“Wii Sports Resort” is a Great Gaming Getaway

My Wii kept telling me that I might maybe should put down the game controller for a while and step away from the TV. 

"Why not take a break?" the message on the screen asked me. Repeatedly.

Why not take a break? Because I'm having a stupid amount of fun, that's why.

But I don't think my Wii really wanted me to take a break any way. It was just saying that because it felt obligated to ... and, you know, because Nintendo programmed it to do so at regular intervals.

Yeah, Nintendo may pretend like they want us gamers to have a life beyond their little white box, but I'm pretty sure what they really want is for us to keep playing "Wii Sports Resort" long after it's time for us to do things like get some sleep or maybe tend to our deteriorating personal hygiene. After all, I tried to quit "Wii Sports Resort" and yet it kept reeling me back in with its siren song of assorted sporty activities. Archery. Skydiving. Sword fighting. And just when I thought I'd had enough virtual athleticism for one evening, another amusing distraction lured me in.

What's that you say? Play Frisbee catch with an adorable pup? Or how about speed-slice my way through a bizarre assortment of objects using only my trusty blade? Why, don't mind if I do! 

"Wii Sports Resort" — the long-awaited sequel to  the massively popular "Wii Sports" game — launched Sunday. And after spending far too much time playing it, I can say that it's a must-have game for any Wii owner — a charming collection of fun, absorbing , easy-to-jump-into games that just about anyone can play and almost everyone will dig. Yes, even some of you Wii haters out there.

I just wish it hadn't taken Nintendo 2 1/2 years to bring us this game and, more importantly, bring us the Wii MotionPlus device it comes packaged with.

Sports in motion
The original "Wii Sports" game — which came bundled with the Wii when it launched back in 2006 — was a world-wide hit thanks to the deft and adorable way it showed off the new Nintendo machine's gesture-sensing controls. A package of five sports-sim games in one, "Wii Sports" gave Wii owners the chance to box, golf, bowl, play baseball and play tennis by swinging the Wii's Remote and Nunchuk controllers in semi-realistic motions.

In the boxing game, for example, you simply clutch the Remote and Nunchuk in your fists and punch the air. In the tennis game, you swing the Remote like you would a real racket.

Kids and casual gamers immediately adored this game (and the Wii) because the controls made plain ol' good sense (unlike those tricky button combos traditional game controllers require). The game is also a blast to play with friends. I mean, who needs to go to a bowling alley when you can knock down pins with your pals in your own living room? And you don't even have to wear those silly shoes!

As of earlier this year, Nintendo had sold more than 45 million copies of "Wii Sports Resort" worldwide, making it the best-selling game of all time (though the fact that it's sold bundled with the Wii in much of the world has stirred some debate about whether it officially deserves the title ... which it stole from "Super Mario Bros.").

But as popular as "Wii Sports" and the Wii's motion controls have been, many a seasoned gamer quickly grew weary of them both and more than a wee bit Wii jaded. After all, the Remote and Nunchuk don't capture and replicate your motions exactly. In fact, they can be downright finicky when it comes to reading the swings, sways, stabs and jabs of your arms.

As I discovered while playing the "Wii Sports" boxing game with my niece,  a 6-year-old girl flailing about as if her arms are on fire and with zero forethought or attempt at accuracy will very likely KO you time and time again while you attempt to carefully aim your virtual punches.

Yeah, the Wii has earned its fair share of haters thanks, in part, to the motion controls, which some have felt are frustratingly shallow, gimmicky and, also, make you look like a total dork. They call them "waggle" controls ... and they don't mean it in a nice way.

Wishy-washy wiggle-waggle
I'm not sure that "Wii Sports Resort" is going to sway the Wii's most devoted critics, but it should diminish at least some of the trash talking  thanks to the new Wii MotionPlus device the game comes bundled with.

The MotionPlus gadget, as I mentioned in this column, snaps onto the bottom of the Wii Remote. It enables the controller and game machine to far more accurately read your movements, removing much of the wishy-washy-wiggle-waggle control issues that have plagued the Wii and tarnished its rep.

With the MotionPlus attachment, you can twist, tilt and turn the Wii Remote and see its movements replicated on screen with impressive accuracy. Pop "Resort" into your machine and the Skydiving game promptly kicks in, showing off the MotionPlus' enhanced gesture sensing as you take your Mii avatar sailing through the sky, maneuvering it in all directions.

Yes, "Wii Sports Resort" does a great job turning these control improvements into an addictive gaming experience. Expanding on the idea behind the original "Wii Sports" game, "Resort" offers an impressive 12 gaming categories to choose from — some old and most new.

Golfing and bowling return from the original, but with MotionPlus the experience is significantly more realistic.

But it’s some of the new game categories that really stand out. Archery was my hands-down favorite. Here you maneuver the Remote to aim your virtual bow, and you pull back the Nunchuk as if you were pulling back the bow string. Aiming at the targets and letting your arrows fly works superbly and feels great.

Swordplay was also a favorite and sure to be a party crowd pleaser. Here you hold the Remote as if it was the handle of a sword and then jab and slice away, pulling the B trigger to block your opponent's blows. And the Air Sports category — which includes Skydiving, Island Flyover and Dogfight — also must be mentioned as a superb addition. Island Flyover has you holding the Remote as if it were a paper airplane. You then guide your virtual airplane throughout an island, exploring the various sites and scenery.

Of course, not all the new sports games are equally amusing. Bicycling — a game in which you flap the Remote and Nunchuk as if you were pedaling a bike with your hands — was a bit tedious, as was Power Cruising (basically riding a Jet Ski). And as much as I loved the Archery game, I was disappointed that there wasn't more to do with it other than shoot at targets.  I found myself wanting more depth from my favorite sports fairly often.

Also, it’s important to note that you can't play "Wii Sports Resort" without the MotionPlus device it comes with (the bundle runs $50). So if you want to simultaneously play the multiplayer games — say settle an argument with your husband with a round or two of sword fighting — you'll have to go buy another MotionPlus device for $20. (You can, however, share one Wii Remote for some of the turn-taking multiplayer games.)

Ultimately though, "Wii Sports Resort" is a really well-rounded and thoroughly fun package that shows off the much-needed motion-control improvements that MotionPlus brings to the Wii. And I'm especially excited to see what other developers do with these superior controls.

In fact, I hope developers get to work making more MotionPlus-supported games pronto ... because it’s going to be hard to go back to playing Wii games without it.

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