- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 23, 2009

Families looking for an interactive “staycation” never need to leave the entertainment room with Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo, $49.99).

This hands-on simulation features almost two dozen activities culled from 12 popular sports for up to four players to enjoy.

An opening scene sets the tone with a chance to go skydiving, using the Wiimote as a representation of an on-screen figure. Hold it parallel to the ground and dip the head of the controller down to descend faster or twist it to perform flips. Now, grab some of the other divers and pose for a picture.

Then, before jumping into the core set of activities on the cartoony tropical island, players can choose to use their Mii avatar, or create one.

Paddling a canoe with the Wiimote as a paddle certainly lends itself to a certain “Wii cool” factor, as does cycling (the Wiimote and Nunchuk are pedals), but archery was my first really slick endeavor. Hold the Wiimote like the bow and use the Nunchuk as the string, pulling it back to gain greater distance. It really feels like shooting an arrow, down to the Wiimote speaker offering a sound effect.

For those in need of some excitement, try flying a plane around the island. Hold the Wiimote as one would a paper airplane, explore the terrain, buzz towns and even jut the controller forward to gain speed. An extra dogfight level really thrilled the younger test audience as they chased down and popped balloons tethered to the tail of an opponent’s aircraft.

Or, try a round of sword fighting in the tradition of the finest Jedi and Kendo warriors. Very responsive weapons strike and poke with the goal of knocking a padded opponent off a platform. An added level has swordsmen competitively chopping up items including a gargantuan sushi roll and pencils.

For the purist, table tennis comes the closest to reality. Putting spin on ball, slams based on forceful swats and quick switches to forehand and backhand while aiming shots have never been easier.

Round out a full day of activities with bowling (try the 100 pins per frame challenge), Frisbee with a pooch catching the disc, or shooting 18 holes of golf on a water-filled course that will test even veteran players’ skills.

The magic requires using the new Wii MotionPlus sleeve connector that covers and plugs into the Wiimote controller. With it, the indoor athlete will find a surprisingly greater level of sensitivity to his moves as he reacts to each challenge.

Unfortunately, a couple points do hamper the latest Wii Sports offering. First, there is no online component, even though most of the games scream “multiplayer.” Also, it makes zero sense to include only one MotionPlus sleeve in the game package. These games thrive within a party atmosphere and buying more sleeves at 20 bucks a pop could crush the family fun factor. (Although, I must say $110 for the game plus three more sleeves is far cheaper than any resort vacation I have ever taken.)

Learning time: Bowling already requires a certain level of logic skills, but clever parents easily can enhance the activity by finding Web lessons in basic physics and geometry. Think about it. A weighted object is being thrown at various speeds down an alley to knock down a collection of pins with forces hampering its energetic journey. That covers the best of gravity principles.

One level even requires trying to avoid an obstacle in the lane with the bowler using the proper angle and often needing a twist of the wrist to arc the ball’s path.

The golf activity does a good job of explaining how a player’s swing will impact the ball and its trajectory. I already have a serious slice in real golf and this game carried on my tradition. Careful practice, however, led to rapid improvement.

Also, young children just learning how to shoot hoops will get a great feel for how proper form can lead to points in a great basketball simulation. As they shoot the ball with the same real-life motions, they can take their experience and move right out to a live court.

Final advice: Where the elder Wii Sports could be labeled a limited experiment for Nintendo’s new console, Wii Sports Resort greatly refines and embellishes the Wii experience to deliver an island’s worth of adventure loaded with hours and hours of fun for the entire family.

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