We don't concentrate much on video games on the show, so I thought I'd bring you a few thoughts on what I've been playing lately. I must admit that I'm playing the Wii a lot more than I expected. Ye olde Playeftation Two is on its last legs, and we would bust out a game of The Sims or some other such fare maybe once a month at best, so dropping the cash on a whole new system, and the cost of all-new games, didn't much thrill me. I don't regret it, though. It's saved a lot of dull afternoon and evenings, chez Nez.
Mario Kart: Traded some stuff in today and bought this used ($40) with two used "Whiils" ($7 each). Played it for approximately two hours and have realised that this isn't just a good reason to own a Wii, it might even be a good reason for living. What. A. RIOT.
Opera Browser: Oh, what a disappointment. And a waste of 500 Wii points. If this had come free, I could probably look past its faults and say "oh well, no harm no foul", but the fact that it cost money just makes it's shiteyness all the more insulting. This is the twenty-first century, if people don't have a computer at home, chances are they can get online at work for most of the day, or are able to do their essential online to-ing and fro-ing via their cellphone. So the only real use for a browser on your Wii is for video services like YouTube and Hulu, right? In the ideal world, yes. In Nintendo's world, it's a big, fat, 'no'. Hell, YouTube even offer a "big print" version of their site, specifically designed for viewing on a TV! But the Opera browser is so behind on Flash updates, that trying to watch something fullscreen on YouTube is like watching security camera footage. I'd be shocked if it was as high as four frames per second - and just to put that into perspective, regular telly is 30fps. (25 in Britain) In the smaller window, it fares only slightly better, at roughly 15 frames per second. It's fine if all you want to see is "baby laughs at spoon", but if you want, say, PBS's Nova on demand, you're buggered. Checking my mail on it was frustrating what with all the zooming and such, reading news was pointless since there's a perfectly adequate news channel on the Wii's main screen, and listening to online radio's a no-no thanks to Opera's inability to stream audio. So... really. What's the point? Playing simplistic flash games? Woo. Hold me back. Firefox, please rescue us from this shite and develop a real Wii browser.
Pro Evolution Soccer 08: Got this one free a month or so back thanks to a 'buy two get one' deal on used games, but I only picked it up this weekend because I knew I was going to have to have some peace and quiet to get used to the gameplay. Jeesh... if you had asked me about this 48 hours ago, I would have put it at the top of my 'to trade' list. I've been a Fifa faithful since the mid 1990s, when I had my PS1. That's before it was even the PS1, it was just the PS! Put it this way: I've been married to Fifa for longer than I've been married to my wife! Since then, I've casually kept up with the franchise and used my "pass and dribble to the top left, pass back and down in front of the box, wiggle around the defenders, circle button" technique to great success. Then, via various good reviews, I decided to forgo Fifa on the Wii and pick up the game that all the sports nuts were talking about. And lemme tell ya... my learning curve isn't what it used to be, so when you dump me in the middle of a game that should be familiar, and allllll of the controls are different, it's frightening. Rather than being controlled by the anologue stick, players are now dragged around the field by Wiimote, almost as if they've been lassooed. Shots at goal are achieved by twitching the nunchuck instead of mashing the circle button. Tackling? Forget it. It's got the same hit and miss ratio as trying to find something amusing on Comedy Central: overwhelmingly miss. Tackling is a big part of my football game. If the opponent has the ball, he's going down. If that means I'm playing with eight players, so be it. PES's tackling technique appears to be 'highlight the offending player, drag a defender over to him, pray.' I count myself as being spiritual, but I'm not much of a praying man. I've not prayed for many things in life; health and success, mostly, and you can see how that's worked out for me. Praying to get the ball off an opposing player in PES has the same result.
That said, I'm warming to it. It's clunky and awkward at times, but perhaps that's a more accurate representation of the real game. Particularly Scottish football. What I loved about Fifa was that the same tricks outfoxed the artificial intelligence almost invariably. Maybe not knowing how to swindle PES makes for a better playing experience, even if it does meet with less league success. We'll see. I'll stick with it for a while longer. The on-screen graphics are a bit annoying, and the players small during gameplay, making my elderly eyes even less compatible with my eight year old 27" scratched screen TV, but it looks nice overall. The players in the game move very much like real players do, but they've not mastered making people's faces not look like weird masks instead of actual people in close-up. Realistically, that advancement is probably a long way off.
Party Fun Pirate: Remember that old game where you had to jam swords into a barrel and hope that the pirate wasn't going to pop up? What was that called again? You know the one - the one where you lost if the pirate popped up. Anyway, for a mere 500 Wii points ($5 more or less), the Wii version of that game can be yours, and it's riotously good fun. Use the T-pad to pick a hole in which to shove your sword, old down A, poke your Wiimote. Simple, but fun. It's not got a whole lot of sound variety, which means the "oi, captaaain!" and plinky plonky tunes take on a Chinese water torture feel to them after an hour or so's worth of play, but the ability to play with one Wiimote and pass it, or with up to 4 other Wiimotes makes it a great way to waste an hour with friends or family. Two hours, possibly, if wine is involved. Well worth the points.
Cue Sports: Another 500-point WiiWare purchase comes up trumps! Ever since the days of Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker on the Amiga, I've loved playing pool/billiards/snooker on the computer. I'm rubbish at it in real life, because there are no lines that show you where your shot's going to go, but on the computer... watch out. Cue Sports has 'em all, including 9-ball, pool AND snooker, so it's great to have the choice between them. The in-game music, like that of Party Fun Pirate, has a shelf life of approximately nineteen seconds, but after you've muted that, you're set to go. You can play like a Billy No-Mates and pot all the balls by yourself, play a game against the computer or play online with a friend, which is a nice feature, but yet another reason that Nintendo's reluctance to include some sort of all-game voip communication makes playing with someone you know no different than playing the artificial intelligence. All in all, it would be a game that could easily retail for $15-20, so dropping the equivalent of $5 is a steal. There's a great Geordie review of the game here, which explains the faults (including faulty snooker rules) and advantages much better than I could. And in a far cooler accent.
I've got my eyes on a few games that I'll try and pick up if the opportunity arises; Wii Fit is on my radar as is - surprisingly - the Shawn White snowboarding game, which looks like a lot of fun. Is there anything that my fellow Wii-ers recommend as a must-have?