The unlikely savior
Imagine a vocal Communist living in America. He burns flags, speaks the virtues of a Marxist economy and preaches on his porch with megaphone in mouth extolling the evils of President Obama. Yet he refuses to heed his neighbours coarse advice of “love it, or leave it!” because he’s gotten too used to this whole “freedom of speech” business that Americans are granted. That’s my relationship with the Wii in a nutshell. The much ballyhooed motion controllers turned out to be considerably flimsy and inaccurate, and not quite capable of handling the input commands of normal games. Thus, potentially good games have been gimped and many more bad games have been rushed, released and hustled into bargain bins, using the motion controls as their feeble justification for existence. And the great Wii games, the Mario Galaxies and No More Heroes’ of the world, seem to succeed in spite of their motion controls, using small, insignificant motion mechanics to keep the suits at Nintendo satisfied at their choice of marketing strategy for their new console.
The Wii MotionPlus, or as I like to call it, the Apology Adaptor, has arrived. I’ve deemed it such because it makes the Wiimote do all the things that Iwata and Reggie and the Nintendo pitchmen promised us it would do in the first place. Basically, plugging the Apology Adaptor into the Wii will add some kind of newfangled gizmos that allow the remote to pick up more precise movements. It’s another classic case of Nintendo’s old strategy of releasing a flawed product, then releasing an upgraded version to milk over some more profits… the Game Boy Advance SP effect, if you will. So I can’t help but feel like the MotionPlus should be entitled to the Wii audience rather than bought by them, but the admins of this site might take offense to a review that says “steal this product!” so I’ll just that you should do what you can to “procure” four Apology Adaptors.
On a brighter note, I feel a bit surprised that the tie-in game of choice for this important new adaptor is not a Mario or Zelda game. Not even that highly publicized sequel to the poetically agonizing Wii Sports is the launch game for the MotionPlus. Rather, the Wii’s salvation from shoddy hardware damnation comes from wide-grinned, bright-spirited, endorsement-loving, surgically-enhanced, non-Goomba-stomping, non Wind-Waking, Ryder-cup-hating, mega star Tiger Woods. Like a celebrity cameo appearance on The Simpsons, it’s Tiger Woods to the rescue with his annual EA Sports golf release, a series I typically ignored over the years on account that I lack the attention span to watch sports that don’t involve a fist to the face. But this game came bundled with the Apology Adaptor and that was reason enough to entice my curiosity.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’10 is a golf game, duh. It’s the biggest Nintendo game to not revolve around rescuing a princess. If you’ve ever been the victim of a Wii Sports party and got to squeeze in a few virtual golf rounds before some drunkard splashed her cooler on the TV and screamed “MORE BOWLING”, then you know exactly how to play this game. You imagine the remote is a club, swing wildly and throw your back out as you smash the digital ball into a lake. Playing Tiger Woods with the Wiimote by itself is…plausible, but faulty. Virtual Tiger stutters back and forth trying to recreate your swing motion like a stroke victim, and the game seems able to only pick two kinds of swings; feathered tap of the ball or rage smash into the parking lot.
But when I plugged in the Apology Adaptor, I suddenly had some kind of an epiphany, as if the MotionPlus helps the Wii find God. Suddenly, Tiger’s swing animation is in near-perfect harmony with your hand motions. Suddenly, the distance and force placed into your swing will actually yield a unique outcome that determines which windshield gets smashed. Even putting feels accurate and in harmony with the universe. And then it dawns on me; this is how a golf game should be. And there’s an oddly inviting quality to Tiger Woods ’10, where every option and toy on the HUD screams “pick me! Pick me!” The more I played, the more I wanted to toy with the advanced controls, and that’s a rare victory for a sports game. Suddenly I was toying with shot angles, shot types, even adding spin to the ball. In one of the stranger control choices, you can hold a direction on the d-pad and shake the remote to add spin while the ball is in the air, in effect allowing the player to control the Hand of Fate. Essentially, Tiger Woods ’10 almost has that Tony Hawk-like “it” factor that converts players into golf fans. Almost.
