In Wii Sports Resort, you can try your hand at 12 new minigames that improve significantly on the original Wii Sports.
After much anticipation, Nintendo has finally shipped Wii Sports Resort, the follow-up to the Wii Sports title that's bundled with the Wii console. As an added bonus, Wii Sports Resort comes with the newest Wii hardware peripheral — the Wii MotionPlus, an add-on that greatly improves the game's motion sensitive controls. As such, Sports Resort is a blockbuster game release, the equivalent of a summer tentpole movie, designed for maximum market penetration.
Good thing it's good.
The minigames, the new accessory, and the possible drawback, after the jump...
To put it simply, the game is fun. I'm playing and reviewing a frankly ridiculous number of video games at any given time, so it's saying something when I can report that Wii Sports Resort has been in heavy rotation for a couple of weeks now. I can also report that my six-year-old son regularly defeats me in many of the minigames featured here. That is also saying something, though I'm not sure what. Hopefully, it means he will go pro someday on the video game circuit and I can retire early.
Meanwhile, his prowess can be taken as evidence that the game has really hit the sweet spot for ultra-wide-appeal family/party games. Sports Resort is the best example yet of how the Wii motion-sensitive controllers and overall game design aesthetic has shifted the console gaming experience. What used to be the domain of overcaffeinated gamers fiddling with buttons has become a genuine social experience with players of all ages swinging the Wiimote around like crazy.
Sports Resort offers 12 minigames, including archery, basketball, wakeboarding, fencing, cycling, kayaking and (a personal favorite) Frisbee golf. Ten of the games are brand new, with only golf and bowling upgraded versions of Wii Sports games. The game retains the cartoony graphical style of the original, but with a bright, tropical color palette and great depth of detail. One of the coolest activities is flying a plane around the virtual island resort — this lends a sense of spatial reality that really ties the various games together. (You can buzz the putting green, for instance, spooking the other virtual golfers.)
All of this would be meaningless, of course, if the games themselves weren't individually rewarding, For the most part, they are. The various Frisbee activities, in particular, demonstrate the improved controls of the MotionPlus accessory. You pantomime the actual motion of throwing a Frisbee, and the game tracks your movements with astonishing accuracy. Speed, timing, angle, point-of-release — it's pretty wild, and an undeniable improvement. This isn't some gimmicky plastic add-on. (I'm looking at you, Wii Wheel).
In fact, the biggest potential problem with Sports Resort is that all of the minigames require the MotionPlus accessory — they can't be played without it. The game ships with one free, but you'll need more to dig into the game's head-to-head multiplayer fun. (And it's all about multiplayer here; solo play gets old fast.) If the MotionPlus weren't so manifestly excellent, this would be a bigger problem. As it is, it's worth the $20 for another MotionPlus.
Finally, and this is just a personal observation: I've noticed that Sports Resort offers a great method for digitally sublimating the aggression of young children. My boy likes nothing better than whacking me around with the virtual padded sword in fencing, and frankly, it's saving me a lot of bruises. Yesterday, he looked at me very gravely, handed me the Wii controller and said: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You are my father. Prepare to die."