Arcade Sports (WiiWare) - Review by Chris
Compilation type games are usually reserved for retail releases but occasionally, one does crop up that goes the download route and provides good value for money considering the constraints that the WiiWare service places on file size. Arcade Sports is one such case that takes the download route, coming from developer Icon Games, and it packs 4 sports into the one package, along with several variations of these, for your entertainment. The sports themselves have been seen in other titles so it begs the question, what does the game do to make itself stand out from other similar titles already on the market? The answer is not much.
As the game's title would suggest, Arcade Sports is all about providing you with a collection of common sports found within arcades or bowling alleys. In all, there are four sports provided for you here: Pool, Snooker, Air Hockey and Bowling with numerous variations of some of the sports, with the likes of Pool and Snooker really being the only sports which see any form of gameplay rule changes adding the illusion of more game types and it works. Straight off of the bat, however, you'll be reminded of how many times these exact sports have been found elsewhere and so you'll quickly wonder what the game is offering that makes it a worthwhile deviation from those other titles.
Split into three main modes, you'll have the obvious options of playing simple Exhibition matches against the game's AI, with all the sports and their variations available to play through either as single matches or as tournaments, as well as playing a two player Multiplayer match in any of the sports. While it does begin to look as though there is little in the way of innovation or draw just from these two initial modes, the game kindly offers up a Season mode which provides a more substantive slice of action.
Beginning the game, you'll be asked to pick a caricature from a total of 20 available and this caricature will take pride of place in the menus and score areas when playing in the various modes. It also provides the basing for the Season mode, where you'll take part in all of the game's sports and variations sequentially and in a tournament style, with some of the games beginning with a round robin of matches before the top two scoring players can take their places in the actual tournament. It provides a large amount of content and continually circulates meaning if you've missed out on an opportunity to win in a particular sport, you'll get a chance again at a later date after playing through the other ones. Such is the structure of the Season mode, you're able to pick up and play through as much or as little of it as you want at a time, and any play time away from this mode never interrupts any progress you've made.
While it certainly provides a good amount of content for a low price, the game doesn't quite make for a fully enjoyable experience. Playing on your own, you'll quickly notice how rubber banded the game's AI is, especially in the Pool and Bowling sports. One example this review saw was a game of bowling which had the computer controlled opponent pull 7 strikes out in a row during the last rounds of the match to win by a landslide. With control issues sitting alongside the gameplay, something which explained later on, the game almost demands that you're flawless with every attempt you make and at times, its nigh on impossible to even make a breakthrough in some of the sports in the Season mode. As such, it is in the Multiplayer modes where any fun can be found as at least you'll know your opponent will be on the same level as you and there'll be no rubber banding. Should you be able to overlook such problematic AI issues, there's plenty of content here to keep you going but it will never full encapsulate you like other games. Of the sports available, Air Hockey is the one that barely stands out as enjoyable, having appeared in few other titles, while the other sports feel archaic in comparison to what has been seen in other games. Allowances can be made for the fact it is a WiiWare game but you'll most definitely already have something which contains several of these sports and does them to a high standard.
A decent attempt has been made to make use of the Wii-motes motion capabilities. You'll enact the realistic movements of a cue when playing snooker and pool, make the underarm throw for bowling and move the Wii-mote to replicate the movement of your paddle in air hockey. Yet the only area where the controls are pulled off with as few issues as possible is when playing air hockey, and even here there are slight issues as you'll have to make small movements to keep your cursor in control of the paddle. Initially, the likes of pool and snooker are almost unplayable, regardless of which control setup you use (although both really play out very similarly). There seems to be a very narrow window within which the game detected the movement of the controller to produce that motion in the game, and for most of the initial time playing these sports you'll have great difficulty even managing to hit the balls let alone being able to pot them. Once you find that narrow window, however, the controls do work although they're not quite as fluid as in other games. Bowling similarly suffers from detection issues and will see you repeating motions just to get the game to recognise them, resulting in few shots actually doing what you want.
Visually, the game makes good use of 3D for the sports you'll be playing. It isn't up there with the best 3D that we've seen in other WiiWare titles but it's amicable and gets the job done in recreating the sports and locales, with each of the sports played out in a variety of large and open bowling alleys, although this does make for a strange setting for a game of snooker and does make things feel barren with the absence of any characters filling up the venues. The visuals are let down somewhat by some less than stellar texture work which looks muddy and often blurry, presumably coming as a result of the 40MB file limit on downloadable games, and there is the odd frame rate issue, mainly as a result of moving the camera in the pool and snooker sports.
2D design work has been used, as expected, for the menus and the various caricatures you can pick your character from but for whatever reason, these come off as being slightly lower in resolution than other areas of the game, sometimes looking slightly blurry as a result. The caricatures themselves are nothing special, with a selection of generic male and female characters making up the mix, and they remain as a 2D image throughout the game, never taking on a 3D form to step out into the venues.
A small mixture of tracks are presented to help keep the game moving along smoothly, all of which aim to provide some level of atmosphere to the games you'll be playing. They're not of any particularly high standard, doing little to set the mood and are for the most part wholly unnoticeable. The sound effects fare better however, with ambient background noises such as mobile phones going off and cheers and jeers helping to set the competitive atmosphere. Just be prepared to put up with the seemingly sarcastic slow clap over and over as it is a sound clip which does rear its head far too often. Even still, the audio clearly wasn't the top priority here.
For 600 Nintendo Points, Arcade Sports provides a suitable amount of content that would normally occupy the average gamer for some time, and then more with the multiplayer options. The main issue, however, is that many of the sports depicted in the game have been seen elsewhere and done to a better standard making efforts here feel shallow in comparison. While it can be fun in some sense, you first have to get over the control issues and the uneven computer AI which makes winning incredibly difficult, even more so when you take into account the former issues. Yet when all is said and done and you consider how much game you're getting for the price tag, you could do worse than Arcade Sports. It's just that you could also do much better.
Pro: Substantial amount of gameplay for the asking price, multiplayer is fun, overall presentation does the job
Con: Control issues hamper the fun somewhat, sports feel archaic in comparison to other games, can be frustratingly difficult in single player modes
Final score: 5