- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Here’s a look at some of the latest software available:

WarioWare: Smooth Moves from Nintendo (for Wii; rated E +10, $49.99).

Anyone who doubts that Nintendo’s new entertainment console will get people off of the couch and into virtual action need only try this latest title, loaded with calorie-burning microchallenges.

The WarioWare franchise continues in the Wii and has a player compete in more than 200 fast-paced games that extensively use a pair of motion-sensitive controllers — the Wiimote and Nunchuck (referred to for Wario purposes henceforth as the baton and balance stone) — to make competitors squat, jump, swing, pick up, twist and roll to victory.

Let’s forget about the story in Diamond City that gets players through 12 locations’ worth of games. The colorful, cartoony visuals look great, but who cares? The levels of bizarre multimedia in the challenges far outshine any of the character’s plots.

The crazed action requires the proper holding and moving of the baton (and occasionally the balance stone) in 19 forms. Each form is introduced by a soothingly sarcastic narrator who describes the position and movement required of the controller.

For example, for the Sketch Artist form, the Wii master requests that the player hold the baton “as you would during a pop quiz, delicately but defiantly.” “Mastery of this move can change a pop quizee into a pop quizzer,” he says. Other forms include resting the baton on top of a head and stabbing it down (the Mohawk), holding it like a broom and sweeping (the Janitor) and positioning it on a hip to move it toward the screen (the Samurai).

As each game begins, the baton holder must quickly complete a task before a lit fuse runs into a bomb that explodes and signals that time’s up. Challenges include poking a finger in a nose, bar-scanning a pineapple, inserting dentures into an old woman’s mouth, vacuuming up a pile of leaves and answering the baton as a phone. (Yes, a voice is heard in the Wiimote’s tiny speaker.)

Especially creative or active among the virtual exercises are the use of a personalized Mii avatar in some of the action (such as arm wrestling), mimicking dance moves in a four-performer lineup (choreographer Bob Fosse would be proud) or running in place in an on-screen race.

Nostalgic moments from the history of Nintendo games also are embedded in the fun. Players may sift through some sand to discover a Virtual Boy system (talk about a museum piece), briefly control the plumber in Super Mario Bros., roll over a Pikmin and have Legend of Zelda’s link pull out a sword.

Multiplayer action is also innovative, as up to 12 persons can share a controller set and join in, as Mii characters, to play such challenges as a game of darts or traverse an obstacle course tied together. (One player holds the baton, the other, the tethered balance stone.)

Additionally, plenty of other activities can be unlocked and enjoyed in this incredible demonstration of the Wii’s versatility.

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In other developments for the Wii devotee, Nintendo recently released a news resource on one of its menu channels.

Knowledge seekers first use any wireless hot spot to connect the Wii to a painfully slow software download before the free News Channel is available. The Wii also stays connected to the wireless hot spot even when turned off (called the WiiConnect24 service) to constantly update the media channels.

Stories are listed under headings including National, Business, Sports, Arts/Entertainment, Technology and Science/Health to enable users to quickly access text versions of Associated Press stories and photographs.

Wii owners also zoom into and out, grab hold of and manipulate a three-dimensional virtual globe created with NASA satellite imagery to find paper and image icons strewn across the continents and quickly click on individual stories.

Although the Wii is family-friendly, some of the AP content is not, and I could not find any ratings system or way to block potentially inappropriate content such as news on the capture of a suspected child molester or the death of soldiers in Iraq.

I do not think Nintendo should censor content, but parents definitely should have control over what their children read.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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