Archive for the Wii Category

In 1983, Cinemetronics released Dragon’s Lair, the first (and arguably best) laserdisc-based arcade game. The general consensus from gamers worldwide was that (A) it looked beautiful and (B) the controls stunk. There wasn’t a gamer alive that wasn’t impressed by Dragon’s Lair’s graphics (you got to play a cartoon, man!), but unlike essentially every other arcade game on the market at that time, Dragon’s Lair was more about memorization and timing than it was about lightning reflexes and skill. Whatever frustration gamers had with this new style of gaming didn’t stop Cinemetronics from releasing Dragon’s Lair II, Space Ace, and several other games using the same laserdisc technology. These games were expensive to create, in part due to the hand drawn animation (the animation alone for Dragon’s Lair cost $1 million and took 7 months to create).

In 1990, American Laser Games came up with a twist; by replacing hand-drawn animation with live action footage and using a light gun instead of a joystick, the world’s first live action laserdisc western was born: Mad Dog McCree.

Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack for the Nintendo Wii contains three live action western shooters by American Laser Games: Mad Dog McCree, Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold, and The Last Bounty Hunter. All three games work essentially the same: using the Wiimote as a pistol, players must shoot their way through B-movie western footage.

As Mad Dog McCree opens, you (referred to as “the stranger”) are informed by a local about the town’s dire condition. Mad Dog McCree is running wild, the Sheriff has been locked up in his own jail, and … about this time, one of Mad Dog’s cohorts walks into view and shoots you dead. After a brief lecture from the town’s undertaker the level will start over, and now you know how these games work. At any given time, bad guys can pop out and shoot you dead, instantly. You start the game with three lives, and believe me, they will pass quickly.

And that was my experience with Mad Dog McCree. After beating one location I would arrive at a new one, only to be killed almost immediately. “Note to self: there’s a guy behind that big rock.” Then I would start over and successfully shoot the guy behind the rock, only to get killed by the guy behind the cactus — and so on and so on. I slowly worked my way through the first game, asking myself all the while why I was doing so.

In the arcade version of Mad Dog McCree, three lives would run you fifty-cents, with continues costing you an additional quarter. Here, you can continue by challenging a quick-draw gunfighter. Let me just say this: it took us forty-five minutes to successfully win a gunfight. With each gunfight sequence lasting around 30 seconds (including the “continue page” and talking to the understaker), that’s about 90 freakin’ attempts. It may be the most ridiculous and needless difficult videogame challenge of all time. I would rather buy a new Wii and another copy of this game and start over each time rather than try to beat those stupid gunslingers.

Save for minor differences, Mad Dog McCree II and The Last Bounty Hunter (the other two games included) play essentially the same as the original. While continues and scoring and handled a little differently, you’ll still find yourself pointing and shooting your Wii Remote at cheesy actors in western garb and getting repeatedly (and cheaply) killed by random varmints.

After playing Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack for a couple of days, I came up with six target audiences for this game:

01. You are a wicked stepmother. You know, like the one from Cinderella? What better torture for that stepdaughter of yours than to buy her a fancy new Nintendo Wii for Christmas and then only let her play this game on it? TORTURE.

02. You want to ween your kids off of videogames. Are your kids spending too much time on the Wii? Buy this game, and then start hiding their old games one by one until only this one remains. They’ll ween themselves off it within a week.

03. You want to teach your kids about gun safety. If nothing else, Mad Dog McCree teaches kids that if you pick up a gun, you can be shot and killed at any given time by a scoundrel with a handlebar mustache. The earlier in life kids learn this lesson, the better.

04. You are poor. Perhaps you won a Nintendo Wii in a drawing, or someone gave one to you. It sounded good, until you found out new Wii games cost $50. WHAT THE? Fortunately for you, Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack only costs $20 and contains three games. Sure, it’s like buying your daughter a Barbie that’s missing a leg or your son a three-wheeled fire truck, but hey, sometimes money is tight.

05. You enjoy bad movies, you drink heavily, or you are a sadist. I’ll admit, any of these three groups may enjoy this game.

And finally …

06. People who enjoyed this game in arcades. This is, most likely, the only group that will get any real long-lasting enjoyment out of this package. If you have memories of quick-drawing in arcade and have a soft spot for the cheesy dialog contained within, you will get more entertainment from the Gunslinger Pack than anyone else. And by “more enjoyment” I mean you’ll play it more than once.

