wii Play MotionMiis. They’re Nintendo’s customizable, sphere-fisted, and occasionally legless player doppelgangers, and they’ve become the de facto mascots of today’s casual video-game market. For the hardcore, this Mini-Me army represents ostensibly simplistic games that just don’t pack as much challenge or edge as series like Mass Effect, Final Fantasy, or Call of Duty. And some of these active gamers are pissed. Why? Because they think the Big N has marginalized them by banking on the money-making machine of Mii-infested, motion-controlled exercise and party games.

Having said that, allow me to introduce Wii Play Motion, Nintendo’s latest offering to its ever-widening audience of grandparents at retirement villages and bored housewives. And surprisingly, the game’s not half bad. In fact, the at times fresh gameplay and rather inventive objectives may even pique the interest of the most discriminating player—for a few minutes, that is. The game’s a passable package, but it still offers little, if anything, that would be of long-lasting interest to a gamer looking for a complex, meaty odyssey that takes weeks to complete.

The title’s batch of mini-games includes flashbacks to your seasonal Baskin-Robbins employment (balancing ice cream scoops that reach Tower of Babel proportions) and bizarre, seemingly LSD-fueled flights through space (fitting your Mii through differently shaped holes while sailing through a varicolored tunnel). The game utilizes Wii Motion Plus technology, which means the remotes’ motion sensitivity is more heightened than an ordinary Wii remote’s. (The game bundles with a Wii Motion Plus remote.) There are 12 games to choose from, offering multiple levels and multiplayer capability.

Like a particularly well-coated Dorito, a few of the mini-games’ rather ingenious design is an unexpected treat in a familiar package. We’ve all played Wii Sports and Wii Play, but Wii Play Motion, while essentially still an accessible party game, offers challenges that are at least somewhat novel. Personally, my favorite is the Luigi’s Mansion-esque ghost-hunter outing. Specters fly “out” of the television, making you turn your back to the TV and point your beeping Wii remote around your living room to search for them. A la a treasure-finding metal detector on Myrtle Beach, your remote sounds a signal (in this case, a certain ghostly cry) when you’ve spotted the goods. Hold down the B button to “grab” the ghost, face the TV, and drag it into an on-screen vortex. In another game, bounce the bejeezus out of your Mii likeness as it ricochets around a giant room lined with trampoline-like surfaces. It’s the kind of stuff you might see in a full-length adventure game: mini-games that serve as variety-injecting diversions.

But, at the end of the day, Wii Play Motion is just another one of Nintendo’s bones thrown to their “expanded audience.” Not that there’s anything wrong with their strategy, from a business standpoint. But as interesting as additions like the ghost-catching game are, other activities, like skipping stones, won’t exactly rev some people’s engines, and don’t do much for seasoned players looking for a substantial challenge. Plus, while the game touts its use of Wii Motion Plus technology, some of the controls get wonky, like when you’re aiming crosshairs around the screen in a UFO-shooting venture.

Wii Play Motion represents Nintendo’s unyielding beckoning to new and casual video-game enthusiasts, as well as to folks who don’t really give a rat’s rump about video games. This is the kind of title that gathers family members and friends of all skill levels around the television in a wholesome, inclusive activity that’s fun for all ages. But it’s nothing that will whet any whistles of many Assassin’s Creed-playing purists.

 Developer: Nintendo  Publisher: Nintendo  Platform: Nintendo Wii  Release Date: June 13, 2011  ESRB: E10+  ESRB Descriptions: Cartoon Violence  Buy: Game

Bryan Lufkin

Bryan Lufkin's writing has appeared in GQ, Fast Company, National Geographic, The Atlantic, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, and many more.

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