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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
Having a Wii good time
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website in Los Angeles

Nintendo Wii and controllers
The controller looks like a slim TV remote

Gamers are often stereotyped as couch potatoes, sitting in their bedrooms, staring intensely at a screen.

But at the Nintendo stand at the E3 games expo, enthusiasts were eagerly queuing up to have a go at flicking their wrists or swinging their arms.

The reason was Nintendo's new games console, the Wii, (pronounced we), and its unorthodox way of play.

The Japanese games giant has turned its back on the typical gamepad with a myriad of buttons and opted for using motion sensors.

The right-hand controller is shaped like a slim TV remote, while the left-hand one is rounded and curvy.

Nintendo is giving people the chance to try out the controls for themselves at E3, with 27 games for the Wii available to play.

After having tried out a handful of these games, the initial results are surprisingly promising.

Fore!

First off was tennis. In this you use the right-hand remote as a racket, swinging it to hit the ball across the net.

Screenshot of Metroid Prime 3
A playable level of Metroid Prime was available
It takes a couple of misses to connect your actions with the anime characters on the TV screen. But within a few minutes, it was fairly easy to smash the ball and win matches.

The game also quickly revealed that it was not just a case of vague, random movements.

A rapid swing would increase the power of the shot. And turning the controller at an angle would produce a top spin or slice.

Another of the games on offer was golf. Here the device becomes the club and the force of a drive is determined by how far back you swing the controller.

Again, the realism of the experience was impressive. In particular, putting involved controlled strokes, determined by how much you moved the device.

Point and shoot

Sports games like this lend themselves to physical controllers so the real test for the new controller would come with more conventional first-person shooters.

Nintendo Wii controllers
The one on the left is the nunchuck
Most fans of shooters prefer to play with a computer mouse and keyboard due to the degree of control this offers.

On the Wii, the right-hand controller lets you point and shoot. The left-hand holds the so-called nunchuck, which has a joystick for movement.

The unconventional set-up takes a while to get used to, especially as it is easy to wander off to one side of the screen by unwittingly moving the controller sideways.

But the point and shoot mechanism works well and adds a degree of realism. Whereas in other games reloading involves pressing a particular button, here a flick of the wrist is enough.

The swordplay was similarly intuitive - swing the right hand to strike and move the left hand to block.

Positive impression

The controls worked less well on another shooter, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

The principles were broadly the same, but some of the action also involved a number of button combinations.

Over time, gamers will probably get used to this but it did not have the same pick and play appeal as the sports games.

Of course, it is impossible to pass judgement on the Wii remote after just playing each game for 10 minutes or so.

Initially, it does feel a little strange to wave your arms around. And the remote worked best with the sport titles.

But on first impressions, Nintendo may have just produced a way of playing games that is fits the cliché - easy to play, hard to master.

Alfred.Hermida-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk




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