Racquet Sports (Wii) Review: Simple Fun, But No Online Play

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Overview: Racquet Sports for the Nintendo Wii (Ubisoft, $30) consists of tennis, ping pong, badminton, squash, and beach paddle games. So for those of you who like badminton, squash, and paddles, this is your game. Tennis and ping pong lovers have a few other options.

The game is unique in that it’s compatible with the Wii’s new-ish MotionPlus add-on, which offers more precise controls than the standard Wii remote. You can play with up to four players simultaneously and there’s even a motion camera accessory that you can use in lieu of a regular remote. It adds $8 to the price, but I tested only the standalone game for this review.

Good: The various games are fun, easy to pick up, and share a common control scheme. Graphics are good in a cartoonish sort of way and there are 40 different available environments ranging from stadiums to aquariums to jungles and everything in between. The emphasis is on a minimal learning curve and pick-up-and-play simplicity. You won’t find the ultimate in sports realism here, but the overall experience is relatively enjoyable.

So-So: While the common control scheme is appreciated, I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing the same sport five times over. As far as the swing mechanics go, it doesn’t feel like the MotionPlus add-on really brings too much to the table. It’s good at picking up wrist flicks to add spin to certain shots, but swinging a ping pong paddle, a badminton racquet, a tennis racquet, a squash racquet, or a beach paddle feels the same across the board. The end result is a game that’s more about timing your swing than the actual shape or velocity of your swing. Move the Wii remote at the right time, and you’re pretty much set. Swing your ping pong paddle as hard as you can, and the ball may go out from time to time but it’s not going to go out by 30 feet like it would in real life. Furthermore, the extent of what you control is limited to the simple act of swinging your arm. As far as moving your character around, that’s all done automatically. Again, it’s all about timing.

Bad: While the four-player simultaneous action is nice, it would have been nicer to have an online component as well. This game could do well in the common room of a dorm, convent, or firehouse, but in the apartments of 31-year-old technology bloggers like yours truly, the appeal is pretty limited.

Conclusion: It’s a mildly entertaining single-player game but if it had online play and/or the price was lowered to $20, there’d be a lot more to get excited about. It also would have been nice to see a true 1:1 swing representation when using the MotionPlus add-on, along with different swing mechanics based upon whichever racquet you’re using.

If you’re into various racquet sports, though, and you’ve got plenty of friends around, the tournament modes and simultaneous four-player features ought to be enough to keep everyone coming back for a while.