Wii Reviews E-F

Elebits
Grade: B
Publisher: Konami (2006)
Reviewed: 2019/5/21
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDespite its puzzle-sounding name Elebits plays more like a virtual game of hide-and-seek. The idea is to draw out little critters from the rooms of a typical household and suck them up before time runs out. The diminutive Elebit creatures look a lot like Pikmin (GameCube, 2001) - right down to the leaf on their heads!

The game is played from a first-person perspective as you scour each room using motion controls to open cabinets, slide drawers, move boxes, and turn handles. I'd recommend skipping the tutorials which break down every simple action into a series of tedious steps. You'll figure it out. The natural motion controls are well-suited to the Wii, but as you might guess they can be a little clumsy. I hate how when you open a door its momentum can cause it to slam shut again. Optional actions like inserting a disc in the DVD player are too difficult to bother with.

Each 10 to 15 minute stage has a voyeuristic feel as you rifle though other people's belongings. Elebits can be found hiding under just about everything! To collect them you "zap" them by aiming a cursor. Switching on appliances like vacuums and ovens is especially fun because it causes Elebits to pour out by the dozen! It's also fun to methodically pluck them out of their hiding spots in closets and under beds.

The more Elebits you collect the stronger your "ray gun", and by the time you're fully-powered you'll be tossing around large pieces of furniture. This sense of escalation gives the game a Katamari Damacy (PS2, 2004) flavor. To discourage the player from simply trashing every room, certain stages place restrictions on the number of objects you can break or how much noise you can make.

One unnecessary feature are the purple spikes that attack you in advanced stages. It's hard to tell when you're taking damage and frankly the time limit provides more than enough challenge. Overall the game is satisfying and habit-forming, with plenty of unlockables and even a two-player mode. Elebits is a true Wii original which frankly would not have worked well on any other system. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Endless Ocean
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/8/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI think I just discovered the perfect game for old people! Endless Ocean is slow and plodding, with no elements of challenge or danger. As a bonus, the game features a lot of tranquil songs that would make Celine Dion proud. I can understand why Nintendo would want to offer a gentle, educational title for the Wii, but did they really have to make it so boring?

As a fan of undersea documentaries, I was totally psyched up for some deep-sea exploration, but Endless Ocean feels entirely too scripted. You play a diver on a boat in the South Pacific, accompanied by a very unattractive woman scientist. I find it a little ironic how this woman yammers away about "loving the outdoors" and "never wanting to work in an office", yet the first thing she tells you to do is go into the cabin to check your email! Email?! I bought this game to experience the magic of the sea, not to weed through newsletters and spam!

And that's not the only contradiction in this game. The title would seem to imply boundless exploration possibilities, yet the dive areas are quite constrained and your activities seem regimented. Expect to see this message a lot: "You're leaving the target dive area. You must go back". The underwater graphics are semi-realistic, but not impressive. Instead of expansive true-to-life environments, you get a lot of artificial gorges that lead you by the nose to your next objective. Educational details are provided about fish you discover, but only if you feed them or fondle them repeatedly.

Beautiful, serene music plays throughout the game, making it feel surreal at times. Staying awake can be a problem though. Occasionally you'll encounter something interesting like a whale or hammerhead shark, but when I tried to harass the shark, he completely ignored me! Where's the realism!? I just wanted to be eaten alive - is that asking too much?! Since you can't be devoured by sharks, Endless Ocean is a colossal waste of time. Did I learn anything? Only that the ocean is very small, and sharks are not dangerous. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Epic Mickey
Grade: C+
Publisher: Disney (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/12/29
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI have fond memories of playing Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis, 1990) back in the day. That game charmed players with its surreal visuals, easy gameplay, and frequent surprises. I was hoping Epic Mickey would rekindle the magic, but it left me feeling a little empty.

After an exciting intro in which Mickey is strapped to a table with scissors, a drill, and a chainsaw hovering above, the game soon settles into a predictable pattern of alternating 2D and 3D stages. The 2D side-scrolling stages are short and sweet, effectively placing you in vintage Disney shorts such as Steamboat Willie, Mickey and the Beanstalk, Clock Cleaners, and Lonesome Ghosts. Although not particularly difficult or inventive, these are a visual treat.

