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Table Tennis
Grade: C+
Publisher: Rockstar (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/11/2
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI was never a big fan of Table Tennis for the Xbox 360. It felt like a scaled-down version of Virtua Tennis, only more repetitive and laborious. Even so, I often fantasized about what the game would be like on the Wii, with your paddle mimicking your actual arm movements. Well, Table Tennis for the Wii is finally here, but it's not exactly what I had in mind. Yes, you do swing your arms to direct your shot, but it's not in "real-time" as it was in my wild fantasies. Instead, you swing as the ball is coming towards you, and your player reacts accordingly after the fact. You apply spin by holding in the directional pad, and the ball is "aimed" based on how you swing your arm. It's not a perfect scheme, but it's a hell of a lot more interactive than the Xbox 360 version. Once you begin executing high-powered "focus" shots by holding down B, the matches can get pretty interesting. Just be sure your wrist strap is tight! This Wii edition of Table Tennis obviously lacks the ultra-realistic graphics of the Xbox 360 version, but that doesn't matter at all. The gameplay is more fun, and the single player mode is less frustrating. There are three characters to begin with, including a Swedish dude and a lesbian named Haley, but you'll definitely want to stick with Lui Ping, because Chinese people kick ass at Ping-Pong! And Kung Fu! The arenas in Table Tennis aren't very interesting, but the crowd audio is realistic enough (is that a cell phone ringing?) My buddies got a kick out of this game, but I'm not seeing much long term replay value. One major flaw is the excessive load times. Just trying to set up a quick two-player match requires you to sit through countless menu and load screens. All in all, this game represents a step forward for Rockstar's Table Tennis, but it's still a far cry from the real thing. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Target: Terror
Grade: B
Publisher: Konami (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/10/2
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, crude humor, violence)

screenshotI always got a kick out of light-gun games like Lethal Enforcers (Genesis, 1993), Area 51 (PS1, 1995), and Maximum Force (PS1, 1997). To be honest, I never thought I'd see anything like that again. Well friends, happy days are back again! This is a "throwback" title if I ever saw one! Like light-gun games of old, Target: Terror is shallow, low budget, and fun as hell! Each stage is introduced by a brief "live" video newscast, and these cheesy clips look like something from a Sega CD or 3DO title! I love it! Once the action begins you're automatically whisked through various locations where you focus on shooting "terrorists" who roll into view or jump out from behind props. The digitized actors are clearly superimposed on computer-generated backgrounds, and many of them look like members of the programming team trying to keep a straight face! There are also some smoking hot chicks in mini-skirts, and it's hard to bring yourself to shoot these beauties! A visible cursor makes it easy to take aim, and enemies react based on where you shoot them (gotta love those crotch shots). There's minimal blood and the violence is too over-the-top to be objectionable. There's a lot to shoot, including windows and explosive barrels, but take care not to shoot innocent civilians like the girl who's yapping away on her cell phone. I really wish the gun clip held more bullets, because I found myself reloading constantly. Adding some spice are novel weapons including a grenade launcher, flamethrower, electric "shocker", and even a freeze ray! The game offers three main locations which can be played in any order: an airport (a staple for light-gun games), the Golden Gate bridge, and a nuclear power plant which reminded me of Area 51. Shooting a certain number of windows initiates humorous bonus stages where you take aim at odd targets like golf carts or frozen turkeys! One questionable thing about Target: Terror is the number of continues, which can exceed 40! It seems a little excessive, but I guess you'll need those in order to complete all ten stages. The game automatically saves your progress, along with high scores per stage. It's hard to believe this project got the green light, but shallow gamers like me will be delighted! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Tatsunoko Vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars
Grade: A-
Publisher: Capcom (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/2/27
Rating: Teen (mild language, mild suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotA potent combination of Street Fighter 2 and Super Smash Bros., Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom (TVC) delivers a swift kick in the rear to the 2D fighting genre. It's a two-on-two tag-team affair with an emphasis on air attacks and earth-shattering super moves. Tatsunoko is a Japanese animation company most Americans probably aren't familiar with, but don't let that scare you off. The characters may look like cheesy superheroes, but they tend to grow on you. The Capcom side offers a handful of Street Fighter characters and a hodgepodge of others like Viewtiful Joe, Mega Man, and Morrigan from Darkstalkers. There's also a little girl with a broom and bucket of water. It's not my dream roster, but I can roll with it. You might be expecting TVC to employ 2D sprites, but no - the graphics are rendered entirely in 3D. On the plus side, this allows for smooth animation and mind-blowing special attacks that culminate with the screen shattering to pieces. On the downside, the polygons tend to exhibit rough edges, and the stages lack the artistic flair that gave the old 2D fighters so much character. In terms of pure gameplay, TVC is a force to be reckoned with. You select from a pair of characters, and can freely swap them in and out. The action is more frantic than previous Capcom brawlers, and fighters can dish out attack after attack in mid-air. Familiar characters possess their trademark moves, which are very easy to execute. The underlying fighting system is fairly sophisticated, but even button-mashers will have a field day. The announcer chimes in with comments like "Wonderful!" Who is this guy trying to be, my mom? TVC has a lot of surprises in store, including the chance to battle a 3-story golden robot. The scores in TVC are astronomical, with each hit netting billions of points! High scores are saved along with extensive statistics about character usage. A story mode is included, but the endings didn't make much sense to me. Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is the weirdest fighter I've played in a long time, but also the best. I use an arcade-style joystick, and I am wearing this thing out. Hell, even the cheesy intro song is starting to grow on me! Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is a pleasant surprise that will appeal to casual and hardcore fighting fans alike. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
