Keeping your television safe – we play so you don’t have to

Wii Play (2006)

It’s time for me to go shopping for a new idiot box. I don’t watch an awful lot of telly these days, really. When I was younger, it was a different story – first in the morning’s run was Nick Jr., which I was slightly too old for, but Blue from Blue’s Clues and the Face weren’t to know that. Then it was over to the big boy Nickelodeon for some classic cartoon fare – Doug, Hey Arnold, Rugrats, then a quick commute to Cartoon Network for the unmissable Ed, Edd n Eddy, Dexter’s Laboratory and Johnny Bravo, before drifting on back to Nick for Kenan and Kel and Sabrina.

When all that was done, it was a taped episode of Pokemon or two, if I had time. And then topping it off, a beautiful treat of two classic Simpsons episodes and one episode of the Fresh Prince between 6 and 7PM on BBC2. At this point I was usually run out of the room, no more TV for me. That was the peril of having only one good TV in the house with decent channels, unless you counted our old black-and-white portable, which I didn’t. God, you’d think I was talking to you from the 1960s, wouldn’t you?

Nowadays I’m bursting with tellies. I don’t watch much of what you’d call terrestrial TV anymore, but it turns out that nobody else does either – if a telly doesn’t come equipped with Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon capabilities as standard then it’s a bust. I don’t bother with those services either – there’s only so much RuPaul you can take – and I think my aversion to telly generally came about once the genre shift to “reality” TV, that most fantastical of genres, came about. How else can you have only three series of Bottom and 200 seasons of Keeping up with the Kardashians?

Of course, even if I don’t watch much on the box, I still need some slick televisual hardware to play video games for twenty minutes at a time. I need proper sharpness and picture quality, even though it’s an event for me to play a game released past 1998. You definitely need every inch and bit of HD clarity you can get, all to make the original Tomb Raider or Starwing resemble the most evil trigonometry exam you’ve ever seen come to live, with jagged polygons sharper than broken glass just dying to rip your eyeballs apart.

It was time for me to upgrade from my old 32-inch TV. I’d always been proud of my 32 inches, they always done me in fine stead. A pitchside football ad got me pretty emasculated though (because God knows there was a lack of testosterone on the pitch), with a 100-inch TV being advertised. A hundred inches, bloody hell, where do you hang a thing like that? Not between your legs, that’s for certain.

The neighbours would have to watch Emmerdale with me, and that’s hardly going to make me popular. I’ve made myself sound dreadfully old saying that, haven’t I? Worrying about where I’d put an enormous telly in a vein similar to wondering aloud how the McAllisters got planning permission in Home Alone.

This hundred incher came with the whole lot, but you wouldn’t want any of it unless you were some marketer’s dream. 3D capabilities, a fad that has long since passed (yet again); it was supposedly a smart TV, which means it’s internet-enabled. Which really means it’ll lose functionality when your coconut internet plays up, just like your internet-enabled kettle and internet-enabled central heating will play up, which isn’t smart at all. Now there are even TV models with curved screens, which is a real beauty – that’ll make it harder to find a home for, more fragile, and you’ll miss some all-important rows of pixels as well.

I had a bigger inch jobby before my current 32-inch TV, but in what might have appeared to be an obscene display of affluence from the outside, I had to discard it. Physically it looked fine, but after turning it on you realised that it had taken an almighty whack from something. You’d be forgiven for thinking I put my foot through it in a burst of Mario Party-induced rage, but no, it was a flung Wii Remote that did the damage.

I wasn’t the only victim, though. See, in 2006 and 2007, an epidemic of broken screens emerged worldwide. Newcomers to the Wii and gaming in general weren’t employing their Wii Remote strap-on correctly, that is to say, the wrist strap. And this meant that, with a sad inevitability, intense Wii Sports Tennis matches would be ended prematurely by a Wii Remote flying out of one’s sweaty grip like a remote control greyhound leaving the traps.