The 3D areas tend to be inspired by theme park attractions like Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and It's a Small World. Sadly, they tend to look unattractive and are dominated by rivers of ugly green paint thinner. You can roam freely as you solve puzzles, collect items, and run errands for generic characters milling around. Some errands are a little tedious (take this book to so-and-so), but most of the puzzles aren't bad because they have multiple solutions. Locating key items is no problem because the stages are relatively small, but the treasure-hunting element is watered down by the fact that collectable items are everywhere.

Epic Mickey has one killer gimmick, and that's your ability to "paint" items by hosing them down from a distance. This opens a world of possibilities as you can create your own bridge or fire up a machine by "painting" its missing gear. Likewise you can use paint thinner to remove obstacles, vanquish enemies, or erase walls to reveal secret areas. Sometimes the two actions work in tandem, allowing you to solve some intricate puzzles.

While cool in concept, it's also surprisingly non-intuitive! You really need to experiment to determine what scenery is and isn't affected. Fighting enemies by hosing them down is time-consuming and unsatisfying. But Epic Mickey's biggest flaw is its abysmal camera system. It's often hard to see where you're headed, and aiming your paint is also problematic. The structure of the game is confusing as well, as you'll get half way through a 3D area only to be whisked away to an unrelated 2D stage. Various stages and cut-scenes employ a hodgepodge of visual styles that make the game feel like a disjointed effort. I got the impression that this was produced by some very talented people who never talked to each other.

Despite its flaws Epic Mickey is still engaging - at least for the first few hours. There are glimmers of Disney magic as you find yourself hopping across clouds, gliding on musical notes, or having flashbacks to your childhood. The easy difficulty and short stages mean you'll rarely get stuck and your progress is frequently saved. The orchestrated musical score is first-rate, and thank goodness the characters do not have voices. Epic Mickey is a big game, but it's not epic, and in my opinion is less than the sum of its parts. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Excite Truck
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/5/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt would be difficult to find a more entertaining off-road racer than Excite Truck. MotorStorm (Playstation 3, 2007) comes to mind, but while that game looks substantially better than Excite Truck, when it comes to fun, there is no comparison.

Easy to play and visually over-the-top, Excite Truck races are blindingly fast with a half-way-out-of-control flavor that's quite thrilling. There are plenty of natural ramps, and the degree of "air" you can catch is unprecedented. One remarkable feature is the ability of certain icons to reshape the geography, morphing low roads into rivers, and hills into mountains. It looks absolutely stunning, especially the first time you witness it.

Steering is performed by tilting the controller, which feels surprisingly natural once you get the hang of it. The directional pad is used to activate your turbo boost, and using too much at a time will overheat your engine. You'll want to use your turbo sparingly, except when in water, where your car can't overheat! You also earn stars in each race by executing power slides, catching big air, flying through rings, and other stunts.

Excite Truck's graphics are modest - even pixelated at times - but the smooth frame rate and the impressive distance you can see ahead (especially when high in the air) makes the lack of detail practically irrelevant. Unlike MotorStorm, the load times are brief and the races are reasonably short.

The single player mode rewards you with a steady stream of unlockables, and the split-screen is fantastic, even without the option of CPU opponents. In terms of audio, I opted to turn down the frenetic guitar music, but it certainly fits with the spirit of the game. Living up to its name, Excite Truck is easy to pick up but hard to put down. For new Wii owners this is pretty much a "must have". © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Excitebots: Trick Racing
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/5/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Wii is a strange animal. Many Wii games struggle to incorporate motion control, but when done right, the result can be incredibly fun. Excitebots fits the Wii like a glove. How long has it been since a Wii game made my arm sore? Too long!

Exitebots is really a sequel to Excite Truck (Nintendo, 2006), and to be frank, the code is probably 80% the same. In this fast and furious racer you view the action from behind your robot which is shaped like an animal (or bug) with wheels on its feet. They look pretty awesome and have a "Transformers" (the movie) quality about them. There's a frog, a ladybug, a grasshopper, a praying mantis, and a bat just to name a few. As you careen through off-road courses, you'll fly off ramps, perform mid-air tricks, and make heavy use of turbo.

