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All Wii Reviews

The Best Wii Games of 2008!! (What a blog!)


Hello, and welcome to the THIRD installment of my blog-series where I’ll attempt to review every single (worthwhile) Wii game.

If you missed ’em, check out the other two entries in the series (2006 and 2007) at the mainpage of my blog.

(If the links “IGN Fail”, simply scroll down to the earlier entries in my blog).

This blog is the third entry in a series.  As we wait for Wii U to arrive, there remain plenty of great games we all missed out on (unless, of course, you’re a compulsive freak that has no life outside of video games).  Hopefully, this year-by-year look at the Wii’s back catalog will help you identify some of the great games you missed, and give you one last chance to grab em before they’re buried by the next-gen Nintendo.

Every review  includes the IGN score and a handy link to IGN’s own review.  All of the writing and reviews are my own unless otherwise indicated (thanks to CharbroiledEwok and Kyliemale for their awesome contributions).

The order of the following list is determined by IGN’s overall score–and don’t forget, you can click the header of each game to link to the IGN official review.

I’m hoping that you readers find these posts useful.  Please feel free to bookmark these posts for future reference–in the process of writing this blog, I’ve played a lot of great games that I originally missed, and encourage you to do the same.

Without further ado . . .

2008: Karts, Brawls, and Balance Boards

When a year includes the two most enduringly popular titles for a single console–one appealing to the the casual/family crowd, and the other for the ‘hardcore’ players–you think that this might be enough for a single turn of the calendar.  There’s no doubt 2008 helped to cement Wii’s legacy–as of this writing, two 2008 releases stand at #3 (MarioKart) and #13 (Wii Fit) on VGchartz best-selling games of all time.   Even in spite of these two top-shelf offerings, Nintendo didn’t rest with the release of the latest cartoon kart racer or the long anticipated followup to Melee–they also released yet another of their trademark “WTF!?” peripheral devices . . .  only to have it catch fire and become the must-have Wii add-on for over a year (including a true mark of commercial success: widespread retail shortages during the year-ending holiday season, more than 6 months after the balance board arrived in stores!!).  I’m pretty sure the corporate heads at Nintendo saw 2008 as a decently successful year.  If not, I can’t imagine how they’d define “winning”.

Let’s do this.

Super Smash Bros. BRAWL (9.5)

I SO wish this was real.

There is nothing I could write about SSBB that hasn’t already been said.  For many, BRAWL is the #1 reason to own a Wii.  For others, it’s the only reason.  SSBB was my first foray into Nintendo’s battle royale mashup (yeah–I never played Melee . . grad school eats up your time), but it won’t be my last.  Like many before me, I initially found the lack of a health bar and basic gameplay to be somewhat confusing–even annoying (for those living in a cave, matches are decided by sumo-style ring-outs rather than the standard energy depletion of other fighters).  Raised on familiar fighting games like Mortal Kombat II and Street Fighter II, I just didn’t know how to deal with the absence of complex button combos, lack of fatalities, or ambiguous knock-out percentages.  Yet, a few thousand matches later, I can truly call myself a convert.  A responsible critic can’t overlook the negatives of SSBB–the online support is laggy and disappointing, and the game isn’t very fun for a solo player, but since I have one or two local friends to play with, I was able to eek quite a lot of fun out of this top-shelf Nintendo franchise.  Now, all I need to do is get A LOT BETTER, because I still regularly get my a$$ handed to me.  Can’t wait to see the next iteration on Wii U and 3DS, and continue my training.  It’s one of Nintendo’s strongest series, and undoubtedly their best game of 2008.

World Of Goo (9.5)

Only one of the best games on any platform, that's all

If you haven’t played it, you’ve been living under a rock.  WoG is the game that exposed more people to the concept of ‘physics puzzler’ than any other title in modern memory.  With the visuals of a Tim Burton film and melancholy, often-twisted humor, the gameplay might have been just average, and people would still have remembered it.  But the basic mechanic of using cartoon blobs to build rube-goldberg structures and escape various scenarios is so addictive and ingenious that WoG stands as one of the best titles on Wii, much less all the other platformson which this king-of-the-indie games rules supreme.  The single player campaign is as interesting for the dark-humor plot and freakish levels (in one particularly memorable moment, you’ll construct an escape route out of a monster’s belly), and there’s even a legitimately addictive free-play mode in which a player tries to build the tallest possible tower using a limited supply of goo (even cooler, your Wii system syncs with other tower-builders around the world, giving you added inspiration to try and outdo their unbelievable achievements).  Finally, with an aptly-titled “OCD mode” that tests the best players to find hidden solutions to the toughest puzzles, it’s got lasting appeal that outshines almost any other puzzle game I can think of.  Play it now, or forever hold your peace.

Rock Band 2 (9.0)

Look familiar?

