Sports Games on the Wii

One of the most impressive things about the Wii is the range of realistic sports that you get with the basic package. Wii Sports Resort adds to this. I’m particularly addicted to the table tennis game, though that is in part because the solo version serves up such interesting opponents – thus far I have played against, amongst others, thiny disguised versions of Catwoman, Darth Vader, Miss Piggy, Michael Jackson, Winne the Pooh, Scooby Doo, a werewolf and Kenny from South Park. In general, however, the attraction of the sports games is that the Wii’s unique interface technology allows you to play them in pretty much the same way as you would play the real thing. Of course the Wii helps you — I would be totally useless at real table tennis — but at least I’m getting exercise.

Anyway, encouraged by such realistic game play, the next thing any new Wii owner is likely to do is to buy some of the specialist sports games on offer from people like EA. Paul Cornell blogs about his experience over Christmas:

Ashes Cricket 2009 on the Wii (complete bloody swizz, you don’t actually use the Wii controller as you would a cricket bat, which one intuitively expects from such a game, and would characterise any cricket game for the Wii that I’d actually want to buy).

Spot on. I made the very same mistake. Given that the basic Wii sports lets you bat in baseball and play tennis, it seems inconceivable that a Wii cricket game would not yet you bat in a realistic manner. And yet it does not. That game isn’t by EA, but the Tiger Woods PGA Golf game is. I stupidly bought that too, and discovered that the golf game in Wii Sports Resort is actually a better golf simulation.

As a side point, the people who design the interfaces to these sports games should be taken out and shot. There’s really no excuse for poor menu design and lack of access to features except in the highly constrained way the game wants to force upon you.

The real problem with Wii games, however, appears to be that the game manufacturers have simply converted their old, keyboard-based games for use on the Wii. This I can understand. It is an economic problem. You don’t want to have to write a completely different game for the Wii when you already have something that works on the Playstation, PC and so on. But that means that there is a gap in the market. Someone out there ought to be producing really good sports simulations for the Wii that use the Wii interface in the way in which it was intended. If anyone knows of such a game, especially if it is a cricket game, please let me know. (And actually I’d love a chance to help design such a game. I have worked in computer games before.)

As an aside, the Wii game that I know of that is actually most like batting in cricket is the “Return Challenge” table tennis game in Wii Sports Resort. The mechanics of hitting a table tennis ball are different, but aside from that it is a very similar psychological problem. You have to face ball after ball; the drink cans placed on the table tempt you to try to hit your return shot in a precise way rather than just playing safe; and the crowd noise can be a big distraction. It is an exercise in concentration. Sir Geoffrey would approve.