This generation’s Wii Sports? Nope...
Posted 5 months ago By Vince - Vincent Deshaies
Here we are! Wii U has arrived! What does that mean? It means we can all enjoy a new dose of Wii Sports with the family, of course! Wait. What’s that? What do you mean Wii Sports U isn’t bundled with the console? That’s right, folks, no Wii Sports for us this year. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy another cartoony and friendly sports compilation for our brand new systems. Ubisoft has decided to release ESPN Sports Connection to show off Wii U’s new tricks. But how does it compare? Not all that gracefully, actually...
Before I start this review, I want to get something out of the way. Much like the other mini-game-based titles that were released alongside the system, ESPN Sports Connection will require a bit of additional equipment in order to be fully enjoyed. Sure, you can play a good amount of the content with just a Wii U Gamepad in hand, but if you want to unlock the title’s full features, you’ll also need a Wii remote. You probably have a few of those hanging around the house, but it’s important to note that this game requires either the Motion Plus accessory or the Wii remote with the same technology built in. Once you have all of that equipment ready, you’re good to go. You can enjoy Tennis, Golf, Football, Soccer, Baseball, and even Karting!
"...it feels like the game tries to fill a void that simply isn’t there..."
Each of these game options are very much truncated versions of what a dedicated game would offer for the same sport. Everything is simplified to the max. In playing a game of baseball, for example, Player 1 (GamePad) is the pitcher. All you have to do is swipe your finger on the touch screen to throw the ball. Depending on how fast you swipe, the speed of the throw will change. Of course, the touchscreen allows for more precise and responsive inputs than the Wii remote ever did, but it’s also a lot less fun to use! Most of the time spent playing with the GamePad left me bored and thinking I was playing a particularly stale iOS game. I appreciate Ubisoft’s efforts to figure out interesting new functionalities in a sports-themed mini-game compilation, but it seems like the system itself just isn’t meant to replicate the Wii Sports experience. Knowing that, I decided to take out my Wii remotes and try out the same games with the good old motion controller. At this stage, the game opened up a bit. The play options were a bit closer to the real sport. For example, while a GamePad user will play the tennis mini-game as a pitching machine, aiming balls at the other players so he can hit them, those who play with the Wii remote will actually get to hit the balls, which is kind of the point in a tennis match.
The same situation applies for all other mini-games. Take soccer, for example. There’s a small version of the traditional sport that you can play using a combination of the GamePad’s regular sticks and buttons, but the real kicker (pardon the pun) here is the shootout feature. In this mode, all you really have to do is swipe your finger in one direction on the GamePad in order to aim your kick accurately. The mode is too easy, boring, and simply feels like a forced addition to make use of the system’s signature controller. Choosing to play football is equally frustrating, as there is even more forced integration of Wii U’s features. The game allows you to swipe a finger across the GamePad’s screen to switch players, make plays, and perform another variety of things you’d most likely rather do with traditional buttons. Another frustrating aspect of this particular mini-game is that it forces you to switch between a Wii remote and the GamePad constantly. You make plays on the touch screen, but actually throw the ball using the Wii remote. Golf, on the other hand, is a simplified yet less intuitive version of the one found in Wii Sports, with no use of the GamePad worth mentioning.
Kart racing is probably the most surprising and most ambitious addition to this compilation. That’s not saying much, though, as the game fails to provide working controls. Whether you choose to use motion controls to steer, or privilege the face buttons to do so, the game will sometimes fail to respond while never offering any kind of precision to begin with. That’s one problem, but there’s also the fact that the tracks, music, visual design, and everything else all fail to make this mini-game (or any of the other ones) compelling in any way. In fact, I suspect most players of any age will get bored with the games a few minutes after starting. They are short, overly simplified, insipid, and poorly optimized for the system. There’s just no depth at all.
I was almost prepared to say this could have been a good game to bundle with Wii U’s basic model, but the technical aspect of it is too broken for that. Visually, the game is at best uninspired, and at worst an insult to the players’ eyes. The graphics are of course very simple yet colorful, but the overall presentation in the mini-games and menus is so barebones that everything fails to keep up the interest of even those with the longest attention spans. The worst technical offender, though, has to do with the controls. I’m not sure if this is due to the developers trying to rush the game so it comes out on time for the launch of the console, but the controls are incredibly unresponsive. Even with the Motion Plus accessory, the players’ motions are never replicated with even the slightest bit of accuracy, and even the traditional button controls feel like they barely respond to your commands.
Overall, ESPN Sports Connection was a frustrating experience from every angle. It’s sad, but it feels like the game tries to fill a void that simply isn’t there. With Nintendoland, Nintendo has made a mini-game compilation with Wii U’s capabilities in mind. With this game, Ubisoft has tried to replicate the successful formula popularized by Wii Sports. However, with an uninteresting design, overly simplified gameplay, barely any use of the GamePad’s features, and unresponsive controls, the game ends up failing to deliver on all fronts. At $50, I can’t recommend this game to anyone.
- Lazy, uninspired use of the gamepad
- Broken controls
- Dull, repetitive mini-games
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Release Date : 2012/11/18
System : WiiU
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft
Category : Party & Mini Games
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10