Looking back, it’s a little tough to write enthusiastic reviews for the hyper-saturated plastic-instrument craze of 2007-2008.  What was once epic innovation has, by 2012, mutated into a collective sense of “now where do I store these bulky peripheral controllers, just in case I ever want to play with them again”.  In spite of our collective storage problems, almost every gamer played along for those first heady months of music-game parties, reminding us all just how great a real co-op experience can be.  Rock Band 2 (and all the games like it) represent a chance for the gaming world to finally understand what ‘normal’ people like about Karaoke—we just prefer a more interactive experience.  It’s unlikely that anyone is running out and buying games like RB2 at this point, yet in it’s time, this was one of the must-have titles for the entire world.  And, in fairness, it’s a worthwhile installment in the pantheon of the (now enormous) music-game arc, if you’re still hungry for more songs and haven’t yet played it.

Okami (9.0)

My dog would never put up with this.

Full disclosure: I played about 5 hours of Okami on Playstation 2 and never went back to it (or picked up the Wii version).  It instantly struck me as a knockoff of the Zelda franchise, and I was having personal issues with that whole genre at the time (fetch-quests were especially irksome to me, so much so that I also quit on Twilight Princess).  Nevertheless, I wish I would have waited for the Wii debut of Okami, because the play mechanic that first attracted me to the game (drawing symbols on a canvas is one of the main ways you interact with the game and battle enemies) is undoubtedly perfect for the Wii, and the reviews (including IGN’s) reflected it.  The game has an impressive style of visual art, a uniquely entertaining canine protagonist, and a good soundtrack that emphasizes the visual themes.  IGN’s review knocks a few points from the Wii version due to PS2-carryover framerate issues and the fact that this port includes not a single new feature (in spite of the game being more than 2 years old at the time of Wii release).  Yet, given the high praise and universal popularity, I’m betting Okami for Wii is still worth checking out, particularly if you can’t get enough of Zelda-like games.  A 9.0 from IGN is nothing to scoff at.

Tetris Party (9.0)

As a gamer of 25+ years, I have a hard time figuring out just why I’d need another copy of Tetris in my collection (more than 10 platforms and literally hundreds of discs and cartridges).  I’m still content with an occasional visit to Tetris Worlds (one of the few games I still use on my dusty PS2), and though it lacks online modes, I don’t really have a burning urge to play competitive Tetris against strangers.  BUT, since I’m sure there are millions of people for whom Tetris remains THE KING of games, I’m still certain that Tetris Party is a must-have Wii title, no debate or discussion about it.  Whether for hosting family game nights, owning an ‘everyone loves it’ style of game for holiday get-togethers, or hooking up with your old college roommates–now living thousands of miles away–via the online battle modes. . . Tetris Party is an obvious game that many players will want, if only because it’s the kind of game that never goes out of style.  Like Pac-Man, people will be playing some iteration of this classic in a hundred years, so buy with confidence.

Another look at Tetris Party by Kyliemale:  Tetris games have been released on every video game system since the infancy of the industry.  Tetris Party, Wii’s version of the classic falling block puzzle game is, in my opinion, the 3rd best iteration; I can’t help but feel that this version trails Tetris DS and the original GameBoy cartridge.  This, however, is a significant accomplishment, considering that the top two versions of this game are for handheld platforms–the ideal way to play Tetris.  Thanks to the inclusion  of a robust multi-player experience, Tetris Party is a great download for any Wii owner.  A large variety of game modes is a big lure to this downloadable title.  The best of these are to be found in the split-screen 4-player matches. The biggest setback for the game is the less-than-thrilling presentation, which abandons Tetris DS’s awesome use of retro themes and music in favor of a more modern look with heavy Mii integration.  These changes do not affect the gameplay, but should be noted as a mark against the overall package.  Yet, all things considered, any true Tetris fan or Wii-party-gamer would not want to miss out on this version of an age-old classic.

CharbroiledEwok Says:

Another look at Tetris Party by CharbroiledEwok:  There’s not much to say about Tetris – the basic formula hasn’t changed much after all these years.  If it ain’t broke, why fix it?  That said, each new iteration seeks to add new modes or gimmicks, and this WiiWare entry is no different.  You can expect the same classic gameplay, of course, but Field Climber, Stage Racer, and Shadow modes are welcome additions.  Online multiplayer is a little weak, but local matches are thoroughly fun (esp., Co-op Tetris and Dual Spaces).  There’s even a mode that makes use of the Balance Board accessory, but it’s nothing to write home about.  In the end, it’ll come down to how much you want to play another Tetris game.  My Score: 8.

Guitar Hero: World Tour (8.8)

In the debate over Rock Band/Guitar Hero, I threw in my lot with GH.  Having played both, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the two, but the additional drumpad in GH was the deciding factor for me (plus I’m a big fan of real-life Guitar Heroes—everything in a name).  GH:WT is the title where I cut my teeth on the music-game genre and spent the majority of my time, and I still have fond memories for it.  I got good enough to play through 80% of the game on Expert before turning in my axe, and I have numerous fond memories of many epic jams with my friends.  IGN’s review wisely points out that GH remains more challenging than the parallel release of Rock Band 2 (something I personally prefer, and definitely noticed in games of RB2 at a friend’s house), and I’d personally add that if you’re only going to buy one set of plastic drums, I’d personally want the one with the most pads (RB has one less than the GH default set).  Finally, this is one of the the early examples of a Wii game embracing a “fully online” concept, inquiring if you want to sign into the internet service each time you fire up the game.  That was a great move by Activision–we should probably all thank them for fighting to include a feature that helped remind Nintendo that gamers DO want online games after all.

