How do you create a sequel to a product that changed the way people think about video games?
In November 2006, Wii Sports — the software packaged with Nintendo's Wii — introduced the U.S. audience to a new way to play. It was a perfect demonstration of the new console, putting the Wii's motion-sensing controls at the service of familiar pastimes like golf and tennis. And it was so easy to pick up and play that people who were once intimidated by video games started Wii bowling leagues.
With more than 45 million copies in circulation, Wii Sports probably has been played by more people than any game in history. A subsequent minigame collection, Wii Play, sold 23 million copies. So Nintendo has high expectations for Wii Sports Resort ($49.99), and there's no reason to think the company will be disappointed.
If you're a fan, you won't be disappointed either. Wii Sports Resort is bigger, boosting the number of events from five to 12. The three sports that have returned (golf and bowling from Wii Sports and table tennis from Wii Play) are sharper, thanks to the new Wii MotionPlus accessory. And the whole package is as lighthearted, fast-paced and accessible as the original.
The package comes with one MotionPlus device, which attaches to one end of the Wii remote and gives it more precise control. (It's available separately for $24.99.) When bowling, you can flick your wrist to give the ball some spin. Table tennis feels more like the real thing. The updated version of golf is more demanding: You really need to focus on keeping your swing straight or you'll be digging a lot of balls out of the rough.
The most engrossing of the new events is archery. The Wii remote is your bow, and you pull back your virtual arrow with the nunchuck. Nailing a moving bull's-eye from the longest distance is a genuine accomplishment.
Frisbee might be the most challenging entry. It takes a while to master the wrist-snap required to make accurate throws, but once you get the knack of it, you can spend hours taking on the Frisbee golf courses. Swordplay, basketball and "air sports" (flying and skydiving) are easier to pick up but not quite as satisfying.
I'm less enamored with a trio of tedious water events, canoeing, wakeboarding and "power cruising" (Jet Skiing). And cycling feels nothing like the real thing, because you're using your arms to pedal.
Each sport has a decent solo mode, and achieving certain goals opens up new game variations. But Wii Sports Resort is designed for more than one player. Like the original, it's accessible to players of any age or skill level, so anyone at your family gathering can compete. Not all the games are keepers, but there truly is something for everybody.