April 3, 2010

I'm having fun! Wiiiiiiii!

Recently, I played Nintendo Wii for the first time. I'm not much of a video game guy—Atari in the '80s, Game Boy in the '90s, that's it—but a recap here seemed in order. Count on the BQT for all your three-and-a-half-year-old-tech-product review needs.

First, a little Wii bowling.

I was very impressed by this. I remember playing bowling in the arcade aeons ago, with one of those big trackball things, slimy with the residue of thousands of spilled Icees. It was impressive for the time, but hard to ignore the fact that it was a poor simulacrum of the actual bowling process.

Wii bowling, on the other hand—most Wii games, to be honest—is remarkably faithful to the actual physical process of bowling. You move your body, and arm, with almost the exact same motions used when bowling for real (though the absence of the ball's weight was conspicuous). My only complaint from a realism standpoint was the ball's tendency to curve left in what I felt was an implausible way. Who knows, though, maybe it's just that I suck (100 is a spectacular score for me in a typical ten frames). But it was eerily realistic enough to make me realize that it might be getting hard to justify actually going to a skeevy bowling alley and spending the money to play a game in a pair of moldering two-tone shoes, when you can do almost exactly the same thing at home, sans the skeeve and shoes. America—future nation of complete shut-ins.

Then, Wii tennis.

This game is tailor-made for the lazy. I've played very little tennis in my life, almost all of it badly, and I'm an atrocious athlete in general, but even I was trying too hard here. I was running after the ball, dodging back and forth through my friend's living room, bouncing off ottomans, until my opponent helpfully informed me that the game places your avatar in proximity of the ball. You need only swing, pretty much. Once I grasped that, my game improved, and I got some nice long volleys in, but again, I had my ass handed to me.

Then, onto Dance Dance Revolution.
I've played this before, on Xbox and at the arcade, and I like it, but find it frustrating on several levels. In the real world, I have decent rhythm, and have been known to dance like a motherfucker, but the game's instructional arrows perpetually knock me out of my groove and into my head. It's the same problem I have playing drums in Rock Band—I need to let go and feel the rhythm. But therein lies the problem: While I like DDR, the music discourages me from playing. I've never been a dance-music guy, but the selections on this game are always among the worst thump-thump-thump, moronic-lyrics garbage I've ever heard. I like dancing to rock & roll (the Stones usually work), and shaking it to the Vengaboys (I know, way out of date) or whoever has almost zero appeal. This is why I can't feel the groove and leave my head; these grooves don't feel good to me.

Finally, we tried Wii trivia, a game call Smarty Pants.
This was the only game I actually won against my friend (shocker!). It had the problem of far too many trivia games: raging mediocrity. The system lets you spin a category wheel, which is neat, and it has an easy and elegant buzzer system, but that's about all I can say. There wasn't a single high-quality trivia question, and the inevitable multiple-choice format never makes me happy (though science still hasn't cracked the puzzle of making a high-quality non-multiple-choice trivia video game). One sports question asked me how may touchdowns a particular player scored in the Super Bowl ten years ago: two, three, four or five. You either know or you don't (I didn't), and when you discover the answer, you don't particularly care. And I can't get a job writing trivia for other people?

So I have mixed feelings about my first foray into the Wii world: great technology, but to what ends ultimately? Nevertheless, at least I now have this mass cultural experience under my belt. Next, I'm going to listen to a Justin Bieber song.