Grade: B
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/7/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis represents a major step up for the underachieving Tiger Woods PGA Tour series. This game comes packed with the Wii Motion Plus attachment, making your Wii-mote controller more precise and less prone to error. The difference is not dramatic, but golf fans will appreciate the more consistent hitting and lack of "false positive" swings. PGA Tour 10 is fully licensed with real golf pros and 27 (!) courses. The graphics are noticeably more attractive than previous Tiger Woods outings, with courses that appear more natural and flowing. If you're on-line, you can even tap into real-world weather conditions. A wide selection of modes and mini-games are available, but as usual, navigating the poorly-designed menu system can be a hassle. Tiger Woods PGA 10 screws up in the most bizarre ways. The remarkably confusing tutorial manages to make putting seem like rocket science. Likewise, creating a player is a complicated ordeal, requiring you to sift through endless pages of superfluous options like mustaches, moles, and even scars. I tried my best to recreate myself, but as usual, I ended up looking like a Chinese dude anyway! Once you finally hit the golf course, PGA Tour 10 finally hits its stride. The pacing is brisk so you can get through a round in well under an hour. You can expedite "rolls" to minimize the lulls. This is the only game in town that lets you use your actual golf swing, and if you're a golfer, that means a lot. The swinging controls are natural enough, but the idea of shaking the controller to apply spin in mid-air is pretty dumb. Can you imagine Tiger doing that? Plus, the random camera angles make it hard to tell where your ball is heading in the first place. The revamped putting system is a bit too touchy, and why in the hell is a meter necessary? You have the ability to save a partially completed round, but whenever you switch to a different mode the game inexplicably warns that your previous game will be overwritten. There's a two-man commentator team (actually, one is a woman), but they don't sound very professional and aren't the least bit informative. One terrific bonus in Tiger Woods 10 is the Frisbee golf mode, which lets you toss Frisbees around a golf course, with a basket where the hole would be. If you think that sounds like a good time, well, you'd be right! You might enjoy it more than the real golf! Tiger Woods PGA make some amateur mistakes, but if you're looking for a realistic golf title, this is the best thing going. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 07
Grade: D
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/6/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Wii was tailor-made for golf, and Tiger Woods is the first name in golf, yet EA still somehow managed to screw this one up! PGA Tour 07 does deliver the goods in terms of realism and intuitive control, but sloppy design and a nasty bug prevent it from reaching its potential. Upon starting up the game, your initial challenge is to create a golfer in your own likeness, which involves wrestling with the most backward, non-intuitive menu interface ever devised. Not only does it sometimes prompt you to hit the wrong button, but you're constantly being sent to the save screen (where you can then save in seven easy steps!). Things improve considerably once you get out on the course. Swinging the controller works exactly like swinging a golf club, so if you tend to hook or slice in "real life", expect to do the same here. Form is everything, and it's satisfying to hear the "swoosh" sound of a solid hit emanating through your controller's microphone. When the ball is in the air, you can hold the directional pad and shake the controller to apply spin - not very realistic, but it works. Just try not to make an obscene gesture while doing this. One feature that's a real Godsend is how you can hold in the A button to "speed up" your shots and expedite those slow rolls. Each green is protected by a state-of-the-art laser security system - oh wait - that's the slope indicator! The putting game is terrific, and far more forgiving than Wii Sports Golf. Sadly, there's one serious glitch that wreaks havoc with this game. About once per round, a swing will inadvertently register just as you're beginning your backswing, resulting in a little squibbler of a shot. As any real golfer will tell you, one terrible shot like that can be the difference between having a great round or not making the cut. What a shame. In terms of presentation, Tiger Woods has plenty of room for improvement. The courses are well designed but the graphics are mediocre, with flat-looking terrain and blocky wildlife. The holes in Wii Sports golf looked better than this! The idiotic pair of announcers seem more intent on mocking you than providing commentary. If you take more than five seconds to line up your shot you'll hear them whine "will you swing already?!" Tiger's playing modes include the addictive Tiger Challenge where you complete various mini-games to unlock features. The target-shooting challenges are insanely fun, but the new "one ball" games are garbage. The menus are loaded with options, but I don't know what half of them mean because once again the cheap bastards at EA skimped on the instruction manual. There doesn't seem to be a way to save your progress in the middle of a round, and that's a glaring oversight. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is clearly a flawed product, but like real golf, you'll keep coming back to it for more punishment. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 08
Grade: C+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/5/28
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDespite some glaring flaws, Tiger Woods 08 is the only golf game that lets you use your real golf swing, and there's something to be said for that. Like last year, the game makes an awful first impression with a frustrating tutorial and a user-hostile create-a-golfer feature designed by Satan himself. When choosing a face, why do I have to manipulate coordinates on a bunch of graphs? Excuse me - I was told there would be no math! The system is such a mess that my character ended up looking like a cross between Tiger Woods and the Joker! Thank goodness things improve substantially on the golf course. The graphics are pretty mediocre (PS2 quality), but it's fun to use your natural golf swing! Not only does the game seem to detect good form, but it no longer registers "false swings" - a fatal flaw that crippled last year's game. Adjusting the power of your hit is still black magic though, and my friend George had a hard time trying to hit anything at under 110% power! Applying spin to the ball in flight is done by vigorously shaking the Wii-mote, and yes, it looks totally