Anyone else, even at the budget $20 price, should probably steer clear. Everyone I’ve shown the game to that wasn’t in one of the above six groups lost interest in about fifteen minutes. The game play is repetitive and cheap, and the acting is bad (not in a charming way, but in the bad way). Unless Mad Dog McCree himself is holding you at gunpoint, it won’t take most players long to go find something else to do.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a running bet between gaming industry insiders as to how many times they (the gaming industry) can get us (gamers) to re-buy Dragon’s Lair. Granted, early 8-bit versions of the game were far from arcade-perfect translations, but by the late 80s (partially thanks to the wide acceptance of CD-Roms over floppy disks) fairly decent versions of Dragon’s Lair had made their way to DOS machines.

By the late 90s, thanks to DVD, “arcade-perfect” (for all intents and purposes) versions were available for not only home computers, but stand alone DVD players as well. At the time, this seemed like the definitive version of Dragon’s Lair.

Ho ho.

Presumably bored of porting and re-porting the game over and over to the IBM-PC platform (there are roughly 10 different unique PC releases), Digital Leisure has begun porting the game to new platforms, including the Sony PSP, the Nintendo DS, the iPhone, and the iPad.

The latest port and collection is Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, for the Nintendo Wii.

Right up front, let’s get this out of the way — “Dragon’s Lair Trilogy” only contains two Dragon’s Lair games, along with Space Ace. That’s not a trilogy. That’s like buying the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD and receiving Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It would be different if there weren’t a third Dragon’s Lair game, but there was. Actually, there were three! In 1992, “Dragon’s Lair III: The Curse of Mordred” was released for the Amiga, Atari ST, and DOS platforms. In 2002, “Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair” was released on the GameCube, Xbox, PS2, and PC. And in 2004, “Dragon’s Lair III” was released for the IBM-PC. But since none of those were released in arcades, and I’m guessing neither “Two Dragon’s Lair Games plus Space Ace” nor “Three Popular Cinemetronics Games!” would pass the marketing board, “Dragon’s Lair Trilogy” it is. Harumph.

I’m also trying to overlook the fact that over the past six months I’ve bought Dragon’s Lair three times: once for the iPhone, once again for the iPad, and once for my son’s Nintendo DS. Even with Dragon Lair Trilogy’s budget title price ($29.99, vs. the standard $49.99 Wii price), buying this game yet again is a tough pill to swallow.

That being said, and I hate to be the one to say it, but this collection is worth owning.

The video in Dragon’s Lair Trilogy has been remastered to 480p (as good as it gets on the Wii), and looks great. Gamers will not be disappointed with the audio or video contained within. Equally good are the controls. Fortunately, no “Wii Waggle” has been added; the games are controlled by holding the Wiimote sideways, like a traditional controller.

That being said, this latest collection doesn’t fix the fundamental problem with Dragon’s Lair, which is that in almost 30 years, the game play is still the same. It still involves pressing your controller in the right direction at the right time. It’s trial and error and memorization, which doesn’t necessarily make for a fun gaming experience — although, as anyone who played any of these games at .50 cents a pop back in the day can tell you, $10/game is a relatively inexpensive laserdisc gaming experience.

The selling point of playing laserdisc games was never the game play — it was the unique experience (especially back in 1983) of “controlling a cartoon”. If playing this style of game were that much fun, they would have kept making them. (Spoiler: they didn’t.)

The pros for buying Dragon’s Lair Trilogy for the Wii are exactly the same as the cons: it’s a near perfect collection of three almost thirty year old arcade games that were nice to look at but not all that much fun to play. If you don’t already own these games and wish to, this is a good package at a good price.

Link: DragonsLairTrilogy.com

Long before my copy of Wii Fitness for Dummies arrived I was already asking myself what you are probably asking yourself: “Who on earth needs this book?” Nintendo is so known for producing family-friendly and easy-to-use products that that the idea of needing a Dummies book for any Nintendo product seemed redundant.

As it turns out, Wii Fitness for Dummies is a worthwhile investment for those planning on incorporating the Wii Fit into their daily exercise routine. The book was written by Christina and Bill Loguidice, both of whom are American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTA) Certified Personal Trainers. Christina has a degree in English and a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. Bill is the Managing Director of Armchair Arcade, a popular video game-related site, and a degree in Communication. If any two people on the planet were qualified to write this book, it’s these two.