Mega Man 9 (8.6)

These are the moments when you wish games still came in cardboard boxes (promotional art for Mega Man 9)

I was more psyched than anyone for MM9.  I’m a huge retro/NES fan, and I never liked the Mega Man offshoot series that took over the Nintendo DS.  To me, MM is supposed to be a lineup of cartoony boss characters who each have a secret Achilles heel, and who each give up a cool weapon when you kill them.  Then, just when you think you’ve won, Dr. Wily is supposed to appear with a team of oversized, nearly-unbeatable super-robots, and THEN you’ve still got to face the final gauntlet where you’ll fight all the robot bosses in a row without a single game over.  It’s a formula that worked for some of the most legendary games of all time (MM 1-3 in particular), so why mess with it?   MM9 was a return to the roots of 80s gaming, a love-letter to fans who grew up throwing NES controllers at the television and scouring Nintendo Power for tips.  And what a coup for the Wiiware online service it was.  This 2008 retro-reboot reminded us of the days when games were made to be really hard and ‘Game Over’ wasn’t just a quaint nod to old-timers who still think that a real game hero shouldn’t simply respawn in the spot where he got zapped.  In short, I loved MM9, I went through it 3 times, finishing as many  achievements as I could (and there are a lot of tough ones!) while never quite mastering the art of the speed run.  In any case, Mega Man 9 is 100% recommended for anyone who ever loved any game on the NES, and misses the days when the ‘blue bomber’ kept it simple, straightforward, and epic.

Mario Kart Wii (8.5)

It still sucks, but there's a lot of online art for this "worst item ever".

I have to seriously wonder, how much time do I need to spend describing a game that is probably on the shelf of everyone reading this article (currently ranked as the third-best selling game of all time)?  Yet . . . in spite of the overwhelming popularity and literally insane sales figures, MKW is, I have to say, one of those games where the widespread popularity is maybe a wee bit overinflated.  Sure, it’s Mariokart (one of the most enduringly entertaining multiplayer games spanning several excellent installments), and sure, it’s got no-latency 12 player online support (a feature seen in far too few Wii games), but to me, MKW is….well…not the best in the series.  This isn’t to say I didn’t clock somewhere north of 100 hours playing it (and was a serious online contender waaaay back when the game debuted), but as one gets older and plays all the ‘karts across the years, the fundamental flaws of last-to-first-place Blue Shells and ridiculous rubberband AI will take their toll on the enthusiasm of even the most dedicated player.  I’d still say this episode is an integral part of any truly complete Wii collection (there’s a good amount of content and challenge in the single-player mode alone)–I just wish Nintendo would finally give us the option to turn off the come-from-last-place weapons.  Otherwise, MKW remains a mostly great game featuring one of the earliest and best Nintendo efforts to bring online multiplayer to the masses—thank heavens.

Art Style: Orbient  (8.5)

Cosmic, bro

Ding ding, Wiiware alert!  Another chance to support Nintendo’s underutilized online delivery service!  Retailing for only $6, and combined with an 8.5 rating, I feel like I’m nearly convinced already.  Craig Harris’ review is unreservedly enthusiastic about this simple-sounding game, describing an experience that is relatively straightforward (attract and repel planets using only 2 controller buttons, no other inputs needed) yet gives the impression of a downloadable title with challenge and addictive elements.  Background:  AS:O is one game in a series called “Bit Generation” that never made it to USA GBA screens.  According to IGN, the Wiiware version is entirely loyal to the original GBA gameplay but includes welcome visual and sonic updates, making it a bit more palatable for a modern console release.  With the IGN review including varied terms like “mellow”, “relaxing” and “challenging”, I’m definitely intrigued.  After watching a few youtube videos of the game, I also tend to think the ambiance and spacey, atmospheric soundtrack are right up my alley as well.  I still have some leftover Wiiware points to spend—this might be the game that receives em.

Dr. Mario Online Rx (8.5)

I swear, it's not a metaphor! We were really playing video games!

Over the years, I’ve dated at least three different women with whom I spent many entertaining hours playing countless games of Dr. Mario.  I mention that not to prove that I’m some kind of dating/gaming/blogging triple-threat (I am, but it’s beside the point) but more to make the point that Dr. Mario–whatever iteration we’re talking about–is the sort of Tetris-style game that everyone can enjoy, and it still holds up all these years and versions later.  Since I’m now in a steady relationship of almost 10 years, and my girl doesn’t love videogames nearly as much as me (though she’ll still throw down some skills on Guitar Hero or Tetris) I haven’t been able to spend a whole lot of this online iteration.  When we’re ‘feeling the itch’, we still prefer my old NES for ‘trips to the doctor’.  I did play the new online version with a buddy a few times, and can definitely say that for anyone hankering to get their prescription fix, it’s a valuable update for a total classic.  I haven’t played the all-new “virus buster” mode that arrived in this latest iteration of Dr M., but based on Bozon’s comments, I hope to check it out next time I’m over at my buddy’s place.  He already spent the $10 on the download, and we might as well get his money’s worth.  That last mode is 4 player too–so maybe our lady friends will want to join in. ;’]

Skate It (8.5)

If it's anything like balance board Punch Out!!, you'll be drenched in a sexy sweater of sweat.