obscene. One great feature lets you speed up the shot animation by holding in the A button. This makes it possible to play an entire round of golf in under a half-hour! The courses themselves aren't very exciting, and what's with the oceans of sand?! Putting is tricky, especially when the hole is obstructed by the putting grid or even your golfer's head! Hey EA, have you ever heard of play-testing? Look into it! Tiger Woods 08 is loaded with idiotic design flaws. You'd expect the main screen to display the hole and par information, but no, you need to click on a special icon to access that info! The commentators are two worthless douche-bags who spout juvenile garbage like "Good shot - moron!" and "Oooo... let's see where this one ends up!" And why does it sound like a jumbo jet is flying over every hole?! It certainly sounds real (I kept looking out my window), but let's go easy on the audio effects guys! Ultimately, Tiger Woods succeeds in spite of itself, mainly due to intuitive controls and brisk pacing. This is the closest you'll get to playing actual golf in your living room without causing hundreds of dollars in damage. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Top Spin 3
Grade: B-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/7/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotLike many Wii gamers, I've longed for a realistic tennis game that incorporates actual players and motion controls. Top Spin 3 more or less delivers that. The game instructs you to grip the controller sideways, with your index finger resting on the B button. Why? Well it does feel more like a tennis racket this way, especially if you have one of those rubber covers. The nun-chuck joystick is used to move your player and the Z button lets you execute lobs and drop shots. What I love about Top Spin 3 is the ability to swing in "real time". You start your backswing as the ball approaches, and attempt to follow through in sync with your player on the screen. The game only recognizes pronounced movements, so if you're used to flicking your wrist with Wii Sports Tennis, you'll need to break that habit. Spin can be applied by angling your swing up or down, and it really works! Once you get into a natural rhythm, it feels like you're playing real tennis! Keep in mind however that this is not a "pick up and play" title like Wii Sport Tennis - there's a learning curve involved. And as with most motion-sensing games, the controls are fairly loose. I feel like I'm only controlling 75% of the action, with the rest being black magic (not unlike Tiger Woods for the Wii). Sometimes your movements don't quite correlate to the action, and occasionally your player won't respond at all. Playing the net is tricky because you have much less time to react. Playing doubles is a real adventure, because you have a lot of people swinging their arms in a confined area. I almost gave my friend Steve a black eye, and Scott nearly took a hunk out of my drywall. Most of the pain is self-inflicted however, as the cord tends to whip you, and your two controllers sometimes rap against each other. Other than the physical aspect, Top Spin 3 doesn't have much going for it. The graphics are fairly ugly, and I hate how the screen prompts you to "Hit B to React!" after every shot, just to see a fist pump. Apparently 2K recruited the sergeant from Full Metal Jacket to be the line judge, always yelling "FAULT!!" at the top of his lungs! I love to imitate that guy during matches just to annoy my friends. Top Spin 3's options are pretty thin. There are a few big name players (Federer, Roddick, Sharapova), and some legends (Borg, Becker), but Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters are missing. There's no create-a-player option, and the "party games" are simply round-robin tournaments. The career mode is fun, but some tournaments require you to play several lengthy matches and you can't save your progress between matches! Ugh! The soundtrack includes some upbeat tunes from Boys Like Girls and Franz Ferdinand, and the bouncy pop number by "The Go Team" is pretty infectious. Top Spin 3 is a little rough around the edges, but it's the closest thing to playing real tennis in a video game. 2K Sports hasn't perfected the art, but this is a step in the right direction. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Trackmania: Build to Race
Grade: A-
Publisher: CI Games (2011)
Reviewed: 2013/12/26
Rating: Everyone

screenshotFor those of you weary of modern racers with realistic tracks and endless laps, Trackmania feels like a breath of fresh air. With quick races, bright graphics, and instantly-gratifying gameplay, this has "arcade" written all over it. The sense of speed is impressive as you navigate banked turns, tunnels, loops, ramps, and corkscrews. To compare these amazing tracks to roller coasters would probably be a disservice, because they are far more spectacular. The races are typically under 30 seconds long! In the single-player mode you'll race against ghost cars, and that's a good idea because they help you gauge your progress without having to worry about bumping into them. The controls are extremely responsive. Physics does play a role, but you can turn on a dime and the collision detection is forgiving. I only wish the camera angle didn't reverse when you put your car into reverse, which is confusing (why do racing games do that?!). Several control schemes are available, and the game automatically recognizes the one you are using. Earning medals on all the tracks is fun, although frequent set-up and load screens tend to interrupt the flow. Each set of tracks is set in a different climate, and the quality of the graphics is surprising. The snow tracks made me feel like I was at a ski resort, and racing the coastal tracks is like cruising around on a bright summer day. Complementing the fun visuals is a really fantastic soundtrack. The light, breezy tunes embody a number of different musical styles, but they all tend to be catchy and appealing. Unlocking new tracks is addictive, but when you're ready for a real challenge, try the platform mode which is like a high-speed obstacle course. Did I mention there is also a robust track editor that lets you build and save your own tracks? There's also a puzzle mode that will test both your editing and racing skills. The multi-player split-screen mode works great, but if one player has any knowledge of the track layouts they will blow everyone else away. I'm glad someone brought Trackmania to my attention, because it's one of the most enjoyable games I've played on the Wii system. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Ultimate Band
Grade: B+
Publisher: Disney (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/12/13
Rating: 1 to 4 players