Wii Fitness for Dummies primarily focuses on three Wii titles: Wii Fit Plus, EA Sports Active Personal Trainer, and Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010. The book is broken down into four sections, with one dedicated to each of these titles and a fourth containing some additional follow up information. Each of the three aforementioned exercise titles are covered in great detail. Each section begins with a chapter titled “Getting Started” that introduces each program, walks readers through basic configuration, and explains the different parts of the program. The chapters that follow explain every exercise offered, explaining the correct way to perform each one and ways to get additional benefits from your efforts.

This book will likely appeal to two separate demographics: Nintendo Wii owners who want to start exercising, and people who exercise looking to add a Nintendo Wii to their routine. Fortunately, Wii Fitness for Dummies has something to offer to both groups. While those who already own and are familiar with the Nintendo Wii may find the parts about getting Wii Fit up and running a little dry, there are a lot of exercise related tips contained within that will help those people get the most out of their workouts. Likewise, those who already exercise regularly but are looking to add a Wii Fit into their daily routine may find the descriptions of the exercises redundant, but will surely appreciate the great detail that the Loguidices put in to walking people through each individual program. If you fall into other of those two demographics, reading this book can help you decide whether or not Wii Fit is a good “fit” for you — and if it is, it may also help you determine which specific exercise-related title may best meet your needs.

Wii Fitness for Dummies contains many black and white screenshots from each of the three games, along with several pictures of (I assume) Bill and Christine exercising their hearts out. Almost every two-page spread contains at least one screenshot, table, or photograph, so there’s plenty to look at other than the text. The book follows the conventions and lay-out of all books from the Dummies series; it’s organized logically and neatly, making the book easy to read and follow.

The last part of the book contains two “lists of ten”: the Ten Best Wii Fitness Accessories and the Ten Other Wii Fitness Workout Programs. I thought both of these were appropriate in include in the book. Additionally, I enjoyed the writing style of these last two chapters, which was slightly less formal than the rest of the book.

While it’s true that anyone can start exercising by simply picking up a Wii Fit and one of the games listed in this book, Wii Fitness for Dummies goes above and beyond by comparing the different titles, demonstrating the exercises, helping you set your fitness goals, and explaining how to assemble a workout that works best for you. For anyone considering the purchase of a Wii Fit or wanting to get the most out of one they already own, Wii Fitness for Dummies is not a dummy purchase at all.

I was twelve-years-old in 1985 when the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) took America by storm. For years Atari and Intellivision (and, to a lesser extent, ColecoVision) had battled for living room dominance, but the NES blew everything else out of the water. Even as a Commodore 64 owner at that time, it was hard not to be jealous of the Nintendo library.

I didn’t get my own NES for many years after that, but it didn’t matter as all of my friends had them. In the spring of 1986, the gaming world was all about Super Mario Bros. Only the coolest kids could beat every level, find every last coin, and knew every hidden secret. By the time we had all mastered the first game, the quirky Super Mario Bros. 2 arrived. Back then none of us knew about the game’s Japanese origins … all we knew was that, it was different. While it wasn’t as good as the original, it held us over until the arrival of Super Mario Bros 3 — one of the best and most popular video games of all time.

Super Mario Bros 3 had it all. It took every single good thing from the first game and improved on it. There were more levels, more locations, more items … just more of everything. At a time when gamers were beginning to drown in mediocre platform games, Super Mario Bros. 3 redefined the genre and set the bar so high few games would ever come close in their design.

Nintendo stuck with the same formula with Super Mario World on the SNES, but has been tweaking it ever since. Super Mario RPG dropped Mario in a role-playing adventure, Super Mario Karts found Mario and his friends behind go-kart steering wheels … and then there was Mario Teaches Typing, which nobody found fun. On the Nintendo 64, Mario and his pals entered the third dimension. Super Mario 64 was heralded as a breakthrough in technology and game play. I hated it. Say what you want about the old 2D platform games, but at least I always knew which way to go. I found Super Mario 64’s levels confusing and frustrating; and, I found the graphics nauseating, literally. I couldn’t play that game more than five minutes at a time without getting motion sickness headaches. The series moved on, of course. There were more RPGs, more racing games, and the Smash Bros series of games.

Over the years, mainstream gaming has slowly left me behind. The Game Boy Advance was the last platform to embrace Nintendo’s 2D heritage. Their latest handheld console, the Nintendo DS line, has moved into the third dimension as well. The 2D platform was forgotten in favor of 3D adventures and 1st Person Shooters.

