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Arcade Sports - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Arcade Sports

WiiWare | Icon Games | 1 Player / 2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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Review
25th June 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

When Icon Games first hit the WiiWare scene, their premiere showing wasn't exactly the greatest way to start things off. To make a long story short, I was not impressed with Stunt Cars. However, learning about some of the other projects the company was working on made me more optimistic that they'd be able to get up on their own two feet. The first test of strength comes in the form of Arcade Sports, a collection of games for only $8. The sports included sure aren't new on the Wii nor are they impressive by any means, but that doesn't mean it's not worth peering into.

    Soon after loading up the game, you can assign yourself one of 4 different profile slots. You then choose a character who will represent you in the game, and give them a name of your choosing. All of the remaining characters will be selected at random for when you face a CPU. Each of them have their own full names, along with a nickname of sorts, such as "Princess or "Lawman". For the most part, the character images look decent, except for the odd one that may creep you out a bit.

    That aside, there are lots of different modes you can select via the Main Menu. You can arrange a quick Exhibition match, organize a Multiplayer game, sign up for the single-player Season mode, or get the hang of things under Practice Mode. You can also access the Profile menu to modify your file, or head into Options to alter a few settings. In addition to single-win battles, you can even participate in an entire bracket-style Tournament. So if you're worried that the word 'Arcade' will mean a low number of options, don't worry because there's a good amount of things you can do, depending on what mood you're in. Be that as it may, this focus towards variety would mean nothing if the gameplay itself is terrible. So with this in mind, I'll now begin to discuss all four games in the collection, from least to most enjoyable.


    
Bowling is a sport that's been explored many times on Wii and even on WiiWare, so I was hoping the developers would get it right with their rendition of the popular game. Unfortunately, the simplistic nature can't stack up against what's already been done in the Wii Sports games. When it's your turn, the bowling ball will be sitting on the glossy floor, waiting for you to take control. Using your D-Pad, you move the ball into position, and control the direction of movement. When you're all set, press the A Button to confirm the actions, then bring your controller back and swing forward quickly. The ball will then bounce onto the alley, simulating the act of a person causing it to move.

    The "Huh?" moment of the day happens when you realize that, in actuality, there's not so much as a floating hand to indicate that the ball was thrown by a human. And I think this structure is one of the biggest faults with Icon's version of the game. It's simply not as sleek as Wii Sports. I mean, there's just something about seeing your Mii on-screen, run towards the alley and execute a nice follow-through. Here, there's no follow-through, and the feedback is not even immediate. At least the twists you execute with the controller usually translate fairly well, and you even have the ability to view and control instant replays. I think it can be fun if you have low expectations going into it but otherwise, the lack of realism will disappoint, easily making it the weakest sport in the collection.

    Thankfully, despite this low point in the package, the other games in Arcade Sports are much better in execution. Next up we have Air Hockey, a great fit for this collection. Let me start off by saying that this game already has a clear advantage over other games. Unlike Bowling, Air Hockey hasn't been replicated as much on the Wii. And after Wii Play's "efforts" with Laser Hockey, I found the developers set the bar well with this game. Much like in real-life, you'll need to keep your hand steady at times by pointing at the screen. Obviously, the object of the game is to your mallet to knock a puck into your opponent's end zone. After a goal has been made, you position the puck by aiming and pressing the A Button. Play continues until someone reaches 7 points - and before you ask, this can't be lowered or raised.

    
To make sure the action doesn't slow down to a crawl, there's a timer that goes off every time the player enters a different territory. If the timer reaches to 0, a foul will be awarded, requiring the puck will need to be positioned. I thought this was a great way to prevent those occasions when the puck isn't going anywhere fast. 

    By pressing the 1 Button, you can play the game in one of two ways: first-person view or top-down view. The first-person camera angle is interesting, especially because I don't think I've ever seen this done before. You even have the ability to change the mallet size as well to make things more interesting. Then there's the top-down view, where the camera displays all the action from above. Even when playing a 2P match, a split-screen is incorporated and it's quite well done. Now, the movement may not be as smooth, and you don't have the ability to raise your mallet off the table. However, this is definitely a more enjoyable form of the reflex-based sport, plus, less problems arise in the long run when compared to what was seen in Wii Play. From the noises of the puck ricocheting off walls, to the control system itself, Icon Games did a good job here, offering something that's realistic and challenging.

    And finally, you have multiple variations of Snooker and Pool to suit your hardcore cue-thrusting needs. Beyond simple command prompts in the menu, there are no in-game explanations on how to play. This means, then, that these are really meant for fans of the sport who are already well-acquainted with one or more of the gameplay styles. The developers employed two different control schemes for these sports: Normal, and Advanced. In the former, you release the B Button when the meter is at a suitable level, and in the latter, you actually thrust the Wii Remote forward as a judge of power. Provided you set up your hand and controller properly, you'll find that the controls work well. It's advised that you aim with your hand outstretched, and not pull back immediately after you initiate the shot mode. Instead, follow through with a steady motion after the camera pans back behind the cue ball. But before you can even think about taking a shot on the table, you got to set it up first!

    
When you begin with the initial rack, place the cue ball by pointing or using the D-Pad. Once the position has been confirmed, you can then move the ball into position - here's where things get a little bit tricky. Once again, you'll be required to aim at the screen, aiming your cursor close to where the cue ball is, enough so that the X-shaped cursor disappears. Once you do, you'll be able to use the D-Pad to move the cue ball into place or, move the controller left and right for more subtle movements. Small coloured balls will be floating in a line to act as a rough guide for you. These give you a good idea of where the ball will end up after you shoot, along with the relative destinations of other balls that you make contact with. When you're ready to engage shot mode, you'll need to hold the B Button while your cursor is close to the ball. 

