Fun, Pricy Times Ahead for Wii Owners

For some reason, good Wii games seem to come in spurts. Near the console’s launch there was a nice bunch, including Super Mario Galaxy, Zelda, Metroid and Paper Mario.  Months later, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart were released. And then it felt like there was nothing for a long while.

Ladies and gentleman, I’m happy to report that I think we may be entering another short-term Wii boom.

Yesterday, I got my hands on a surreal new racing game called ExciteBots. It truly is something else. In the game, you take transformer-like bots resembling various animals, including frogs, bats and grasshoppers. And you do off-road stunt racing with them. It’s super fast and you get lots of airtime, and that’s only the beginning.  The developer included several extremely random-seeming mini games in the midst of each race.  For example, you might have to kick a giant soccer ball into a net, hit a baseball, or even bowl over some pins.  If you pull it off, you get points and an encouraging message.  Some of the challenges are even more eccentric. My favorite is tapping out a rhythm on a tambourine.  If you pull it off, the game rewards you with the message “Nice tambourine!”

Gooooaaal!!!!
Gooooaaal!!!!

Writing about ExciteBots doesn’t do the game justice, and in fact probably makes it sound like the most complicated racing game ever. On the contrary, the motion controls (yes, the Wii Wheel is supported) are great, and the game developers somehow made most of the diversions intuitive. It’s kind of like Mario Galaxy in that sense. What feels simple on the controller creates something totally fantastic on the screen.

OK, so I know what you’re saying. That’s just one game. How can I say this is the beginning of a spurt of fun Wii games?

First of all, it’s rude to interupt in the middle of an article. Shame on you. But the answer is that Wii gamers soon will have a new accessory on their hands, called the Motion Plus. The device hooks into the Wii controller, and makes the motion controls even more precise.  Currently, the controller can register only turn movements — it doesn’t know when you’re raising or lowering the controller vertically, or sliding it side to side. Motion Plus changes all that.  In July, Nintendo will release a sequel to Wii Sports, called Wii Sports Resort.  The package includes a lot of cool new minigames that weren’t possible before, including frisbee throwing, jet skiing and sword fighting.

Better, Electronic Arts — famous for its sports games — is designing its new Tiger Woods golf game especially for the Motion Plus. The company also has a new tennis game called Grand Slam Tennis that may prove to be equally ace.  Both hit stores in June, and Tiger Woods will come packaged with the Motion Plus.

You can probably tell I’m excited. But there is something about this whole situation that I must bitch about a little. Why does Nintendo insist upon releasing seemingly must-have accessories for its gaming systems every few months?  The company has convinced everyone they have the least expensive console. But the reality is you’ve got to buy extra controllers ($40 per remote, $20 per nunchuck), a balance board ($90 with Wii fit), a “classic” controller or two ($20 each), a wheel for each controller ($10), and now multiple Motion Plus accessories. ($20). Those Nintendo guys are pretty sneaky!

Fish & Video Games

Hey, it’s 2009. That’s pretty cool.

I vacationed to St. Michael’s, MD last week and ate fish. I also took a bunch of photos. You can see parts of these pics displayed prominently at the top of every page of this website. Oh, and yes, I did some writing on what hopefully will turn out to be my next novel. Made a lot of good progress; it’s all really starting to come together.

I picked up a couple new video games: Fallout 3 for Xbox 360 and Boom Blox for the Wii. I was intrigued by Fallout 3 because you get to explore a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC. Also, there were ads for the game were plastered all over  Metro Center station here in the capital. After a few hours of play, I found the game itself to be just as cool as the premise, though I admit I was a trifle overwhelmed initially. Fallout presents the player with an astonishing amount of choice.  And I’m not talking about choosing to beat up a bad guy rather than sneaking around him.  I mean, like, choosing to help, rob blind and/or blow up an entire settlement. Usually when I play an adventure game like this, I like to try and do as much as possible — do all the optional side-quests, read all the dialog, etc. But I think I’ve come to terms that there’s no way in hell I can  do that in this game.

Boom Blox isn’t nearly as open-ended an experience, as it’s a puzzle game. But its use of the Wii’s motion controls makes it a blast, no pun intended. The game — which was developed by Steven Spielberg — is kind of like a virtual Jenga, except the goal is generally to knock the blocks down, and you can do more than pull blocks (baseball, anyone?).  And there’s like 300 challenges, too.

So yeah, if you’re of the gaming set, check them out. If not, well, I’ll try to write about something else next time.