And that brings us to the New Super Mario Bros, which is, as far as I’m concerned, a gift from the gods. It honestly feels like a present for all old school gamers. And more than that, it feels like an apology. “We’re sorry you’ve had to endure stupid Mario games for the past 20 years. Please accept this awesome new title as a token of our appreciation.” Forget about Super Mario Galaxy. Forget about Dr. Mario. Forget about Mario playing tennis, basketball, or competing in the Olympics. New Super Mario Bros (NSMB) for the Wii might as well have been titled Super Mario Bros 4. As SMB3 was to SMB1, NSMB is to SMB3. It’s everything that game was and more.

NSMB begins as many of Mario’s adventures do — Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser (again). The deja vu should hit you right around the time Mario drops into World 1-1 and you find yourself holding your Wiimote sideways like an old school NES controller. (You can also play the game using the two-fisted Wiimote/Nunchuck combination, but … why?) Unlike some of the more recent Mario games, there’s not much of a learning curve here. With only two buttons reachable with your right thumb, Mario is controlled the same way you controlled him twenty-five years ago. Of course it wouldn’t be a Wii game unless Nintendo forced us to wave the wand around for something, and NSMB is no objection. To pick up certain objects or fly as Propeller Mario, you’ll need to shake the Wiimote up and down.

Propeller Mario? Yes, that’s one of the new costumes you’ll soon find Mario wearing. Some old favorites like the mushroom, fireball flower and invincibility star have returned and appear alongside new ones like the propeller suit (an updated version of Mario’s old tanooki suit), an ice flower (an updated fireball shot that encases opponents in blocks of ice) and a penguin suit (an updated version of Mario’s frog suit).

The goal of each level in NSMB is, like always, to get to the end of the level before running out of time, collecting as many coins as possible along the way. In addition to the regular coins there are three semi-elusive gigantic coins that must be collected in order to unlock the ninth world. It seems pretty easy to stockpile extra men in the early levels, but you’ll need them in some of the games more treacherous ones. I am ashamed to admit about another feature I discovered: fail a level enough times and Luigi will appear and offer to walk you through it.

NSMB allows up to four people to play simultaneously, although getting that many people in the game almost guarantees frustration. With only two it’s much easier to stay together. With four, especially on the game’s auto-scrolling levels, it’s almost impossible to keep everyone together and every game quickly turns into a contest to see who can kill whom the quickest.

It’s old and it’s new, a retro throwback with updated graphics and sound, a new romp with old rules through new levels. Gamers who cut their teeth in 3D worlds may not appreciate it, but for those of us who instantly think of “the toaster” when we hear the word “Nintendo”, New Super Mario Brothers is the greatest gift an old fart like me could receive.

Let’s make this simple: If you like the Nintendo Wii and you like television’s Deal or No Deal, you’ll love Deal or No Deal for the Nintendo Wii. If (like me) you wonder what people see in the Deal or No Deal television show, you (like me) will probably wonder why anyone would want to play it at home with no possibility of winning real cash.

In all fairness, Deal or No Deal for the Wii plays exactly like the television show. Players (yes, you can use your Mii!) choose one of 26 briefcases, each of which contain an amount of money between one cent and one million dollars. The rest of the game is spent eliminating the other 25 briefcases on whatever order you choose. Throughout the game, the “banker” will stop the action and offer to pay you mathematically-calculated sums of money in order to quit.

Like the television show, the virtual game is hosted by Howie Mandell, appearing here as a slightly odd-looking bobble head. Each briefcase is also accompanied by a virtual model which also resembles a bobble head, proportion-wise. (Each model has a name, although I’m not sure if they correlate with the real models from the show.) The real-world set has been faithfully reproduced here, and the game is presented through enough different camera angles that you get the feeling you are participating in a real television program. (All of the cinematics can, thankfully, be skipped by pressing “A”. Play the game more than once and you’ll be pressing “A” a lot.)

Briefcases are chosen by pointing and clicking on them with the Wiimote, which shouldn’t be that difficult. On my 35″ television the briefcases are bearable but I can see it being challenging on televisions smaller than mine; You also have to click directly on the briefcases; you can’t click on the (much larger) models standing behind them. After each case is opened, the model standing behind it will react appropriately; they’ll cheer when you open a low one and “aww” when you open a high one. The game continues until you open all the briefcases, or accept the banker’s offer, both of which seem kind of moot when you’re not playing for real money. (I checked my Wii’s disc slot afterwards; the game dispenses no cash.)