    If you get up your shot along the perimeter of the pool table and then try to go close to the cue ball, you'll have some trouble keeping it exactly the way you'd like, because of the unintentional motions you might make with a shaky wrist. This is why it's important that you set yourself up properly to begin with to prevent this from spoiling your experience. However, you'll only have to worry about this happening if you make use of the top-down camera angle. Yes, much like Air Hockey, you have two different camera views, and whichever you use will ultimately come down to personal preference. When using the default settings, you can press up and down on the D-Pad to adjust the height of the camera, so you can get a better picture of everything on the table. You can also zoom in and out by pressing the Plus and Minus Buttons.

    
To be honest, the controls were a bit of an adjustment at first, but after more plays I grew fond of the little features that made the system work. First of all, the top of the screen will be used to indicate either a specific ball, or a grouping of balls (i.e.,stripes or solids). And I thought this was very helpful. If you're in a rush, you can hold the A Button after a shot to speed up the action, and this is especially useful when waiting for the CPU's turn to pass. Another handy feature is the ability to set the cue elevation, something I was really pleased to see. To make use of it, aim behind the cue ball and press the A Button, then use the Up and Down Buttons on the D-Pad to adjust it. If you're not careful, you can even bounce the ball off the table, but to be honest, I loved seeing this happen because it really made for a more realistic experience.

    As with just about anything else, there are a few flaws with the way this game was designed. For one, I had a pet peeve with the fact that at times when you place the cue ball after a scratch or a foul, the guide doesn't always lock onto the next ball automatically. Secondly, you don't have the ability to change the controls mid-game and during a multiplayer game, both players are forced to use the same control scheme. But even with these minor issues, I still really enjoyed what the developers did with this. And y'know, it's noteworthy to mention that the structure was heavily taken from what was seen in Pool Hall Pro, a game Icon Games developed for the Wii (published by PlayLogic). So consider, too, that you're getting content of a retail game wrapped into this downloadable package, and you appreciate it even more.

    
The appearance of the game is okay, and the visuals look like they use the same engine as Stunt Cars did. The camera transitions in Pool and Snooker are decent, and the ability to have multiple viewpoints is just great. The background environments are nice-looking, but they also feel a bit empty. Since there are no character models present during gameplay, all you have to rely on for ambience are sound clips. Sometimes you'll hear claps for good plays, coughs or even a cellular ringtone. These soft noises could've been definitely improved upon, since they carry as if everything were taking place inside an inhabited gymnasium.

    On a similar note, the music in the game is okay as well, and I found the theme for the Main Menu to be the best of them all. The issue I had with this aspect of the game is the fact that there's only one song for gameplay, no matter what mode you're playing in. It goes without saying that this track can get a bit annoying after a while. It definitely would've been better to include more tracks to choose from, especially for the Billiards games that deserve a certain feel. 

    Stunt Cars did have some framerate issues, so I was on the lookout for similar problems creeping up in here. And, unfortunately, there were two instances when the framerate was inconsistent. At one point, when I was starting a two-player game of Snooker, the ball would roll along the table, then skip a bit, and repeat one or two more times before coming to a complete stop. It was really weird to say the least. A bigger, more obvious problem was when you're playing Bowling. The framerate here can be sub-par, and at other times, it chugs along well. In addition to these instances of fluctuation, I also encountered a minor glitch associated with Air Hockey where the puck got stuck on multiple occasions, but this wasn't that big of a deal thanks to the foul timer.

    
Arcade Sports sure isn't limited in its appeal and to show it, there's a good amount of replay value. The AI can be set to one of four different difficulty settings, making the game very accessible. Season Mode will last you multiple plays as you try to climb the in-game rankings. You'll be rewarded for your efforts in the form of unlockable accessories, which can actually make the game look more appealing. In addition, you'll sometimes be awarded with trophies for making notable achievements, such as winning three rounds in a row. It would've been more enjoyable if you had the ability to save in the middle of a game (especially during a 'Best of 9' match), but this mode is still quite enjoyable with lot to do.

    What Icon Games has done here is offer a collection that retains a sense of realism along with an arcade feel. Sure there's no online, and there may be less options when compared to the more focused experiences other games offer. After all, just in the case of Cue Sports, you're getting better presentation and options, more user-friendly controls, a stronger "Pool Hall" feel, and even online play. But the purpose of this release isn't meant to compete directly with what's already available. And although there are a few hitches here and there, it still holds up better than their first release. Adults who enjoy these games will especially see that this is a satisfying purchase. While it's not worth picking up for the Bowling on its own, if you're a fan of Air Hockey, Snooker and Pool, you'll find Arcade Sports is a good, budget collection.


21/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Controls in Billiards take a while to get used to but they do work, Bowling is very simplistic, Air Hockey is arguably better than Wii Play
Presentation 6/10 - Multiple camera views, visuals look decent, some framerate/glitch issues, could've had more music, small efforts towards ambience
Enjoyment 3/5 - Bowling can't compete with Wii Sports, other sports are fun once you get the hang of the controls, challenging AI to keep you motivated
Extra Content 5/5 - Season Mode, unlockable accessories, good value when compared to other games like Midnight Pool, trophies, multiple game variations

Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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