Rock Band University
Simplicity plus

Ramping up


Wii Sports Resort is a mixed bag of games, but when Nintendo gets something right, they really nail it. I'm enjoying Frisbee, Archery, and Bowling, all of which feel solid and responsive. Swordplay, which initially struck me as another 'madly-waggle-wiimote' game, has grown on me, especially now that I better understand how it rewards a balance of offensive and defensive strategy.

But just like its Wii Sports daddy, the Resort edition features a terrific and hugely addictive tennis game that best demonstrates Nintendo's marriage of hardware and software - and it works beautifully in both single and two-player modes.

Some have complained about the lack of a doubles option, but table tennis is far too fast-paced for me to share my side of the table with someone else. Besides, I can count on one hand the number of times I've played Wii Tennis with three other people. It's a nice option, but how many of us live in a space large enough to accommodate four Wiimote swinging players? And then there's the guy who moves to the ball wherever it lands, despite the fact that it's completely unnecessary. Two-player tennis is just fine for me, thanks.

Table Tennis gets it right for several key reasons. First, it's an uncanny representation of the real game. While not exactly a simulation, it accurately conveys a sense of holding a paddle and moving from forehand to backhand positions in a near 1-to-1 fashion. Resort golf doesn't feel like golf; wakeboarding doesn't feel like wakeboarding; and the misguided and painful cycling feels like anything but cycling.

But Table Tennis does a remarkably effective job of positioning me in the space and responding to my actions in ways that feel very similar to actually playing (okay, I'll say it because I've always called it) Ping Pong. I wish the game offered a first-person mode that brought me closer to the table, but I understand how that would defeat the 3rd-person design principal Nintendo has consistently applied to its Wii Sports games.

Secondly, Table Tennis is the game that best illustrates the MotionPlus technology Nintendo built this game to showcase. Applying spin to the ball dramatically changes the dynamics of play, and the new juiced-up control system makes it work nearly flawlessly. Varying degrees of top-spin, under-spin, and side-spin can alter the trajectory and bounce of the ball, and your progress as a player is largely determined by your mastery of various spin dynamics - both delivering it and quickly responding to it when the ball is headed your way. Spinning a ball wide of the table and watching it drift back just enough to catch the edge of the surface feels like genuine shotmaking. It may also result in your wife throwing a table lamp at you.

Finally, single-player Table Tennis sends you on a ramping up journey that accomplishes several useful things: 1) You learn how to play the game; 2) You gain confidence by defeating easy opponents, offering you room to experiment with tricky shots that may fail; 3) You gradually hone your skills as each succeeding opponent pushes you a bit harder; 4) You learn strategies (especially use of spin) from opponents who use them liberally, and you learn how anticipate the ball's behavior; 5) You discover when the level 1500 "Champion" makes mincemeat of you that you're not quite the bad-ass Ping Pong king you thought you were, spurring a mad vengeance-driven imperative to defeat the "Champion" at all costs.

Table Tennis does that Nintendo thing we've seen for 25 years. It offers a simple but addictive, immaculately designed game dressed as a puffy grinning cartoon intent on bringing you to your knees in agonized frustration. Want a bit more challenge? Press the 2 button at the Match loading screen and see what happens.

Happy waggling.