In addition to normal television rules, the game also allows you to play custom games, which for the most part correspond with the Deal or No Deal television specials (more than one million dollar briefcase, for example). I didn’t think these variations were any more (or any less) exciting than the original, just different.

Deal or No Deal also offers various challenge games where players can “bet it all” or even play as the banker (which I thought was interesting). The disc also contains three mini-games, none of which held my attention for more than two minutes. In “Push Your Luck”, players randomly pick briefcases until they find an empty one, at which point the game ends. In “Sharp Shooter” the briefcases fly around the screen and players must shoot them. “BlackJack” plays just like the traditional card game, substituting briefcases for cards.

Deal or No Deal also has 25 achievements to unlock, if that’s your thing, and also tracks high scores of every game and displays them on a leaderboard which is viewable from almost every single menu.

I’ve always considered Deal or No Deal to be largely a game of chance, and like most slot machines, once the ability to win real cash has been removed, the game loses most of its appeal to me. Fans of the television show who have always wanted to play Deal or No Deal in their living room can now live out their fantasy with this game for the Wii. For anyone else, I’d recommend a rental as I got bored after about fifteen minutes.

Wii Sports
Wii (2007)

Back in 1977, Atari set a videogame precedent with the release of its Atari 2600 VCS console — that precedence was, home videogame consoles should include a game. Thirty years after its release Combat may not seem terribly exciting, but that wasn’t necessarily the point. The point was (and is), after spending a couple (or few) hundred bucks on a brand new console, “said console” should come with a game to play when you get it home. For decades, this has been the rule. Some consoles (like the original PlayStation) bent the rules a bit, offering single-level demo versions of multiple games instead of one single game — but again, at least when you got the system home it did something. In recent years, more and more companies have opted to not include a pack-in game with their system (neither the Xbox 360 nor Sony’s PS3 comes with a game.) Thankfully, Nintendo stuck with the age-old pack-in game tradition by including Wii Sports with their latest console, the Wii.

Wii Sports consists of five simplistic sports games: Tennis, Baseball, Bowling, Golf, and Boxing. Each game uses the Wii’s motion-sensitive controller (the Wiimote) to simulate actual sport-related motions. The result is five mini-games that are all easy to learn and fun to play but not particularly advanced. Then again, neither was Combat.

Tennis, the first of five games, allows 1-4 players to pick up a Wiimote and go head-to-head (to-head-to-head) on a virtual tennis court. The game’s controls are super-simplistic; as the Wii controls your player’s running direction, all that’s left for you to do is swing the racket in the corresponding direction (forehand, backhand, or overhand). Players can somewhat control the direction of their shot by the timing of their swing. Regardless of the number of human participants there are always four players on the court. In one or two player games, gamers control both players on their side of the net (again, controlled by the time of the swing). Despite the game’s simple controls, Tennis is actually quite fun. By varying swing speeds and techniques the game yields more variety than one would initially suspect. In addition to the game itself, there is a constant threat of being whacked in the head by your opponent’s Wiimote and the constant fear that someone is going to bash their hand into your ceiling fan, or let go of the Wiimote and send it smashing into your expensive flat-screen television.

Baseball, the second game on the disc, brings more fun yet simple gameplay to the Wii. Anyone who has ever played or seen America’s favorite pastime played before will find the Wiimote controls intuitive. Batting is performed (as one might suspect) by swinging the remote like a baseball bat. Pitching is performed by swinging the Wiimote in an overhand motion. Pitchers have a few more controls at their disposal; by holding down one or more buttons, pitchers can choose between four different types of pitches. The velocity and force at which the remote is swung affects the speed of your virtual pitches as well. (Again, both of these motions are likely to scare owners of expensive televisions, with both the batters and pitchers swinging remotes with much force.) Like Tennis, all player motion control including outfielding and base running is automated by the console. The distance from which the ball lands determines whether a hit is a single, double, or triple. While gamers looking for a serious game of baseball will find the lack of control frustrating, the game is what it is — more of a “Wiimote learning tool” than an actual baseball simulation.

Next up is Bowling, possibly the most entertaining game on the disc. Once again, the motion of swinging a bowling ball and releasing it is duplicated via the Wiimote. Release the button too early and your ball will go sailing backwards, causing onlookers to jump; release too late and your ball will sail through the air before plonking down somewhere down the lane. Bowling seems to be the most sensitive of the five games when it comes to the remote’s control — slight variations in the Wiimote’s orientation will cause your ball to spin, backspin, or, if you’re like me, make a bee-line to the gutter.