screenshotIf you can look past the cheesy title and juvenile box cover, you're in for a pleasant surprise. It's hard to believe, but Ultimate Band is what Wii Music should have been! This game does a fantastic job of mimicking guitar, bass, drums, and even the "front man" role using the Wii-mote and nun-chuck. This is one of the few third-party titles that properly harness the Wii's unique controls. Each instrument has its own "track" with intuitive movement indicators moving across it. The guitar and bass have a "Guitar Hero light" flavor, as the nun-chuck acts as the neck of the guitar and you strum with the Wii-mote. The nun-chuck's buttons function as frets, and when using the bass you tilt the nun-chuck to adjust the pitch. The drums (my favorite) are an absolute blast, and it really does feel like you're playing drums! I love how you move your controllers sideways to effortlessly hit your cymbals. As the front man, you don't sing (thank goodness) but instead position the controllers to mimic punches, claps, or poses. You clap by moving the controllers toward each other, and it's satisfying to hear a crisp clap sound emanate from the controller speaker. The controls are forgiving, but not too forgiving. My one beef is with the gratuitous "twirl" movements you're asked to perform every so often, as they tend to be hard on the arms. Of course, a music game is only as good as its music, and I loved Ultimate Band's selection of upbeat pop tunes which include Whip It (Devo), Beverly Hills (Weezer), Fell In Love With a Girl (The White Stripes), I Want You to Want Me (Cheap Trick), Our Time Now (Plain White T's), and Just What I Needed (The Cars). The songs are short and fun to play along to, and I felt compelled to stand up while playing them. You can even work up a sweat at the higher levels. The songs are all covers, and although they are performed well, hearing a guy sing "Complicated" or "Let's Get This Party Started" doesn't seem right. The graphics take a back seat to the audio, but I enjoyed the colorful venues which include a bar with a pirate's cove theme. Ultimate Band is aimed at the younger demographic, but I really enjoyed working my way through the story mode and jamming with friends. If you don't have the cash (or room) for a Rock Band set-up, Ultimate Band might just be a viable alternative. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Ultimate Shooting Collection
Grade: F
Publisher: UFO (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/7/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSomeone had a lot of gall to name this Ultimate Shooting Collection. It's a compilation of three sub-par vertical shooters, two originally released for the Dreamcast and another for the GameCube (Chaos Field). Even had this been called "Marginal Shooting Collection", it still would have struggled to live up to its name! Hey, I crave 2D shooters as much as the next guy, but it's hard to get excited about these clunkers, partly because they're so weird! Karous tries to be artistic with its understated, cell-shaded visuals, but it comes off as bland and repetitive. The screen is cluttered with too many confusing gauges and indicators. You control a black bird that fires rapidly but is also armed with a close-range "sword" and a not-so-special attack. Bottom line: Karous is boring! The next title, Radio Allergy (aka Radirgy) makes better use of cell-shaded graphics, with colorful, interesting stages that include lush parks and city streets. Its gameplay isn't much better than Karous, though. Of the three selectable weapons, only the "wide shot" is effective. Enemies are generic floating machines that leave tons of icons in their wake. These icons have random pictures on them like an ice cream cone, a banana, or a pair of flip-flops. I have no idea what that's all about. Whenever you shoot anything, little blue squares float over to the "Abuzo network gauge" on the lower left of the screen, and it's terribly distracting. I also dislike how you can shoot down most - but not all - incoming projectiles. It's a confusing mess. Chaos Field is the last entry, and while it looks better (it consumes the entire screen), it's probably the worst of the bunch. This ill-conceived shooter combines two terrible concepts. The first is the idea of using a "sword" as a windshield wiper to "wipe away" incoming projectiles. Alternating between shooting and wiping is beyond tedious - it's painful! Worse yet, the game is nothing but one boss encounter after the next. Yes, I'm talking about those giant, boring bosses which stick around for 15 minutes while periodically dispersing ridiculous barrages of projectiles. You'll have a perfectly miserable time wearing down each one. The options are minimal, but an option to adjust the display would have been nice so I could shift the screen down to see my score! Ultimate Shooting Collection is just plain bad, but its deceptive packaging (featuring two fighter jets) is the final straw. It just proves the old adage: three wrongs don't make a right! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Wario Ware Smooth Moves
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/8/26
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSmooth Moves mimics the formula of the insanely popular Wario Ware games for the Nintendo handheld systems, but isn't quite as much fun. As with all Wario Ware games, each stage begins with an animated introductory sequence. Depending on your personality (and attention span), these cartoons will either endear themselves to you or try your patience. Once the action begins, you're presented with a quick succession of brief mini-games. And when I say brief - I mean brief - we're talking a few seconds each! Before each game you're advised on how to hold the Wii-mote. There are dozens of these "forms", including the umbrella (hold straight up), elephant (hold out from the nose), sword (hold by side), waiter (hold on palm), and discard (set flat on a table so it can be picked up). These forms are gradually introduced by a slow, mellow, deep male voice using hilarious wordy descriptions that almost sound suggestive in tone. That's the type of weird, offbeat sense of humor that pervades the entire game. Half the fun of playing these rapid-fire mini-games is quickly figuring out what you need to do. Most involve simple movements, like shaving whiskers, sinking a pool ball, answering a phone, trimming fingernails, jumping rope, scrubbing a cow's butt, or shaking up a bottle of champagne. Sometimes you won't realize what you need to do until the game is over, and sometimes you'll accidentally win without knowing what's going on. Completing stages unlocks more challenges, and you can always replay old stages, which become tougher as you progress. A few "bonus" mini-games let you shoot targets, balance blocks, or hit a ball with a paddle, but it didn't find these to be any fun at all. One big drawback of Smooth Moves is the fact that it's one-player only, although it can be fun to take turns and watch your friends make fools of themselves. Smooth Moves is tough to rate. I really appreciate its crazy humor and fantastic sense of imagination, but the game is only fun in short spurts, and I tired of it quickly. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Warioland Shake It!
