I’m sure a million people have reviewed the Nintendo Wii, so my comments on the latest addition to our household will be late and fairly insignificant. Still, having had the Wii for a while, I want to note what I think.
Gaming History and Philosophy in the Wintle Household
Sally and I aren’t big gamers. We have PCs and we play silly online games like Stick Cricket (a personal favourite) and The Helicopter Game but in terms of gaming devices, until early June, the most advanced thing we owned was a cheap, 2nd-hand, Nintendo 64, and three games (only two of which were worth playing (GoldenEye and MarioKart).
The reason we own the N64 is for Multiplayer games. We use video games as a fun way to spend time with others.
So when I’d heard much good stuff said about the Wii from my colleagues and had had a go on one round at a friend’s house, I…well…I know I shouldn’t covet, but, let’s say, I put buying one of the consoles on my to do list.
All I had to do was convince Sally. Which is a long story of it’s own.
So, shortly before our birthdays in June, we treated ourselves and, after some hunting, found a Wii to buy and bought it.
First reaction? It’s a heavy little thing. A small, elegant white box, but solid-feeling and with quite some weight to it! But it seems well built, well packaged and it was simple enough to set up.
The basic package included a single wireless remote, and the “Wii Sports” game. It doesn’t have co-axial output so you need a telly with SCART or RGB inputs (we still have a big CRT TV rather than a modern LCD or Plasma screen, but we had enough SCART sockets for this not to be a problem). The only thing that felt a bit flimsy was the remote sensor bar, which you sit on top of or below your telly.
The remote seems pretty robust and after the initial throwing-across-the-room accidents now comes with both a handy wrist strap (that the Wii constantly tells you to use!) and a silicon “jacket” which gives fairly thick padding to further prevent danger.
In fact, the whole health-and-safety thing is a bit overdone with pages and pages of the manual given over to RSI, the dangers of waving remotes around, and how to use your Wii without damaging anyone or anything. All done, presumably, so that Nintendo can say “we told you so” when common-sense-less people try to sue them for damages. What a sad world we live in. Still, I appreciate the wrist strap, which is a highly sensible addition.
On startup the Wii does a few uninteresting things, like asking you to give it a name, and then presents you with a selection of “channels”. These are the different things that the Wii can do, and all the channels are stored in the small amount of flash memory that the Wii has (I think this is 512MB).
Channels are like little applications, and include a photo viewer (the Wii has an SD memory card slot for your camera or phone’s memory card to go in), settings pages, news, weather and “Mii” channel where you design your own little character with which to appear onscreen.
You can add channels from some games and they are also downloadable if you set up a wireless internet connection.
The only channel not stored in the Wii’s memory is the disc channel, which is where you access the games that come on DVD-like discs.
The only fiddly thing is that the Wii needs to be left on standby to keep the weather and news up to date, which, of course, doesn’t appeal to our green sensibilities – yet they are very useful channels.
The Wii is pretty family-centric, and the look and feel could be said to be childish. Yet it manages to accomplish this with some element of style. Yes, the Mii’s are little cartoon characters, and everything has round edges and things float and bounce around. But things are smooth and clean, things scroll and zoom nicely, and there are certain whizzy little things that probably shouldn’t be there but are – clever touches that grown ups appreciate.
Your first Game: Wii Sports
Wii Sports comes with the Wii and is one of the big lures. It’s simple but makes astoundingly good use of the Wii’s remote. Tennis is a perennial favourite. Easy to pick up, but as you learn that you can use the remote with twist and flick to achieve subtly different shots, the pace picks up.