The fourth game on the disc, Golf, has players teeing off against one another in up to nine holes of virtual golf. Again, the key to the game is in controlling the Wiimote, which held like a typical golf club. Swing too hard and the power bar will go all wonky, causing your ball to either hook or slice. I personally found Golf to be the hardest of the five games to control, with the Wiimote occasionally not recognizing my swings or reading my power level incorrectly (especially while putting). I don’t mind the Wiimote when it enhances gameplay, but if it actually hinders my ability to play a game then it’s more frustrating than enjoyable. I think a putt-putt style game would have been more enjoyable here, leaving the “real” golf to Tiger Woods 2007 fans.

Boxing is the last game on the disc and the only one to use both the Wiimote and the Nunchuck (the “other” Wii remote). By holding one remote in each hand, gamers will unleash their padded-fist fury by pounding their bobble-headed opponents into submission. Once again fun triumphs over technical prowess here — boxing fans will lament the lack of accuracy and control within this mini-game, while fun-seekers will over look this and happily swing wildly at one another. Boxing is probably the most physically exhausting of the disc’s five games. Your arms will be burning after this one

Wii Sports makes good use of the Wii’s Mii system. Miis are avatars that you create for gaming with on the Wii. Miis can be traded among friends online. It’s entertaining to see your friends show up as tennis opponents or members of your own baseball team.

Although it has faults, it’s hard to complain too loudly about Wii Sports. While some of the games are more fun than the others, they’re all playable. Each one does a good job of introducing players to the Wiimote, and they’re all easy to pick up within a minute or two. When gamers unacquainted with the Wii controller drop by to check it out, this is the game you’ll toss in. My five-year-old son beat me 3-2 in Tennis last night, so a complete mastery of videogames is not required to enjoy (and gosh, have fun) playing these games. Those looking for a bit more depth will likely find it in any of the consoles other $50 games — those looking to kill a few fun-filled nights with those non-hardcore gamers in their lives will find Wii Sports fits the bill nicely.

Rig Racer 2
Nintendo Wii (2007)

They’re big, slow, cumbersome and hard to control. Welcome to the exciting world of big rig racing. For gamers who are drawn to racing games for their selection of exotic cars, high rates of speed and exciting racing action, get ready: Rig Racer 2 has none of those things.

Rig Racer 2 is the spiritual successor to Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, released in 2003. Big Rigs received a 1/10 rating from GameSpot, a 1/10 from Thunderbolt Games, and a 0.0 from NetJak before being voted the worst videogame of 2004 by GameSpot. Rig Racer 2 appeared on the PC in 2005, and has been released for the Wii in 2007. Rig Racer 2 is slightly better than the original, which still isn’t saying much.

The biggest hurdle racing game developers have is conveying a sense of weight and speed to the player. Pixels don’t inherently conform to physics; they have to be programmed to do so. Nothing in Rig Racer 2 feels real. The trucks do 0-60 in just under 3 seconds, which leads me to believe none of the programmers have ever been stuck behind one at a traffic light. Even when you are cruising along at 120mph, it looks and feels like you are only doing 30mph. The slow pace gives you plenty of time to stare at the crappy, Gamecube-quality scenery.

Rig Racer 2 uses the conventional Wii “ExciteTruck” control scheme: the Wiimote is held sideways and turned to steer, with the 1 and 2 buttons serving as gas and brake/reverse. The trucks are automatic (which is good, I think, as real semis have something like 17 gears) and extremely nimble (I was able to do a u-turn in a two-lane stretch of track). The A button acts as a hand brake (which I didn’t even even know semis had) for sliding around corners, although the minute you release the button, the truck stops sliding. When you are at a stop, the brake button also propels your truck in reverse — of course doing so instantly switches the camera to a rear view mode, which is kind of like backing a boat while looking in a mirror. It’s just one of many instances within the game that probably looked good on paper, but doesn’t work right in the game.

The tracks are fairly uninspired; the game’s first track, “Paris,” might as well take place in Montana. The track is lined with trees, chain link fences and billboards, none of which budge an inch if your rig happens to plow into them. Each track is surrounded by grass (which slows your truck down even more) and sand pits (which practically stop it). Sand takes you from 120mph to 30mph in a split second — who knew? They should sprinkle sand in school zones and parking lots. Along the sides of each track are dollar signs that can be collected along your journey and traded in for new rigs and race tracks. Unfortunately they cannot be used to purchase another Wii game. Each track also contains a pit row, where your rig can be repaired at 80mph.