Having done my time with the Tony Hawk series, I never got around to trying out the competition found in Skate It.  Looking back on the review, IGN makes it sound like a refreshing take on the genre that was, imho, beaten to death by Activision.  Too bad I was tired of the skate-game genre, because balance-board support and a new input format for a skateboard game (timing and flicks of the sticks, rather than complex button combos) make it sound like something I would have liked.  Daemon Hatfield gave it high marks for the Wii platform, saying that although the (optional) balance board makes the game far harder than the normal Wiimote/Nunchuck layout (and feels like a tacked-on feature, rather than a planned design), the game is largely entertaining and a welcome addition to the Wii library.  Other than the balance board, it seems as though there isn’t a whole lot of new material from the versions on other systems, but for those who’ve been away from the skateboard genre long enough, this looks like a good way to dive back in.  Ebay auctions are closing under $10 as we speak.  Yours for the taking.

Shawn White Snowboarding: Road Trip (8.4)

Bet you didn't know I could drink beer and exercise at the same time

So over the winter, I’ve been sitting around my house doing a lot of non-physical activities (writing IGN blogs for instance, or drinking great beer and playing my 3DS).  Come springtime, I got my yearly checkup and noticed my cholesterol was a smidgeon high.  I’m in pretty good physical shape, but figured that it couldn’t hurt to work some new exercise into my life (NOTE: before you scoff at the concept of balance-board as a calorie burner, I already walk 2 miles a day and ride my bike at least once a week.  I’m just looking for an extra boost).  Enter Shaun White.  Googling around for “best balance board games”, Road Trip showed up in several lists, so I hit up eBay and got myself a copy for $10, shipped.  After only a few hours on the board, I can already say that this was money well spent.  Though the game’s graphics are more cartoony than realistic, the visual style works very well, conveying a sense of speed and physical realism akin to a real-life mountainside experience.  In my non-videogame ‘real life’, I’ve skied some big (and scary!) runs in Utah, so I find it very cool that SWS achieves a surprisingly accurate sense of a crazy downhill race, especially if you’re playing on a big-screen television (I’d strongly recommend this for balance-board enthusiasts—definitely amps up the ‘realism’ factor).  Of course, the game doesn’t require the use of a balance board (you can play with just the Wiimote) but given that the BB works so nicely, it’s tough for me to see the real attraction of this game if you’re just using the standard controls.  The trick-chaining isn’t as deep as similar games (I’m thinking of the crazy combos in the Tony Hawkseries), and though you’ll be pulling off some multi-obstacle stunts (i.e. launch ramp to grind rail, etc) the real fun, for me, is the ability to immerse myself in the difficulties of carving, launching, spinning the board, and landing correctly . . . .all with the use of my feet.  Sure, the added challenge of the balance board definitely causes me miss some tricks (and bail horribly when I don’t land straight), but I’m definitely having fun and, no kidding, working up a sweat—anyone who’s ever skied or snowboarded can gladly tell you, you’ll be soaked at the end of a good day on the mountain.  It’s a testament to the game that I can experience something similar in my living room.  If you, like me, own a balance board that has been gathering an impressive coating of dust, why not grab a copy of SWS:RT and wring a little bit more value out of that overpriced peripheral.  Maybe you’ll even get a little bit healthier in the process.

Wario Land: Shake It! (8.4)

Finally, a game for my kid to enjoy.

Finally, a game for my kid to enjoy.

I hated it. . . but I suppose I can see some of the appeal….if I work really hard at it.  For this reviewer, there was something about the graphic style that made me feel like I was playing some cheap-ass flash game, and the music struck me as maximum-intolerable–I’d rather hear chalkboard fingernails or someone rubbing a balloon (that squeaky sound goes right through me).  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I felt like the game had started life as a pre-teen/casual title but then was (slightly) “aged up” as an afterthought.  It looks like a game for kindergarteners, the controls felt loose and cheap, and the enemies seemed mostly boring and generic.  I’ll admit, I definitely liked the game’s “run backwards through the level” concept–in each level, you’ll platform to the goal (much like a standard Super Mario game), but once you’ve reached the end, you’re immediately forced to run, double-time, backwards through the level, all the way to the entrance.  It’s an incredibly straightforward yet unique twist on an otherwise bland game, and I wish this backwards-through-the-hoops mechanic had shown up in a ‘core’ Mario title, rather than languishing in this all-too-cheesy sideshow.  In the end, I can certainly understand why some Wii fans will like this game more than I did…but considering that the developer (Good Feel) are the same folks who worked on the unapologetically-youthful Kirby’s Epic Yarn, I’m not surprised that I felt too old to be playing such a childish game.