The basic formula has Excite Truck written all over it, but Excitebots ups the ante with crazy gimmicks and goofy weapons. There are bars you latch onto that spin you around before launching you into the air. There are rails you can grind. There are bowling pins in the road and soccer balls to knock into goals. One power-up lets your robot scamper on two legs, and this looks hilarious but can be hard to control (mine would always veer to one side). In a lesser game these gimmicks would get in the way, but in Excitebots they complement the action perfectly. Motion controls are seamlessly incorporated into the steering, bar swings, and crash recoveries, forcing you to become physically involved.

Collecting stars is a lot of fun, although they are awarded far too liberally. Hell, you even get one for crashing. The motion sensitivity can be a little erratic (par for the course), giving the controls a decidedly "loose" feel. I really wish the tracks didn't revisit the same locations as Excite Truck including Fuji, Canada, Scotland, and Mexico.

At least the techno soundtrack is less grating than Excite Truck's guitar riffs. The theme song is outstanding, but some of the more quirky tunes can get annoying. The graphics are bright and inviting, and the game has an addictive, pick-up-and-play quality. Sometimes it takes a game like Exitebots to remind you that video games are supposed to be fun. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Grade: F
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/7/22
Rating: Teen (fantasy violence)

screenshotMy experience playing Fantastic 4 with a group of friends was one I'll not soon forget. It captured such a wide range of human emotion, including excitement, apprehension, disenchantment, denial, frustration, anger, disgust, dejection, misery, and finally euphoria (when I took the damn thing out). The graphics look rough compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, but since the Wii is all about gameplay, who cares about the graphics, right?

Fantastic 4's brief tutorial explains how to add "oomph" to your attacks by swinging the controllers downward, executing drum-rolls, or crossing them over. I like how the game doesn't depend on the motion controls, but they still play a key role. Once thrust into the generic cave environments of the first stage, my friends and I proceeded to beat the living crap out of gangs of purple aliens and generic machines lining each wall. There's a lot of action on the screen, but it's hard to tell what's going on amid the button-pounding chaos, and the frame rate is terribly erratic.

The endless rooms and corridors all look the same, and the missions are as repetitive as they are mindless ("destroy four more reactors"). Fast forward about 45 minutes, and guess what we're doing? That's right, we're still busting up the same machines and beating the crap out of regenerating purple goons. At one point even the Invisible Woman in the game bellyaches about having to destroy yet another reactor! I kept assuring my friends that the boss was "right around the next corner", but that was just wishful thinking. The stage just kept going, inflicting upon us a degree of monotony we had not known. When my friend Scott advised "Dave, your energy is almost gone", my subdued response was "I don't care if I live or die."

Fantastic 4 is bad on so many levels. At certain points it's necessary for the Invisible Woman to use an energy ball to destroy a target that's barely even visible on the far edge of the screen! As you accumulate new motion-controlled attacks, there's no way you can remember them all. You're forced to sit through some painfully cheesy dialogue. Does Fantastic 4 have anything going for it? "I like the loading screen," chimed in my friend Scott. "Only because it means we're not playing the game!" Jonathan countered. Before leaving my house, Scott actually offered to send this game back to the publisher for me (overnight express no less) just to ensure he would never be asked to play it again. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Fishing Master World Tour
Grade: C
Publisher: Hudson (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/9/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSince Sega Bass Fishing made a splash on the Dreamcast in 1999, every fishing game has been pretty much the same. You select a bait, wave your arm to cast, and fight fish by swinging the controller when prompted. Fishing Master is no different, except the difficulty is extremely low.

Sporting bright graphics and arcade-style gameplay, it's ideal for gamers with short attention spans. The big, juicy fish are clearly visible in the water, often splashing around on the surface. The game prompts you to "pull up!" when you hook a fish, and then guides you through every step of the fight, including "stop reeling!" Skilled gamers are likely to get annoyed with the excessive hand holding. In my mind, part of the challenge of fishing lies in figuring out what techniques work best for each situation.