Rig Racer 2 is filled with tons of annoyances. For example, the menus use the conventional Wiimote control scheme (pointing and clicking) but the game itself doesn’t. If you pause the game and want to make a change you’ll need to point at the TV, unpause the game, and then quickly rotate the Wiimote sideways. I’m not being nitpicky; it’s more annoying than it sounds. Another problem I ran into more than one was, in 3rd person view, having trucks get between my rig and the camera. In most cases, only some of the polygons are drawn, resulting in weird boxes and triangles blocking my view. These are things I ran across within minutes of firing up the game, which makes you wonder just how long (if at all) this game was tested.

So far, Nintendo’s Wii has been able to keep up with the more technically powerful PS3 and Xbox 360 by releasing innovative and fun games, but not-so-fun games such as this one make the gap obvious and hurt the system as a whole. If Rig Racer 2 were the only game available for the Wii, I’m still not sure I’d play it again. Anyone considering purchasing Rig Racer 2 should keep on truckin’.

Namco Museum Remix
Nintendo Wii (2007)

A quick scan of my personal game collection reveals Namco compilations for every disc-based system I own. I’ve got all five Namco Museum discs for the original PlayStation, Namco Musem for the Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, and GameCube, and the 50th Anniversary releases for the GameCube and PS2. When I heard that yet another Namco Museum release was in the works, this time for the Nintendo Wii, I was afraid it would simply be more of the same. It’s not — but after playing this mixed-up mash-up, you’ll wish it were.

Namco Musem Remix contains fourteen games which fall into two categories: five new remixes, and nine original classics. The menu system is a 3D platformer, where gamers choose games by navigating Pac-Man through a brightly-colored 3D world. it is here players get their first taste of Remix’s wonky controls. Actually, that’s not fair; the menu’s controls handles better and make more sense than most of the games do. Like of the games, navigating the menu requires nunchuck controller.

The nine retro classics included on the disc in their original form are Galaxian, Dig Dug, Mappy, Xevious, Gaplus, Super Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Pac-Mania and Cute Q. Each game can be played by either using the Wiimote and the Nunchuck together, using the Wiimote by itself, or using the Wii Classic Controller. I don’t own a classic controller, but hopefully these games play better with one of those than they do with the other two choices. The nunchuck/Wiimote combo is almost impossible, and the Wiimote by itself (rotated) isn’t any better. The Wiimote’s d-pad is amazingly inaccurate, making controlling these games much more frustrating than it needs to be. This makes playing the few good games like Dig Dug difficult to control, and the lesser-known titles frustrating to learn.

That leaves us with the five new game remixes: Pac ‘N Roll, Galaga, Pac-Motos, Rally-X, and Gator Panic. Your enjoyment level of these five games will probably hinge on how familiar you were with the originals, and how upset you will be when you discover than these aren’t like them. Your opinion may also be swayed by how much you like Pac-Man, as he appears in all the remixes for some reason. If you’re okay with those things, there’s some fun to be had here.

Take Galaga Remix, for example. In this version, you job is to protect Pac-Man as he rolls his way down open-faced tubes located in outer space (think interstellar water slides). As Paccy rolls through these tubes he’ll be attacked by updated-but-Galaga-inspired space bugs. Using the Wiimote as a laser gun, enemies are disposed of by pointing at then and firing by using either the A or B button. Although Pac-Man’s route runs on auto-pilot, you can make Pac-Man jump and dodge bullets by pressing up on the Nunchuck. Thirty seconds into the game I began to wonder, why didn’t they just make A jump and B fire and drop the Nunchuck altogether? Alas, that is not the way the Nintendo Gods wished it. Instead you’re forced to hold the Nunchuck the entire time only to make Pac-Man jump, a maneuver that’s required maybe once or twice per level. Somewhere along the way, the quintessential top down shoot-em-up has been transformed — er, remixed — into a shooter-on-rails starring Pac-Man in a rainbow slide. Hmm.

Most of the other remixes aren’t quite as radical in their redesigns, but they’re all significantly different from their source material. Feeding the stereotype that the Wii is catering to casual gamers over hardcore fans, all the games are simple to learn and, at least during the earlier levels, pretty tough to get killed in.

Namco Museum Remix’s lone bright spot is its multiplayer support. For those with enough friends (and nunchucks) available, the remixed games are slightly more rewarding. None of them will ever be referred to as your favorite game, but they do take some of the sting out of paying $40 for this title.