There’s a massive variety of game modes to toy with, for people of all shapes, sizes and interest levels in golf. I figure that the one that’ll get the most playtime will be the ability to play an ordinary round of golf with friends, but say you and your troop of golf-obsessed supporters don’t think “ordinary golf” is that interesting anymore. There are variations that include “golf but both players hit the same ball”, “golf but the winner can steal one of the loser’s clubs”, “capture the flag golf” and other modes that I couldn’t possibly get a less golf-inclined person to care about. Fortunately, there are more distinct variations of golf to play with, such as golf courses with floating ring targets or an elaborate mini-golf set. The vocal, gifted child of the class is “Disc Golf” which lets the player throw Frisbees on any golf course towards the direction of a big rack. It’s a pants-on-the-floor, smell-of-piss, vomiting-on-itself-shameless tech demo for the MotionPlus, but nonetheless fun to play. Plus my shots tend to arc to the sides away from their intended target and into someone else’s face, an accurate recreation of how I play Frisbee, which tells me that the MotionPlus is for real. You can play all of these modes in “Golf Party”, which is Tiger Woods’ initiation into the Nintendo Mascot Freemasons club, where up to four people compete in minigames for points. The kicker is that unlike in other modes, each player needs a separate Wiimote to play and a separate Apology Adaptor to have fun. Plus the music sucks. The menu music is some kind of bland, slow-paced techno tracks that don’t match the atmosphere of a golf game.
When your real or hallucinated friends aren’t around, you can indulge in the Career Mode. You’re charged with creating a golfer and building his or her stats through repeated plays of events on the tournament calendar. This mode is a picture-perfect example of what I hate about similar career modes in other sports games; your created character has paltry stats that can’t compete with a family playing mini-golf at , let alone Tiger freaking Woods and his posse. The process of grinding up his or her stats to a competitive level is long and arduous. I know the road to athletic superstardom involves years of hard training, dedication, sweat and questionable favors for talent scouts, but I’m playing a video game to have fun right now, not practice for five years! More interesting is the “Tournament Challenge” mode, which asks your created character to recreate a laundry list of famous moments in golf history. Most will be familiar to hardcore PGA followers but none were recognized by me. These are often accompanied by a video of the real life Tiger talking about the moment in question and using golf terminology that flies above my head. These challenges are diverse and fun, they unlock more golfers and courses, and you still earn the stat boosts for the created character. But eventually you’ll hit a wall and play a challenge that your virtual golfer just isn’t good enough for, and you’ll have to go back and train for a few virtual years before trying again.
The online play is fairly solid, pitting you against several other golfers, all swinging at the same time. They have these strange line graph-like representations appearing on screen to indicate their shot progress. Its fun, but you’re probably gonna get your ass handed to you in the least physical way possible. Plus there’s no voice chat. Speaking of online, you can get online weather updates from the real life golf courses and play their digital counterparts as such in a feature that only the most scary of golf freaks could possibly care about. Also, you can virtually play in a tournament that is in progress and compare your scores to that of actual golfers in real time in a fun twist that’s more amusing than say, watching actual tournament on television.
But any complaint that I can levy against the game, the career mode grinding, the trance-inducing throwaway music, the fact that it’s a GOLF game, all fall to the single most basic reason people play video games; because they’re fun. And Tiger Woods ’10 is stupendously fun. It’s stupendously fun to play by yourself, it’s stupendously fun to play with others, its stupendously fun to watch your created golfer do the worm to celebrate a Birdie (which seems to be the default victory pose. But I couldn’t be made to change that since I was having so much stupendous fun with my golfer.) Anyone of any age, whether they like golf or not, will find something fun about this game, and is that not what Nintendo aims to do with their mascot titles? So I guess Tiger Woods has earned his place as a fighter in the next Smash Bros game. Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’10 may quite honestly be the most unassuming killer app of all time.
4 ½ stars.
But for the love of Christ, get it bundled with the Apology Adaptor. It’s only an extra $10.