I do have some sympathy with Nintendo on this one, because not only did they offer several safety screens and literature (always ignored until it’s too late) but they even released Wii Play, a piece of software specifically designed to make you familiar with the revolutionary new Wii Remote. If it wouldn’t make you an expert, it would at least empower you not to smash up your sitting room with the Remote.

Wii Play was packaged along with a brand spanking new Wii Remote, at a time when a new remote was costing about 45 to 50 bones. And they haven’t got any cheaper from there have they, game controllers. This essentially means that Wii Play was really a tenner game back then, which means it’d be a bit unsporting to write off the game entirely. It wasn’t fronting itself as Twilight Princess, put it that way. Instead we’ll take a spin through each of Wii Play’s nine games and see which ones are absolutely tragic, because it’s a lot nicer if we only write off chunks of the game, isn’t it?

First we have Shooting Range, a bit of an upgrade on Duck Hunt although sadly lacking the giddy dog. You’ll at least get a bit of a laugh pointing and shooting at the ducks, or UFOs or tin cans. I can’t really fault this game, except for observing that it gets repetitive quickly, which is a major fault come to think of it. Not much of a hunt, is it?

Find Mii sounds more like what an Irish girl might cry out when it’s taking you too long down there. And indeed it’s about fingering, ah, that is, pointing out a Mii who fits the given description, Where’s Wally or mugger lineup style. It’s not quite the same as the mighty Where’s Wally though, so we can bin this one.

Table Tennis is next, always a good laugh, even if I’m rubbish at it – my racket always seems to have a hole in it. Ping-pong fans will get good gas out of this, especially the Chinese who seem to go gaga for the sport. Whether Wii Play even saw a release in China is another story altogether.

Pose Mii is the carpal tunnel simulator – rotate your wrist to make your cursor, now shaped like a Mii, fit into shape outlines that appear onscreen. Pose Mii? I’ll Pose you a question – who’d be entertained by that?!

Laser Hockey is where it’s at though, a neon game of air-hockey that anyone can enjoy. The AI aren’t much cop, but it’s a great laugh in two-player. For me, this is the game of the collection. I love a bit of air hockey, I do. It’s almost as good as tonsil hockey.

Next is Billiards, although really it’s a game of nine-ball pool. This one is decent fun, but to say the least it’s a stretch of the imagination trying to pretend your Wii Remote is anything like a snooker cue. Maybe you could get some phallic plastic apparatus and screw it onto the Wii Remote, like the extra doodads real snooker players use to line up better shots. Imagine putting a whole plastic pool cue through your TV?

Fishing is a bit of a laugh – for 5 seconds. It’d remind you of one of those little kids games where you hook teeny fish with a plastic rod. I say just stick to Ocarina of Time’s fishing. Or here’s a better idea, don’t bother with fishing at all.

Charge puts you on a bull and pits you in an interminable, excruciating race. Why don’t you try to name something Charge has that Excitetruck hasn’t? I bet you can’t. At least you get to run over scarecrows; you might pretend they’re local bottom feeders.

Finally, and with a bit of meat on the bones, it’s Tanks. You play as a tank, perhaps the GDI or the Allies, and you need to drive around an arena and shoot up enemy tanks, perhaps from NOD or the Soviets. It’s surprisingly tough, and there’s a hundred levels in total. You can even do co-op. I wouldn’t say Tanks makes Wii Play entirely worth it, not when additional remotes cost a few quid. But at least there’s substance here, substance I’d say is sadly lacking from the other games.

A lot of the games are two-player as well, which might add a half-hour of playtime. Just so long as neither of you are overly competitive and hate to lose. Otherwise one of you may be presented with a dilemma – do you smash the Wii Remote over your pal’s head, or drill it through the TV? I know which option is more painful, at least financially. But I daresay, smashing your mates head in will offer far more short-term enjoyment than Wii Play.

8 March 2022

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