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (2008)
Reviewed: 2011/4/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhy did this game sit on my shelf for a year before I finally reviewed it? Could it be because Wario is such an ugly, conniving bastard? Let's face it, this guy is always going to be a side-show freak until he cleans up his act! As if his constant snickering and diabolical schemes aren't bad enough, he's picking his nose in the opening cut scene! Also hurting the game is the "Shake It" title which suggests a lot of mindless controller waving at the expense of real gameplay. But as unappealing as it may seem, this game packs some good old-fashioned 2D fun. Shaking the controller does play a role, but it's not nearly as annoying as it could have been! The game's distinctive graphics look like something from an old Saturday morning cartoon show. The foreground is quite sharp and detailed, but the distant backgrounds have a softer appearance that sets them apart. The short stages take you through Aztec ruins, Egyptian pyramids, savannahs, volcanoes, and pirate ships. To reach the end of each stage you'll shoulder-charge enemies, leap between platforms, and use whiz-bang contraptions. You get all the standard platform elements (spiked pits, breakable blocks, hidden switches), but Warioland has a few surprises up its sleeve. Each stage features a unique challenge like riding a unicycle on a tightrope, and there are some imaginative enemies like robots on stilts. There's even a rapid-fire submarine stage. When you shake the controller Wario performs a ground-pound move that will daze enemies, detonate bombs, and cause movable blocks to rise and fall. When in doubt about what to do next, shake the controller! When holding a sack of money, shaking will empty it, causing coins to rain out. While it might seem a little tedious, it's always satisfying to scoop up those coins. Tilting the Wii-mote lets you aim cannons and throw objects with precision. Some stages can be a little tedious, and those pesky diving birds are a pain in the butt. Upon reaching the end of a stage you then must race back to the beginning as a clock counts down. It's not as bad as it sounds because short cuts tend to open up on your way back. In general the gameplay is pleasant and a jazzy musical score gives it a laid-back feel. Warioland Shake It isn't spectacular but it's not a bad way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon. But seriously Wario, you need to get your [expletive] together! © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


We Ski
Grade: C+
Publisher: Namco (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/2/28
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAt first I pegged We Ski as a cheap attempt to cash in on Nintendo's hugely popular balance board (sold with Wii Fit). The "Ski School" tutorial makes a lousy first impression. It doesn't seem aware of the balance board, and the complexity of the controls is excessive. The skiing in Wii Fit required no explanation at all, so why does We Ski have an hour long tutorial? Do we really need to learn sidestepping or snow plowing to play this game? I had one hell of a time figuring out how to crouch (tuck). All you need to do is curl your wrists in, but the manual's misleading diagram suggests some type of crazy arm movement. The manual could also use a quick reference for "air tricks", because they are hard to remember. After getting past the initial frustration however, I gradually began to appreciate We Ski. The friendly graphics, pleasant music, and support for Mii characters makes it feel like a close cousin of Wii Sports (Nintendo, 2006). After you get into the rhythm of the game, it's quite enjoyable. The sense of speed is decent, and leaning into turns using the balance board feels realistic. If you don't own the balance board, don't worry, because leaning by tilting the controllers works great too. We Ski features one mountain with a wide variety of well-manicured slopes. The scenery is so bright and inviting that I even enjoyed sight-seeing while riding the lifts! Progressively difficult challenges become available as you progress, and while some are great fun (racing, slalom), others border on tedious (like the find-Waldo style people searches). The bouncy soundtrack is sprinkled with classic game sounds, which really adds to the upbeat tone of the game. Also nice is the ability to night ski or play a four-player split-screen. It takes a while to warm up to, but I like how We Ski conveys the sensation of actual skiing while maintaining the spirit of a light-hearted arcade game. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


We Ski and Snowboard
Grade: B
Publisher: Namco (2010)
Reviewed: 2011/2/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe original We Ski was fun but limited in scope. This fine sequel expands the concept in a number of ways, beginning with the option of using a snowboard. The game was designed with the Wii Balance Board in mind, and I personally wouldn't want to play it any other way. As in the first game, the balance board is only used to steer - not control your speed. Still, We Ski and Snowboard effectively conveys the feeling of gliding down the slopes as you lean from side to side. When I'm in a groove and trying to avoid a group of slow skiers in my path, it feels just like the real thing! In snowboard mode you stand sideways on the board, and it's a little more conducive to performing tricks and grinds. The controls are probably more complicated than they really should be, and the "school mode" is really time-consuming. Why couldn't they just list the controls in the manual? But no, instead they include worthless diagrams showing where the A button is. Who can't figure that out? The tricks tutorial expects you to remember too much, but fortunately you don't need to know them all to enjoy the game. The main mode places you in a realistic ski resort, complete with working chair lifts, lodges, and restaurants. With the muffled music and hundreds of skiers milling around, it's quite immersive. The graphics are simple but inviting with smooth powdery slopes and scenic backdrops. I enjoyed checking out the