Feeling a little sore

On Friday I was one of the lucky people in the UK who actually managed to obtain a Nintendo Wii. Having taken the day off work to play it, I was a little annoyed that I didn’t get hold of it until the evening anyway, but at least I got it eventually.

It’s fully lived up to – and even exceeded – all my expectations. The motion tracking is more accurate than I thought it would be (the baseball bat in Wii Sports tracks the controller particularly closely) and the latency between the real-life and on-screen movements is negligible. When using it as a pointer for pressing on-screen buttons (or trying to shoot ducks) it’s very precise – much more like using a mouse than an analogue joystick.

The Mii system – a mechanism through which you create caricatures of yourself, your friends and family, and anyone else you fancy – is great fun and adds a real edge to the otherwise simplistic Wii Sports. The Miis also feature in some of the Wii Play games, appearing as spectators for the table tennis and being showcased in “Find Mii” where you often have to find doppelgangers of your own family in amongst a crowd. Believe me it’s much more fun, and far more addictive, than it sounds. I hope the Miis become more widely used rather than just relegated as a bit of a gimmick that gets dropped with the next batch of games.

I took the Wii to my parents’ house on Saturday night for the whole family to have a go. Watching my non-gaming mother and my sister battling against each other in a race between two knitted cows was pure comedy gold. And my six year old niece was easily the best at bowling. If my Saturday night was anything to go by then Nintendo’s policy to make gaming more inclusive and draw in more non-gamers stands a very good chance of succeeding.

Of course it’s not all party games; I also bought The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It’s the first time I’ve really played a Zelda game in earnest, and eight hours into it I’m really enjoying it so far. Even though the sword movements don’t match your controller movements exactly there’s still something decidedly visceral about physically slashing at the enemy, rather than just pressing a button. It definitely shows the controller to be good for more than just sports sims.

While I’m on the subject of Wii Sports again, however, I’ll just mention the fitness mode. This pitches you against three of the training programmes from elsewhere in the game in order to determine your physical age (with 20 being the optimum). It’s not trying to work out your real age, of course, it’s just a measure of how fit you are. I’m pleased to report that my physical age is now 32, compared to my real age of 34. With the Wii being the first games console that actually gets me to work up a sweat, I’m hoping to lose a little of my paunch and bring that age down even lower. I’m feeling a little sore today, from too much tennis and boxing, but given my usual lack of exercise I see that as a good thing.

They may be rarer than hen’s teeth at the moment (unless you want to pay through the nose on ebay), but once they become readily available I would recommend anyone to buy a Wii – even if you don’t usually play (m)any games.