De Blob (8.4)

Review by Kyliemale!  In the current generation gaming climate, it seems that game developers go for the sure things–games they know that will sell–whether or not the games are actually good.  As a result, we get tons of sequels, shooters, and licensed games.  It’s relatively rare for a title to present entirely new ideas and new characters, yet that’s what publisher THQ gave us here, and is exactly why de Blob deserves your attention.  This colorful 3D platformer is full of character.  The style of the game, featuring vibrant environments and upbeat jazz music, isn’t the only reason why De Blob is a noteworthy title.  The game controls extremely well for a 3rd party developed game, almost achieving a level of greatness beheld by only a few elite intellectual properties.  Had the game simply shown a little more variety and upped the difficulty a bit, de Blob might have gone on to become an icon in the game industry.  And though the core mechanic of this game is unique (splatter rainbow colors of paint all over the world while racing a countdown timer), you’ll likely grow tired of the repeated gameplay hooks before you reach the credit screens.  But despite this one glaring flaw, THQ still managed to produce a quality game in de Blob without defaulting to the typical rehashes so common to this generation.

Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy (8.1)

I find myself strangely attracted to the arty/retro graphics

BlastWorks remains on my “need to play, eventually” list (and I have almost no excuse not to, considering it usually sells for around $6 at GameStop).  I love the concept of a side-scrolling shooter in which one can build and share their own stages and enemies with other players.  After (re)reading IGN’s review, I’m even more interested in the game; I was under the mistaken impression that the user-generated-content is the only reason to play BW, but Daemon Hatfield’s article makes BW sound like a worthwhile and chaotic co-op experience (with up to 4 players simultaneous).  Even better, the single player campaign includes up to 15 levels and stands out from other shooters in the way you arm yourself–by sucking in and attaching the debris from other fighters to your own ship.  Meanwhile, the “build and trade” part of the package remains available as a primary reason to try out BW.  Though IGN docks some points for the level editor tools (“not quite as easy to use as they could be”), the fact that you can trade and download levels from other users means that BW is an rare Nintendo-platform crowdsourcing game with unlimited potential.  And seriously, this is one of the cheapest games around, perennially available in every Used bin for only a few bucks.  With an 8.1 score, I’m betting there is some value to be found here.

Boom Blox (8.1)

Admit it--this looks like a good time.

This cute little game is entertaining beyond it’s simple premise and remains on my short list of “games to get” (though I’ll honestly probably just skip to the sequel, which also stands as one of the Wii’s top titles).  A few years ago, I spent a few hours playing this original installment at a buddy’s house, and remember thinking “this is the kind of game where the Wiimote’s limited motion controls can really shine”.  Imagine the classic carnival game “knock over the milkjugs with a baseball”, and you’ve spotted the inspiration underlying the BB concept.  It might sound too simple to be fun, but in reality, the basic premise of throwing projectiles at teetering Jenga-style block forts yields surprisingly deep results.  BB includes a variety of special weapons and an array blocks with individual characteristics that add layers of challenge, and the different goals for each level are varied enough to give the basic concept a longer shelf life than my description will convey (you’ll be achieving specific goals in each level, not just knocking over blocks).  Again, in one of the best uses of the (non-Wiimote Plus) Wii’s controller, BB senses the force of your throws (so you can make calculated decisions as to your attack strategy) and is also used to point/grab/manipulate objects in some situations.  Finally, BB’s most valuable aspect is it’s potential for universal appeal–even your non-gaming parents could understand and enjoy playing for a few hours, but BB will simultaniously please experienced puzzle-physics fans.  Considering that Wii U supports the continuing use of your trusty Wiimotes, it’s hard to see why any Nintendo gamer wouldn’t add at least one of the BB games to their co-op collection.  As they say, “good fun for the whole family”.

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (episodes 1-5, 8.1-8.6)

This box art is from the (physical release) PC version. Now that is just bad-ass.

I never tuned into the whole Strong Bad/Homestar Runner phenomenon, so I’ve also failed to shell out for the Wiiware downloads of this internet in-joke-turned-video-game.  Plus, given that point+click adventures can be so hit or miss (though I definitely love the Lucasarts cannon), I sort of  feel like my money is best spent elsewhere.  My lack of exposure means I’d be missing a lot of the jokes in a Strongbad game, but on the other hand, IGN’s scores for the series make me think that the bizarre humor and loyal fan service in these Wiiware episodes will strike fans as worthy.  The link I’ve provided above is to IGN’s review of the first episode; reading the review makes me think I’m probably right to avoid these titles until I’ve had some actual exposure to the source content the games are based on.  Sure, I have an insane sense of humor, and yeah, I tend to like much of the Adult Swim style of jokes, but I also need to remember that cult fads often hinge on insular goofs and self-reference, so sometimes, one has to simply accept they are on the outside of a given gag.  I would note that, even without downloading the game, a $10 Wiiware pricetag is one of the higher fees you’ll see on the entire service, meaning that to collect the entire story arc, you’ll be shelling out as much a full retail game.  I can’t say I’m convinced that a point-and-click adventure is really worth $50, but then again, if they released a sequel to Day of the Tentacle, I’d probably be lining up.  There’s no accounting for cult tastes, right?