scenery while riding the lifts, and I kind of wish you could enter the lodge and restaurants. By speaking to people with bubbles over their heads you can enter challenges or run various errands - usually of the "deliver this" or "find that" variety. There's a ton of stuff to do, but with all the quests and trick-related challenges, it can be hard to find a normal race event. Personally I found the game was most enjoyable when I was casually exploring the various trails. The runs are well designed with all sorts of interesting features like bridges, ramps, and caves. Although the main trails are clearly defined you're free to head off the beaten path and take shortcuts through the woods. The sound effects are crisp and clear, providing excellent audio feedback of slicing through soft powder or scraping ice. If you want to take a break from the crowds, a separate mode lets you explore a giant mountain with undisturbed natural scenery. This is where you can do some "extreme" skiing action, and you can even work up a sweat if you really get into it. We Ski and Snowboard is the ideal winter game, and probably the next best thing when you can't get out to the real slopes. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Wii Fit
Grade: B
Publisher: Nintendo (2008)
Reviewed: 2010/7/30
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhile Sony and Microsoft are trying to nickel-and-dime gamers on-line, Nintendo comes up with innovative concepts with universal appeal. Wii Fit is Nintendo's response to reports that everyone is getting too damn fat. Obesity is especially harmful to kids, and video games have become the scapegoat de jour. Wii Fit does the unthinkable - it makes exercising fun! The included balance board controller has a surprising number of applications. It's extremely accurate at determining your body position and doubles as a scale. Wii Fit encourages exercise on a daily basis, and each session begins with a quick body test to calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index). From there, you can select from a wide variety of yoga, strength training, aerobic, and balance game exercises. Yoga focuses on balance as you assume and hold a series of tricky poses like the half-moon, palm tree, and triangle. Strength training incorporates more conventional exercises like push-ups, lunges, and squats. Aerobics features heart-pumping hula-hoop, boxing, and jogging exercises. The jogging is interesting because it doesn't use the board at all. You simply jog in place while holding the Wii-mote, and beautiful island scenery makes the time pass quickly. Last but not least, there are the balance games, which provide the most fun. The slalom skiing game is so enjoyable it could practically stand on it's own! I also had fun with the soccer heading, snowboarding, ski-jump, and table tilt games. Wii Fit may provide a less vigorous workout than weights or a treadmill, but the entertainment value makes it easier to stick to your regimen. I try to clock at least 30 minutes a day, and the minutes just fly by! Making it all the more addictive is the fact that you're scored after each exercise, and it's fun to top your personal best and unlock new exercises along the way. If I had one reservation, it's the need to hold the Wii-mote in one hand the entire time, which can throw your balance off ever so slightly. I was skeptical of Wii Fit but now I'm hooked. It may not produce dramatic results, but anything that keeps gamers focused on their health has got to be a good thing. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Wii Fit Plus
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2009)
Reviewed: 2010/7/31
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI might have been a little generous with the first Wii Fit game, which was fairly limited in terms of long-term replay value. Plus is an expansion pack of sorts that expands the scope of Wii Fit, helping it live up to its promise. First of all, Plus lets you set goals, which is a pretty big deal. When you see your line on the graph progressively moving toward the goal you set, it gives you an extra boost of incentive. Wii Fit Plus evaluates you on more factors (including stillness and judgment), and keeps you updated on the number of calories you burn throughout your workout. Additional yoga and strength exercises have been added, but let's face it - it's the mini-games that people are truly interested in. There are about 10 new entries that offer an excellent blend of exercise and fun. Rhythmic Kung Fu is my personal favorite, letting you mimic Miis on the screen as they bust out timed kicks and punches. The cycling is similar to running, except you pedal by stepping on the board. Marching Band is a great idea, but lasts too long and wears out its welcome. The golf driving range isn't physically demanding, but I was impressed with its realism. You must stand on the balance board while swinging, but unfortunately the board's short length will force you to narrow your stance a bit. Still, when I used my natural golf swing I hit the ball well and the game recognized me as a golfer. The Segway game is interesting as you ride around a beach while popping balloons. Some of the more usual games let you fly by flapping your arms, or juggle while balancing on a ball! The biggest disappointment is probably the skateboarding, which tends to be awkward and frustrating. Plus also expands on some old favorites including the table tilt, bubble balance, and basic run. I'm not convinced Wii Fit Plus is intense enough to serve as a stand-alone exercise routine, but I think it's a fine supplement to a regular workout routine - if only to monitor your progress. You'll come for the fitness but stay for the fun. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Wii Music
Grade: F