Wii owners with a thirst for Namco nostalgia should pick up one of the two Namco Museum titles available for the GameCube and play those instead.

Mini Desktop Racing
Nintendo Wii (2007)

In Mini Desktop Racing you race mini (as in tiny) cars that also happen to be Mini (as in Coopers). And unless you have a collection of Mini Cooper tattoos, the odds of you enjoying this title are smaller than a mini Mini.

Using the same game engine as Rig Racer 2, Mini Desktop Racing also shares many of that game’s craptastic qualities. The games’ menus are identical (sans the background wallpaper), and after playing one game after another you will understand the concept of “shovelware.” Mini Desktop Racing was released for the PC and PS2 back in 2005, but apparently the lure of making a few bucks off of uninformed Wii owners was too great to pass by.

In the mid-80s Galoob introduced Micro Machines, miniature toy cars about half the size of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. In 1991 the first of many Micro Machines videogames were released, a series that appeared on everything from the NES to the PS2. All eight games feature miniature cars racing on oversized race tracks. Of course Micro Machines does not have this market cornered; other games, such as Toy Story Racer for the PS1, also featured miniaturized racers competing in real world locations. And while Mini Desktop Racing is another game within this genre, it adds nothing new to it. The tracks are uninspired, the graphics are a step back from the 2002 Gamecube Micro Machines game, and the game’s controls are downright weird.

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Micro Machines (Gamecube, 2002) and Mini Desktop Racing (Wii, 2007)

Using a unique and somewhat bizarre control scheme, steering is performed by pointing the Wiimote at your television screen and twisting the remote left or right as if you were opening a door knob. Other controls, like brake/reverse, are mapped to places like down on the d-pad. Of course, blaming this game’s failure on its wonky controls is kind of like blaming the stinkiness of a turd on a single peanut. The game’s graphics are barely on par with PS1/N64 launch titles, and the game’s music will have you talking about the great graphics. The tracks are all simple, similar, and headache-inducing. Gamers begin with one vehicle choice (not much of a choice, really) with promises of unlocking more, but I couldn’t bring myself to play long enough to find out.

By mixing a horrible control scheme with boring tracks and awkward controls, it’s almost as if Data Design Interactive is daring you to hate this game. Well, Data Design Interactive, I accept your challenge. This game is awful.

House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return
Nintendo Wii (2007)

I knew it had been too long since I had stepped in an arcade when I happened across House of the Dead 4 at my local mall and my first question was, “wow, did I miss House of the Dead 1 through 3?”

The House of the Dead games are rail shooters — first person shooting games where players do not control their character’s paths. Characters travel through the game along a predetermined path, and gamers are only responsible for pointing and shooting. Don’t worry, that part alone will keep you plenty busy. The two games included here are both ports from previous console systems (House of the Dead 2 is a port of the Dreamcast version; House of the Dead 3 came from the Xbox), with both games modified to work with the Wii’s controls. The Wii’s controllers, with or without any additional gun accessories, work amazingly well. Aiming is smooth, not jittery at all, and responsive. I had no frustrations with the controls at all. For those who feel a difference between using a bare controller vs. one of the zappers out there, the game includes a quick calibration mode that works great (more games should include this).

Those unfamiliar with the House of the Dead storyline shouldn’t have any trouble jumping into House of the Dead 2 and 3 with both feet. Both games’ storylines are, by and large, moot. The goal here is to shoot zombies in the head and avoid shooting humans in the head. That’s pretty much it. Along with the games’ original arcade mode, there are other modes including Extreme Mode (where everything’s a little tougher) and a training mode that tests your reflexes.

If I had any bones to pick at all, it would be with the disc’s loading times. During the arcade/story mode things’s aren’t bad, but the training mode spends ten seconds reloading every time you fail (which turns out to be quite often, in my case). House of the Dead 3 has some in-game slowdown as well. There are two other basic complaints about the game floating around on the net, neither of which I agree with. One concerns the game’s graphics, which have not been significantly updated since the Dreamcast/Xbox versions. I quit buying Wii games for their graphical quality a long time ago. The other common complaint I’ve read is that the game is priced too high — again, I disagree. $30 for two games with no major bugs sounds pretty good to me, especially compared to some of the stinkers currently available for the Wii that are priced higher than that. Fans of rail shooters are certainly getting their money’s worth with this package.