Bomberman Blast (8.1)

Colorful and multiple. Looks like fun.

Believe it or not, I’ve never played a Bomberman game.  Daemon Hatfield reviewed this $10 Wiiware download for IGN and gave it a reasonably good review with specific focus on the online multiplayer aspect.  Not only is the online play worthy of the hallowed Bomberman mantle (according to Daemon), but this is the only Wii game I’ve ever heard of that can handle up to eight local players, presuming one owns 4 Wiimotes as well as 4 GameCube controllers (and an original Wii with the GC ports included).  That’s a lot of co-op gaming fun; sadly, I doubt if many players have 7 nearby friends (or the necessary peripherals) to ever try this option.  But back to the online mode (likely the most attractive aspect of this downloadable title); there are leaderboards, penalties for rage-quitting (this should be required by law for all online games) and 11 maps in which you’ll be destroying strangers and buddies alike.  What started as an NES game has become a total institution, and though the underlying concept seems pretty basic (blow sh&t up, now blow up your buds, repeat) it seems like a franchise with enough endurance that I should probably plan on testing one of the iterations (maybe this one) sometime.  Given my love for competitive gaming, I’ll probably get sucked in.

MaBoShi’s Arcade (8.0)

Hard to explain why, but that subtitle has me in stitches!

I hadn’t even heard about this Wiiware title ($8) until noticing how high it scored on Metacritic.  Therefore, I’m not going to pretend I’ve even played it (yet), or can do anything besides summarize the basic concepts, based on my surveys of the IGN and nintendolife reviews.  In any case, the game clearly warrants a spot in a list of notable Wii games (underrepresented in the Wiiware category), so here we go.  First off, the low price vs. the positive reviews make it seem like the game is worth a risk for retro-game or co-op arcade fans.  With a premise calling for players to rack up a million points (literally), it’s got that classic masochistic sensibility going for it as well.  The core gameplay occurs in 3 mini-style games that rely on premises of almost Atari 2600 simplicity.  Even the games have oversimplified titles–Circle, Stick, and Square–yet based on Craig Harris’ review, I’m definitely intrigued and considering a download (I love faux-retro titles like Bit.Trip, and reading Craig’s MaBoShi review reminds me of something similar).  Most attractively, MBS features a lot of co-op/competitive gameplay (depending on the situation), allowing multiple players to play simultaneous, separate events that interact with each other in real time.  Cooler yet, MBS includes a rare instance of DS/Wii connectivity, with the ability to send a miniaturized version of a game to your handheld system.   Sign me up–I have abut $10 unused Wii points that are looking suddenly useful again.

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (8.0)

I surprised myself by getting really addicted to Metroid Prime Pinball for the DS.  Prior to that, my last positive pinball experiences (virtual or real) were back on the original Gameboy (I’m recalling many fond hours playing Revenge of the Gator).

Video pinball has come a long way since Gameboy.

I just positively suck at real-life pinball, but turns out that I’m really able to enjoy videogame versions of the tabletop hobby.  I haven’t played The Williams Collection, but having read through Craig Harris’ IGN review, I’m now tempted to consider grabbing a used copy (ranging on eBay between $15 and $20 shipped).  The Wii version of the game includes 10 famous recreations (Pinbot, Taxi, and Funhouse being some of the only pinball I’ve ever played in my life) and IGN reports that TWC has great physics and a worthwhile achievement system that increases the replay value.  All in all, Craig’s comparisons to versions for other platforms make the Wii iteration of TWC the one to own.  Given the cheap price and decent review score, I’d say it’s a game worthy of our time.  Even as a “non-pinball guy”, I’m feeling a genuine itch to check it out myself.

Wii Fit (8.0)

Epic win!

I had to try it, if only to be able to check yet another Nintendo phenomenon off my lifetime “to-do” list.  I’m genuinely glad I did.  Less a game than a personal exercise trainer, Wii Fit was one of those must-have Christmas gifts for the casual gaming world.  Though I’ll gladly bet that 99% of Wii Balance Boards haven’t left their respective closets since 2009 (a frightening number, given that the game sold over 22 million copies world-wide), I personally got my money’s worth from Nintendo’s flattest white plastic peripheral.  I’m in relatively good physical shape, yet I definitely benefitted from the training in basic yoga and calisthenics, and genuinely enjoyed the bite-sized Mii-style games.  Anyone still interested in checking out WF should just move directly to Wii Fit Plus (it includes all the original activities as well as additional games).  You may also want to look into buying a few other games that support the balance board (Punch Out!! and Shawn White Road Trip being two of the best).  You’ll definitely work up a sweat.