Publisher: Nintendo (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/12/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotFor those of you who think the VGC is on Nintendo's payroll, let me put your mind at ease by explaining how Wii Music absolutely sucks! Despite boasting the same friendly interface that made Wii Sports and Wii Fit so popular, Wii Music comes off as pointless and dull. The crux of the game involves "jamming" with friends or CPU-controlled characters. There are dozens of instruments to select from, but they all fall into four basic categories: guitar, percussion, horn, and violin. You hold each instrument similar to how you would in real life, and playing involves shaking or pressing buttons to the beat. The actual notes are played automatically, so your control is limited. You can sometimes improvise by squeezing in some extra notes, but that usually sounds bad. Wii Music is an example of Wii motion controls at their worst. They are so loose and semi-automated that you never really feel as if you're playing an instrument. There's little satisfaction to be had, and the boredom sets in quickly. The "jam sessions" are pointless, and the three game variations are weak. Mii Maestro lets you conduct an orchestra, but all you do is move the wand up and down. Handbell Harmony lets you ring bells to a melody, but unless you have a group of people to play with, it's pretty shallow. Perfect Pitch is a series of music puzzles that require you to arrange notes by pitch or determine which instrument is out of tune. It's about as enjoyable as a multiple-choice test. The song selection isn't anything to write home about, and having to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star throughout the extended intro is absolute torture. Sure you get "Zelda" and some familiar classical tunes, but when "Do Re Mi" is one of the better songs, you're in some serious trouble. I was confounded by the fact that Wii Music offers so many options for replaying performances or saving them as "music videos". Sitting through them once is bad enough! After an impromptu jam session, I asked my friend Steve for his thoughts on Wii Music, and his response was simply "Burn it." © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Wii Play
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/5/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotLike Wii Sports, Wii Play offers a collection of quick, easy-to-play mini-games best enjoyed head-to-head. The first game, Shooting Range (C), is a dead ringer for Duck Hunt, but instead of ducks, you're blasting targets, UFOs, and tin cans. It's not great, but if nothing else it demonstrates how well the Wii could handle a light gun title. In the next game, Find Mii (D), you locate faces in a crowd, but I didn't find its "find Waldo" style of play the least bit appealing. Table Tennis (C-) seems to have potential, but the limited, side-to-side movement of your paddle makes it feel like Pong with fancy graphics. In Pose Mii (D), you twist and contort your Mii into various positions to fit into floating shapes. It's shallow fun, but gets old in a hurry. Laser Hockey (C+) plays like air hockey, but its graphics are rendered in a neon light motif that makes it look a lot more compelling than it really is. Billiards (A-) is my personal favorite, offering a modified version of 9-ball where you score based on the number on the balls that you sink. Whether playing solo or against a friend, the pinpoint controls and close-up "windows" make it a pleasure to run the table. You'd think Fishing (F) would be a real treat, but its execution is extremely poor. Not only does the game insist you sit very close to the TV (or else a message blocks your view), but the rod control doesn't feel natural at all. "Charge" (C+) is hands-down the best cow racing game I've ever played. By tilting your controller you ram your charging bovine into scarecrows and leap over barriers. At first glance, Tanks (B-) resembles the classic "Tank Pong" variations of Combat (Atari 2600, 1977), but instead of shooting each other, the goal is to shoot more enemy tanks that your opponent. I was pretty psyched up about Tanks at first, but I think this game missed the mark. There is some enjoyment to be had with Wii Play, but the fun is fleeting. The most compelling aspect of this package is the free controller included with it. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Wii Sports
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/5/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotHas there ever been a better pack-in game than Wii Sports? This phenomenal title appeals to kids, senior citizens, and everyone in between. Its five sports included are played by mimicking the natural movements you would perform while playing the actual sport. Whether you're pitching a baseball, swinging a golf club, and rolling a bowling ball, the controls are responsive and intuitive. It's not necessary to make large, exaggerated movements (a flick of the wrist will suffice), but it's usually more fun. Wii Sport's graphics are extremely simplistic, with cartoonish characters that lack arms and legs. Still, the minimal visuals have a certain charm. Bowling (A) may be the most fully realized game in the package, with excellent controls and pins that bounce around realistically. The most challenging game is Golf (B+). Although there are only nine holes, they look gorgeous, and I love how I can use my actual golf swing to play this game! Putting can be problematic however, with controls that sometimes feel unresponsive. A scaled down version of Baseball (C+) is the weakest entry of the package. Contests are limited to three-innings, and everything is CPU-controlled except pitching and batting. Swinging the bat feels terrific, but there are far too many foul balls. Boxing (B) can provide a genuine workout as you use the nun-chuck attachment to control both hands of your boxer. The semi-transparent fighters call to mind the Punch Out arcade game (1985). Although the animation rarely keeps up with your hands, the punches land with impact and the action is intense. Tennis (A) is the highlight of Wii Sports. Your player moves automatically, but your ability to aim the ball and apply spin provides all the control you need. All five games offer tremendous replay value, but don't dismiss the training and fitness modes. The training mode amounts to a collection of awesome mini-games, which include hitting a golf ball onto a large bulls-eye, or bowling into a rack of 100 pins! The fitness mode measures you physical skill much like Brain Age (Nintendo DS, 2006) measures your mental skill. A few option menus would have been nice (like the ability to turn off the instant replays), but overall Wii Sports packs a wallop. When playing solo, the games adjust to your skill level, and in terms of multiplayer action, this is the ultimate party starter. Load times are negligible and your progress is saved automatically. If you're thinking about buying a Wii, Wii Sports is all the reason you need. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Wii Sports Resort
