We're in a baking hot hotel in Covent Garden. England seems to have quite suddenly and bizarrely been thrown into one of the hottest summers on record. Hurray for the disappearing Ozone layer! Actually, no. Scratch that.
Everyone, actually everyone
in England is moaning about the heat (it's what we English do best, whatever the weather). What the hell are we doing inside we wonder. Why aren't we at the Lido or on the Heath enjoying one of the few days of proper hot sunny weather we'll get this year.
One simple reason why. It's because the good people of Nintendo have invited us along to have our first proper
play on the Wii. Granted, we got some time with it at E3 back in May, but that was after much hassling of PR's and with a four-hour long queue of gamers waiting patiently in line behind us. So, we forget about the weather quite quickly when we realise that we are in a sparsely populated room, surrounded only by a few other 'lifestyle' magazine journos (*spit*) and some beautiful models willing to demonstrate Wii Sports to us, as well as giving us endless cold pop and posh nibbles.
So we have WarioWare: Smooth Moves over there in one corner, which we think we'll save till last, as a special treat, a 'happy finish' (in fact, we think we'll put our preview of Smooth Moves into an article all on its own). In the rest of the room we have the three games that make up Wii Sports dotted around the place - Golf, Tennis and Baseball. Again, we think we'll save the cool
American sport of Baseball till last and give the less glamorous Golf a go to start with. At this point, even before one of the beautiful demo girl hands us a WiiMote, we start to feel a bit like we used to feel when we were ten at 5am on a Christmas morning. We've actually got butterflies in our bellies. We're so excited about Wii we could poo. (enough already - Ed)
But this is countered with our (much) older adult tendency towards a deeply ingrained cynicism. The Wii hype machine really is in full effect right now. You may have noticed, certainly if you are a regular SPOnG reader. But just wait until the mainstream and lifestyle press campaign hits in the run up to Christmas. Whether the machine has a long-term viability remains to be seen, but we just can't banish that silent, niggling, cynical voice in the bad part of our brain from whispering: "Maybe it's just going to be a flash in the pan? Maybe it's just going to be a modern day Twister? A bit of a 'craze' for a year then safely put away in the cupboard under the stairs with every other past-Xmas 'must have' game or toy.
Oh. Enough filler text already. Let's talk about Wii and you. Let's talk about all the good things and all the bad things that you'll do....
So, Golf. A game which divides most people into one of two camps. Either fervently for or vehemently against. Few people seem to be indifferent to the game. In the 'for' camp are the traditional golfers - mainly fat, balding old business men, who use the game as an excuse to escape the office when it's sunny and/or the wife for weekends 'networking' with other like-minded put-upon Arthur Daleys. Also, more recently, Golf has been experiencing something of a mini-renaissance (no, really!) which is encapsulated by the growingly popular 'lifestyle' magazine Golf Punk! Which kind of says its OK to like Golf and still smoke weed and pretend that you are not going to become your father - i.e enables men in their thirties to pretend Golf is cool again.
This SPOnG writer has an awful admission to make. I once bought Golf Punk magazine and I now regularly play at my local 'pitch and putt' after years of slagging off Golf as an old man's game. There, I've said it. ("hi, my name's Adam, and I'm a GOLFER!"). One thing SPOnG staffers are pretty much in agreement on though is this - Golf video games, unlike mucking about on Queen's Park Pitch and Putt, say - are generally pretty dull. We even tried out In2Games' Real World Golf when that came out last year, which was kind of a precursor to the Wii, but with wires attached to a funny tie-fighter shaped thing on the floor near your feet. Hence, we soon wrote that off as a gimmick (and we think the sales figures for Real World Golf bear this out).
Despite our regular pitch and putt outings though, we are still pretty rubbish at golf. We feel proud if we can go round nine holes in under fifty, put it that way. And these are mostly par two or, at a stretch, three holes we are talking about. So surprisingly enough, as we take a hold of the WiiMote with our slightly over-sweaty palms, our first few hacks and slashes at the ball are frankly embarrassing. But, and here is the wonderful news, it feels exactly
like it feels on Queen's Park Pitch and Putt.
So, after a few chops into the rough, we realise (or, more accurately, we are told) that you can actually take as many practice swings as you like. You do this by merely taking your finger off of the trigger button and swinging away to your heart's content, whilst pretending that you know what you are doing. At this point we would advise players, whilst practising, not to hit the beautiful model behind you in the sternum with your back swing while she is trying to show you how to play. If you do, then we would be pretty sure that you will scupper any remote chance you might have had in getting her involved in a threesome later in the day. (In Wii Sports Tennis, you understand).
After a few practice swings (and not hitting any more models in the tits) SPOnG soon settled into our favourite stance. The WiiMote records the power of your swing speed and, accordingly, translates this into a power bar on the screen which in turn allows you to gauge the distance the ball flies in the game. The direction of the ball is chosen, more traditionally, by altering the intended line of flight with the D-pad. Within no time we were on the putting green with one shot, and our lady demonstrator had stopped growling at us and was back to commending us on our talent. ("Y'see love... it's all in the swing...").