Disaster: Day of Crisis (8.0, IGN UK)

Please explain how this game doesn't look awesome

In order for USA players to check this one out, you’re going to need to soft-mod your Wii—something I haven’t had the nerve to do. . . yet.  I’m told it isn’t difficult, and this minor act of jailbreaking will unlock the ability to play Wii games from other world regions.  D:DoC is the only game that has seriously tempted me to consider modding my Wii (I’m paranoid about messing up my trusty old launch-day system), though others may have taken this route long ago due to the hyper-delayed US releases of Last Story or Xenoblade.  Anyway, after making the warranty-voiding changes, you’ll simply need to hit eBay for an import copy of Disaster and start enjoying what sounds to be one of the oddest, yet intriguing titles on the system.  The UK IGN review describes D:DoC as a mismash of different ideas and game styles, including third person shooting and adventuring segments.  The attractions of this game are obvious: staged as a B-movie natural-disaster game, volcanoes, earthquakes and floods are the big enemies you’ll be facing (cool, right?) while you simultaneously gun down baddies and rescue civilians.  Your hero has upgradable attributes, and a stamina bar is paired against your health meter for a nod to semi-realistic conditions one would face in a true calamity.  The IGN UK review knocks the game’s use of rough-looking polygons and questionable tendency to throw too many different ideas into one (nearly) incohesive game, yet still ends up giving the game a general thumbs-up for the entertainment value, concept, and length.  Like I said above, I’ve often considered modifying my Wii so that I could try my hand at D:DoC.  Let me know if I’m wrong to be so interested in this unusual title that thundered right past USA players.

Call of Duty: World at War (8.0)

Didn’t play it, but CoD:WaW looks like a worthwhile FPS on Wii (as of 2008, Bozon called it “a serious contender in the world of Wii FPS”).  Sure, it’s yet another WWII shooting game, and sure, it’s been far surpassed (even on Wii) by the more recent versions of the endlessly popular CoD series, yet IGN’s own review notes respectable online gameplay, a surprisingly adult level of brutality (surprising on a Nintendo platform) and gives the game high marks in a variety of categories including graphics, control, and sound.  If, like me, you especially love playing FPS games on the Wii due to the point-and-click abilities of the Wiimote, then CoD is another moment where Wii’s unique, customizable control layout may shine in comparison to the dual-analog-only versions on other platforms.  In the end, CoD:WaW is a game that is inevitably superior on another system, but if you happen to be a Nintendo-only kind of player (like myself), it sounds like one of those back-catalog Wii games that might be well worth the used-bin prices

Bully: Scholarship Edition (8.0)

No kidding, some REALLY weird stuff happens in this game

This was a game I wanted to try for a few years, but I needed to give myself a little time between Rockstar titles to avoid being burnt out on the entire sandbox genre.  A testament to my excitement: when I recently finished Skyward Sword at 1 AM on a quiet Friday night, I got up, poured myself another beer, and went right back to the Wii for my first hour with Bully.  And I have good news to report:  Even though I’m kind of sick of the whole self-important GTA criminal narrative–and though Rockstar’s formula has become unbelievably repetitive–Bully remain a whole lot of fun. Instead of dodging cops, you’re running from hall monitors; instead of crashing cars, you’re ollie-ing a skateboard down the library stairs.  Smack a girl or a little kid–both prohibited actions—and you’re liable to get taken to the principal’s office (and stripped of all your cool toys like stinkbombs and slingshots).  The best thing about Bully is the way GTA-flavored gameplay has been ingeniously transmuted into this goofy childhood fishbowl.  The biting sarcasm and pointed social satire of Rockstar is on full display (obese kids waddle helplessly into trouble; teenage girls whine about lipstick shades and stupid boys; teachers vary between comic buffoonery and militant psychosis).  The game is a brilliant exploration of childhood fears and evil fantasy, and although I doubt the game will have enough staying appeal for me to finish even half of the expansive missions and sidequests, I’m definitely going to give it a try.  Postscript: I got about 15 hours into Bully (25% complete) before moving onto another game.  Like so many Rockstar experiences, Bully is meant to be a very long haul, but this still didn’t prevent me from having a good time with the parts I played.)

No More Heroes (7.8)

This game was made for Cosplay

The IGN score is too low–if only for the sheer weirdness, NMH deserves at least an 8.0 rating.  Better played than described, NMH is the brainchild of infamous Suda51, maker of killer7, one of the Gamecube’s best (and weirdest) titles.  NMH probably isn’t for everyone: blending sandbox influences from Grand Theft Auto and a demented(!) comic-box/anime-style plot, you play as the unforgettable Travis Touchdown, a weird young man with fetishes for wrestling and Japanese cartoons.  Travis is on a quest to become the #1 ranked assassin in the world by winning (i.e. killing his way to the top of) a tournament of underground street-fighting matches.  The plot, mixing samurai and punk ethos–along with a healthy dose of sexy M-rated content–gets indescribably weirder–and more awesome–the closer one gets to the end of the game.   The final levels and fights are some of the most memorable I’ve encountered on the Wii, and NMH might have the best ending of any game for the platform.  There are some weaknesses though; the open-world environment fails to approach the excellence of even the earliest GTA games (there’s a lot less to do in Santa Destroy, and the blurry graphics aren’t even in the same ballpark as GTA3), and the motion-controlled sword-style combat can get repetitive after a while (NMH is basically a brawler with a laser sword).  Nevertheless, the story, cut-scenes, and overall challenge of NMH make it one of those games every Wii owner (over the age of 14, anyway) should try at least once.  You’ll probably get hooked, and the ending alone is worth all the hours of decapitations and hack+slash battles.