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/9/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAs a worthy follow-up to Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort offers a variety of fun-in-the-sun mini-games. Not only are these fun to play with friends, but they also pack substantial replay value for the solo player. The first event is Swordplay (grade: B-), which is probably the most highly anticipated. Each player wields a sword with precision, and the B button is used to alternate between attack and defense poses. Playing a friend is undeniably fun, despite the fact that contests usually degenerate into mindless beat-downs. Wakeboarding (B) offers simple fun as you steer your water-skier from side-to-side, jerking the controller to jump off the boat's wake. Tricks are performed in the air automatically, but you'll need to focus on the landing. In Frisbee (A+) you throw a disc to a dog on a beach while trying to hit a particular target. The smooth throwing controls work like magic, and the game is extremely fun. Frisbee golf is also an option, and it's equally outstanding. Archery (A-) is another winner. The controls mimic the act of pulling a bow, and the accuracy of the Wii-Motion plus is quite evident. This compares very favorably to the time-consuming archery events in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (Sega, 2007). Basketball (B) features a three-on-three pick-up game and a three-point shooting contest. The semi-automated pick-up game is confusing, but the three-point contest features excellent, natural shooting controls. I've played Table Tennis (A) video games before, but none as simple or intuitive as this one. The manner in which you can apply spin is uncanny, and I love the short-but-sweet matches. Golf (C+) is reprised from the first Wii Sports, and it's a bit of a letdown. The controls are somewhat awkward and touchy, and only nine new holes are included. Bowling (A+) makes a truimphant return, and it's much more challenging this time. A new "spin challenge" mode places moving barriers in the lane, and the 100-pin rack is now available as a normal event. Power Cruising (B+) offers jet-ski action similar to Wave Race Blue Storm (GameCube, 2001) except you're racing the clock as you weave through gates. I like how you hold the two controllers as if they were handle bars. Canoeing (C-) is one of the least fun events, and its repetitive, physical nature would probably be more appropriate for Wii Fit. Likewise, cycling (D) feels like a chore as you alternate the controllers up and down to simulate pedaling. Air Sports (B) offers several flying events, inlcuding one which lets you buzz the entire island in a plane while collecting icons and shooting balloons. Overall, Wii Sports Resort offers amazing playability and competitive fun for all ages. Wii Sports was a landmark title, but this sequel surpasses it easily. NOTE: Wii Sports Resort includes one Wii-Motion Plus controller attachment, and this accessory is required to play. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Grade: C+
Publisher: Capcom (2007)
Reviewed: 2008/7/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMost gamers don't know about Zack and Wiki, but those who do tend to crow about it. The star of this "point and click" adventure is a boy pirate named Zack, and Wiki is his obligatory cute animal sidekick (like we haven't seen that before!) Although rendered in a kiddie style, the colorful visuals are a lot of fun. I especially love the lush, overgrown Indiana Jones-style ruins. The musical score is also impressive, effectively adding a layer of drama and suspense. Each of the small, self-contained stages contains a treasure chest which can only be reached by solving a series of interlocking puzzles. Normal objects like umbrellas are used in ingenious ways, and animals can be magically transformed into other useful tools like a saw or flute. A star-shaped pointer is used to move Zack to a spot or interact with an object. It's fun to grab items this way, but guiding Zack up steps and around obstacles can be pretty tedious. Wii-mote motions are used to make the action more immersive. You'll shake the Wii-mote to ring a bell, make sawing movements to cut down a tree, and carefully rotate the controller to insert a puzzle piece into place. Zack and Wiki is at its best when the action is slow and deliberate, but when required to react quickly, the controls seem to lag a bit. The cleverly-designed stages incorporate some ingenious concepts. For example, in one snow stage you shake a tree to dump snow and cover your tracks to keep the "Ice Keeper" off your tail. Sometimes you can trigger elaborate chain reactions that are fun to watch. Each stage is satisfying to complete, but the challenge ramps sharply, and the potential for frustration is high. Cerebral gamers will become obsessed with this game, but others will find themselves hitting brick walls. Trial and error is necessary at times, forcing you to repeat tedious tasks. Another turn-off is the extended intro. Not only do you have to page through endless text, but there's usually only three or four words on the screen at a time! "No! [A button]They're shooting us! [A button] Uh-oh! [A button]" etc. It doesn't help that the high-pitched Japanese dialogue sounds like baby talk! The game has an auto-save feature, but I wish there was some kind of visible indicator on the screen. Zack and Wiki is a unique title for patient gamers looking for a thought-provoking challenge. If that describes you, bump up the score by one letter. Others should proceed with caution. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 



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