As a pack-in title, the simple and accessible Wii Sports has a lot to live up to. This will be the first experience for many people on Nintendo's new hardware, and as such, it performs admirably. The five sports games have their quirks, but as an introduction to the company's new means of video game playing, it fits right in.
Tennis, Bowling, Baseball, Boxing, and Golf are included on this disc. Each is a far cry from what from typical modern sports titles include. There are no career modes, seasons, online play, or stat building. This is a compilation comprised of get in/get out titles meant to entertain in a group setting and as rapidly as possible.
As such, the simplified settings and controls make sense. Graphically the games can be considered laughable, though with some fun animations and quirky style, they can win even a jaded gamer over in due time. The simple menu makes selection easy, and if you haven't mastered the nuances of the Wii Remote, the combination of the d-pad and A button will work as well.
The games themselves vary on level of enjoyment. Tennis is made purely for four players. AI players stand around, and hardly ever swinging at the ball. Playing solo reveals frustrating controls that seem to miss the ball at random. In a multi-player environment, you can always blame someone else. Also, since the players move on their own with no player interaction required, it's easily the most limited of the lot.
Baseball is equally as simple. Batting and pitching are the only required actions. Fielding is handled entirely by the AI, and base running is dependent on how far the ball is hit, not how fast you can swing the Wii Remote back and forth (or one of many easily imaginable control set ups). Batting is nothing more than holding the controller like a bat and swinging. Flicking the wrist can also do the job.
Pitching uses a simple flicking motion, and holding the button combinations down during the throw creates different off speed tosses. You hardly feel like you're throwing a ball, yet it still manages to be enjoyable on a basic level.
Boxing uses the technology best, the two hands of the player's in perfect sync with the on screen avatar, blocking and weaving as needed. Punching is performed as most of the actions are on this disc: flicking the controller forward. Simple additions like counter punching adds an extra level of skill to master.
The largest bust is Golf. With nine holes and only four different clubs, the limitations in the design to appeal a mainstream audience are more obvious than in the other titles. Gauging power is brutally difficult, and with a wider range of clubs, the situation would be far less irritating. As is stands, swinging the remote like a golf club ends in either a touchy short swing or a deadly overswing that causes a hook or slice. The finesse in the putting game is completely destroyed.
That leaves the sleeper of the set. Bowling is pure bliss, and this is the likely candidate to be used in the future in a game with more features. Tossing the ball down the lane feels perfectly natural, and adding spin to the ball requires a twist of the wrist exactly as it should. Other pre-throw options include moving your player and aiming at the spot you want the ball to go.
There's an additional surprise in the training menu. Not content with creating text heavy instructions, a few of these are fun little mini-games that in a few cases are more fun than the games themselves. Bowling again wins out with a wildly enjoyable challenge in which the number of pins increases with each turn. The final one will have 91 pins waiting to be knocked over with a single toss, both an impressive display of physics and embarrassingly addictive fun.
With a few friends, Wii Sports becomes the game it's meant to be. Boxing and Baseball are the only two that do not support four players because of the sport itself. It's a success as an inclusion inside the consoles box, and to get a new owner excited by the possibilities. Still, pick up an extra game to keep you occupied during any single player periods.
Wii Sports is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Violence.