Many of us critics are disappointed in the rotten lineup of Wii titles. The Wii machine itself is revolutionary as an interactive toy. But if you go to the store and browse the Wii wall of games, you'll be browsing a wall of stink.
This week, I thought, "Hey, maybe we're all wrong. Maybe Wii games are terrific fun for casual gamers who don't get paid to be critical." I then asked my friends Ched Whitney and Samantha Clemens to Wii at my house. They were very excited when they arrived for "game day."
First, they chose "Marble Saga Kororinpa," a solid if standard marble game: You force a virtual marble to roll across a board, controlled by the laws of physics, then trick the ball into dropping into a hole.
"What's the point?" Sam asked. "All you do is roll around?"
Verdict: Sam gave it two stars out of four. Ched gave it two and one-half stars. I'd give it two stars. They were losing their excitement.
Next came "Mario Power Tennis." It looks like a cartoon send-up of a tennis match, with super powered overhead shots and such. Sam beat Ched. They both gave the game three stars but weren't emotionally tied to the game. I'd give it two stars.
Top Ten New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to retailer Blockbuster. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "Mario Super Sluggers" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (comic mischief)
2. "Professor Layton & The Curious Village" (Nintendo) for DS; rated "E" (mild violence)
3. "Major League Baseball 2K9" (Take Two) for Xbox 360; also available for Wii, PS 3, PSP and PS 2; rated "E"
4. "Army of Two" (EA) or Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (strong language, blood, intense violence)
5. "Wario Land: Shake It!" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (comic mischief, mild cartoon violence)
6. "Godfather II" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, drug reference, intense violence, nudity, sexual themes, strong language)
7. "Wonder World Amusement Park" (Majesco) for Wii; also available for DS; rated "E" (mild cartoon violence)
8. "Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction" (Sony) for PS 3; rated "E 10+" (alcohol reference, animated blood, crude humor, fantasy violence, language)
9. "BioShock" (2K Games) for PS 3; also available for Xbox 360, PC; rated "M" (blood, gore, drug reference, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language)
10. "Super Mario Galaxy" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (mild violence)
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
Sam did say "Power Tennis" was her kind of game, because she can play its "versus" multiplayer. It comes with mini-games: little tennis ball-swatting challenges that are much different than full tennis matches. And she can earn bonus items, like, unlocking other tennis characters to inhabit.
Sam, therefore, fits a certain female demographic of Wii gamers. She has played Wii before. She loves the multiplayer, party mini-games of "Wii Sports" and "Rayman Raving Rabbids." Sometimes, she likes "Wii Play." But watching her brother conquer battle games gives her a headache.
"I can watch roller coasters on TV. But I can't watch my brother spinning around in a cave in a war game," Sam said.
Ched fits a certain male demographic. He prefers the complex, online war game of "Frontlines: Fuel of War" for Xbox 360 and the offline shoot-'em-ups of "Grand Theft Auto" games.
So he wasn't a fan of their next experiment, "Big League Sports" for Wii. It features simplistic, sports mini-games. The football mini-game made Ched slowly drop back in set formation, as cardboard cutouts of defenders slowly moved toward him, and he slowly passed to a cardboard receiver.
"This is Little League sports, not 'Big League Sports,'" Ched said.
Sam was aggravated by the mini-game where she swung one arm up high to simulate a field-goal kick.
"That almost ripped my arm off. That's ridiculous. This is such a guy game," she said.
Yet, she gave it two stars, pretty forgiving. Ched gave it one star. I'd give it a half-star.
"Have we liked any of these games?" Sam asked at the end of the day, without prodding from Ched or me. "Pretty disappointing."
Ched agreed. I agreed. The Wii, it has turned out, is a remarkable, exciting invention. But when, oh when, will there ever be more than a handful of good games to play on it?
("Big League Sports" by Activision retails for $40 for Wii - Plays slow, too simple and boring. Looks poor. Moderately easy. Rated "E." One-half star out of four.)
("Marble Saga Kororinpa" by Konami retails for $30 for Wii - Plays as fun as a marble game could be: fairly well but not great. Looks good enough. Challenging. Rated "E." Two stars.)
("Mario Power Tennis" by Nintendo retails for $30 for Wii - Plays rather flat, despite appearing cute. Looks pretty good. Moderately easy. Rated "E" for mild cartoon violence. Two stars.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.