Sam & Max: Season One (7.1)

It's the kind of game you need to try to know if you'll like it

Though the IGN review is mixed and the score comes in at a middling 7.1, I need to include this package out of personal loyalty to the fading Point & Click genre of yesteryear.  I grew up playing the early Sierra games (King’s Quest, Manhunter, Space Quest) so I have an irrepressible nostalgia for these dated formats that are more interested in making the player laugh than wowing us with hi-res graphics or snazzy control schemes.  For those not familiar, S&M hails from an era when limitations of hardware meant that an interactive adventure was often merely a “collect all items / use items to solve puzzles” sort of experience.  S&M might not appeal to some gamers–imagine something along the lines of Zack and Wiki, or an interactive cartoon where you control the main characters as they wander around a world.  There are no boss battles, RPG elements or co-op killsprees here–it’s a slow-pace experience with a lot of great jokes and silly goofs, but not a whole lot else.  If I haven’t already turned you off to the entire genre, S & M could be a good starting point to get your feet wet.  Used copies run for around $10 on eBay, so the laughs alone might make this one worth a look.

Wii Game of the Year for 2008

Wii Fit!! The game that shed piles of pounds from portly grandmas and gamers alike . . . JUST KIDDING.  You know it’s Super Smash Brothers Brawl.  What else could a sensible reviewer pick . . . MarioKart?  Hell, I gotta consider my audience here–if I picked anything other than Smash, I bet I’d get “un-followed” by half of my readers.  In a poll for most important game on the entire Wii console, SSBB would have a serious shot at winning the vote (though I’m betting that the Mario Galaxies could give it a good contest).  In any case, there’s no question that Smash is the GOTY for Wii 2008.  With more replay value and entertainment value than anything else on the system, it’s the game that keeps Wii relevant and lively for fans who don’t bother to play anything else on the system.  Moreover, it’s a brilliantly balanced and entertaining game that showcases everything (and everyone) that is good about Nintendo.

Runner Up Wii Game for 2008

 Mariokart Wii: It’s not a terribly tough call but with competition from truly legendary games like World of Goo (though not exclusive to Wii), Wii Fit (like Wii Sports before it, this little number sold bajillions of Nintendo consoles), and epic niche games like No More Heroes, Mega Man 9, and Okami, I did have to ponder the #2 slot for a bit.  But Mariokart takes 2nd place, all flaws and limitations aside.  With 12-player online support, great graphics, weekly online challenges, Wii Wheel support, and a decent amount of difficulty (i.e. 3-stars and Mirror Cup), MKW is a solidly excellent title with something for everyone.  Years later, it’s easy to forget, and even easier to make fun of, but MKW remains a really good game in almost every way.  Except for those damned blue shells.  They’re just evil.

Most Underrated Wii Game for 2008:

Disaster: Day of Crisis: This was the toughest call for me in 2008–especially considering I haven’t played the game!  On one hand, I don’t think No More Heroes can reasonably qualify as “underrated”, Boom Blox (and it’s sequel) have gotten a fair amount of attention, and Bully was a success across multiple platforms simply due to Rockstar’s name recognition.  Disaster gets the win in the Underrated category for two reasons:

A: Because D:DoC failed to arrive in the USA, an 8.0 game gets good reception in other regions while the world’s biggest game market (USA) misses out on what sounds to be a worthwhile game

B: D:DoC LOOKS AWESOME!!  Tornadoes? Earthquakes? Volcanoes??!?  I SO WANT to ‘appreciate’ this game but have been told (i.e. region lock) that I’m not allowed to!  Therefore, ‘underrated’ seems to be a fair call, given that a sizable % of players never got the chance to rate it for themselves.  In the words of SNL’s Kenan Thompson, “What’s up with that?!?!”

(as a USA player . . . I wouldn't know)

That’s it for 2008!  It wasn’t the biggest year for Wii, but with a very respectable catalog of releases, is definitely a year when Nintendo players had a lot to enjoy.  Given the overwhelming popularity of Mariokart and Smash, I’m betting that a lot of people simply never had time to play many of the other great games that debuted in this year.  So, here’s your chance–go get a few of these classics before they’re lost in the mists of time!

I welcome your comments, corrections, and proposals for games I’ve forgotten to include.  I’m just one guy, and I can only research and play so many games at a time.

Seriously, leave me some comments.  It’s my favorite part of the whole “blogging” process.

2009 coming soon….



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