Fishing Master's opening stages feel like prolonged tutorials as you bag dumb fish and perform mini "missions" for the captain. New locations, fish, and lures gradually become available, but it takes a while before things get interesting. Hints arrive via email, and while I would usually dock a game for even having an email feature, the messages tend to be short and sweet. In addition to a wide variety of fish, you'll also catch garbage like cans and tires. Your lure selection also includes a few oddball items like a cucumber, magnet, and catcher's mitt! Fishing Master does not save your progress automatically, and you'll really need to hunt for the save game option (hint: look under "records").

Despite its flaws, Fishing Master has its charms. The upbeat music has an old-school vibe, and the bright, crisp graphics are inviting. There are locations from all around the world, and even Detroit looks good! Fishing Master is moderately fun and best played in small doses. For those looking for an action-oriented fishing experience, this is the way to go. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Fishing Resort
Grade: C+
Publisher: Bandai (2011)
Reviewed: 2015/9/6
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMost people like their sports games realistic, but fishing is probably an exception. With real fishing you don't mind sitting on your rump for hours on end. Even if you don't catch anything you feel like you've experienced nature and gotten some fresh air.

Not so with video game fishing. Staring at your television for an hour with no results is just a big waste of time. At first Fishing Resort tested my patience. I struggled mightily to catch anything, and my sudden excitement would be dashed after reeling in a piece of seaweed or driftwood. I like the idea of casting my line with the Wiimote, but there's a pronounced lag. Once the bait is in the water, the waiting game begins.

A radar display shows fish activity but I can't make heads or tails of those blips. When you feel a tug on the line you pull up to hook the fish. You "reel" by moving the nunchuck, but you need to watch your tension. You're sometimes prompted to "angle your rod" to match an icon on the screen. Resort Fishing is a "slow burn" game. Each "game day" is about a half hour - perfect for a single gaming session. Every time I picked up the game I advanced a little further. It actually becomes fairly addictive once you experiment with various lures and locations.

There's a wide variety of fish to catch, and unlike the characters in the game, the fish look authentic. You cash in your catches for points at the end of each day, and the game keeps a detailed diary of your activities. A resort hotel is the hub of the game, allowing you to sign up for events and save your progress. Special tournaments are held on certain days and you can even visit a virtual aquarium. Resort Fishing takes a while to get rolling, but the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Fortune Street
Grade: A-
Publisher: Square Enix (2012)
Reviewed: 2012/6/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDo you like Monopoly? Well, Fortune Street is about a million times better than that. As a kid I always knew Monopoly was too complicated so I would use dumbed-down rules when playing with friends. Fortune Street adopts the exact same philosophy!

Developed by Square Enix and featuring all your favorite Nintendo characters, you know this is a high-quality, family-friendly title. You select from a wide range of board configurations, most of which form a series of loops. Four players take turns buying up properties, upgrading shops, buying out each other, and charging rent. Collecting four "suit" symbols and returning the bank (the starting point) will get you promoted, along with a handsome paycheck. The suit spaces also let you pick a card that affects the game in unpredictable ways (all your properties increase in value, for example).

You win when your overall wealth reaches a certain predetermined level (such as 10,000 GP). Fortune Street is a very well designed game that's incredibly competitive whether playing against friends or CPU opponents (or both). You can also play on-line. The action unfolds slowly but gradually sucks you in. The "easy" variation keeps things simple, and the "standard" variation incorporates the ability to trade stocks (not as hard as it sounds, by the way). The stages feature themes like castles and pirate ships, but those images just serve as backdrops with the boards floating in the sky. Each board offers its own interesting features and strategic possibilities, and some even change configuration on the fly.

The pacing is a little slow with the default settings, but you can customize the options to speed things up. The musical themes are well done but they can wear on you over the course of a game. Keep in mind that some games can last as long as two hours. Even so, time seems to fly when you play Fortune Street. My friend Steve and I missed the entire seventh game of the Stanley Cup because of this! © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Family Friendly Video Games, MobyGames.com, Cheat Code Central