December 20, 2006
Games for Girls
Stephanie. Pauline. Jessica. These are three female friends, all in their 20s. They don't really likes video games. But they love the new Nintendo Wii. Not to say "I told you so," but I told you so. The Wii has the power to transform game-indifferent women into competitive players.
They came to a video game party I threw on a Friday night, along with their significant others. I set up three TVs. One for Xbox 360. Another for PlayStation 3. A third for Nintendo's new, interactive Wii.
The guys were addicted to playing "NBA 2K7" and "Call of Duty 3" on the Xbox 360, and "NBA 2K7" on PS 3.
The women played "Wii Sports" — yes, sports, as in baseball and tennis and the super fast racing game "Excite Truck," which I previously reviewed, grudgingly, as just OK. Was I wrong?
I am not exaggerating when I say the women played Wii with giddy laughs for several hours. I heard each and every one of them call to their boyfriends, "We have to get one of these!"
The Wii isn't a huge computer like the PS 3 or Xbox 360, so games don't look as phenomenally detailed as art works.
But what interests non-hardcore women is they could swing the Wii's remote control wand like a baseball bat, and they'd hit a home run. In "Excite Truck," they twisted the wand left and right like a steering wheel to make the truck turn on the screen.
When the women weren't around, I got addicted to "Rayman Raving Rabbits." I contorted the Wii wand dozens of ways to play Whack-A-Mole type games and 70 other bizarre tests, like shooting suction cup arrows at cute rabbits in Old West towns.
Not all's well with the Wii. In "Call of Duty 3" (a super fun game on the Xbox 360 and PS 3), the shooting and walking is a messy chore. You also can't play "Call of Duty 3" online on the Wii. So such shooting "grown up" games made for multiple gaming systems may not always measure up.
Clearly, Wii game makers need more time to perfect other exciting possibilities, like sword fighting. Swinging swords fighting and gun-pointing in the Japanese aura of "Red Steel" is clumsy and ineffectual. Sword fighting should be the No. 1 niftiest action on the Wii. It's not, yet.
The best Wii games so far are sometimes exclusives to the Wii, like "Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam." In "Jam," you shake the wand while skating to get a speed boost, and you see-saw the wand in your hand to make your skateboard ride on rails. These are cool, fun, arcade-style approaches.
"SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab" ought to be entertaining for kids. It uses the wand-as-steering-wheel idea, and various wand movements help you bonk virtual people on the head.
The physical effect of all this movement is a higher heart rate and sometimes sore forearms, instead of sore thumbs. But as Stephanie, Pauline, Jessica and I have found, when the Wii makes you sweat, it makes you laugh at your goofy self. How great is that?
"Call of Duty 3" — Plays mildly fun. Looks good. Challenging. Rated "T" (blood, language, violence). Two stars out of four.
"Rayman Raving Rabbids" — Plays as fun as games get, a minor masterpiece. Looks great. Quite challenging. Rated "E" (cartoon violence, comic mischief). Four stars.
"Red Steel" — Plays mildly fun. Looks pretty good. Challenging. Rated "T" (language, mild suggestive themes, violence). Two stars.
"SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab" — Plays fun, kid-friendly. Looks OK. Easy. Rated "E" (comic mischief). Three stars.
"Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam" — Plays fun. Looks pretty good. Challenging. Rated "E 10+" (mild violence, comic mischief, mild language). Three stars.
Top 10 New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to retailer Blockbuster. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
1. "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas" (Ubisoft) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, PSP; rated "M" (blood, intense violence, strong language, suggestive themes)
2. "Gears of War" (Microsoft) for Xbox 360; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, strong language)
3. "Call of Duty 3" (Activision) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, Wii, Xbox, PS 2; rated "T" (blood, language, violence)
4. "Need for Speed: Carbon" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, Xbox, PS 2, GCube, PSP, DS; rated "E 10+" (violence)
5. "Need for Speed: Carbon" for PS 2
6. "Madden NFL '07" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 2, Xbox, GCube, PSP and DS; rated "E"
7. "Madden NFL '07" for PS 2
8. "Guitar Hero 2" (Red Octane) for PS 2; rated "T" (lyrics)
9. "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007" (THQ) for PS 2; also available for Xbox 360; rated "T" (blood, language, suggestive themes, violence)
10. "Superman Returns: The Videogame" (EA) for PS 2; also available for Xbox 360, Xbox; rated "T" (violence)
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+"