Video game reviews: Wii Music, Personal TrainerWritten by Michael Siebenaler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Wii Music (Nintendo)
One of our most creative human expressions is music. This Wii exclusive game feeds that artistic desire with creativity, improvisation, skill and art. There are no mistakes and no game scores-just the pure joy of playing, or, if you need practice, imitating play. Developers avoid a cookie cutter progression scheme to create more nonlinear opportunities and experimentation.
Wii Music uses the Wii remote, nunchuk and balance board (bass and hi hat pedal for the drum scheme) for control, which all require finesse and timing to truly master gameplay. The 1 and 2 buttons on the remote allow you to modify the sound while other buttons produce some flashy physical moves (spinning, etc.), which can jazz up the video recordings. You can even tip the remote up and down to change certain instrument’s sounds. These easy-to-use controls allow anyone to explore Wii Music, with a broad spectrum of styles and goals, develop skills in timing, rhythm and harmony. Of course, novice music players can learn all these skills and improvise at their own pace, ultimately unlocking more songs (50 total with more likely on the way) and other content.
The song cache includes a wide range of recognizable, simple tunes (“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, “O Christmas Tree”, etc.) that also spans the globe (Mexico, Japan, Russia, etc.), so just about anyone can recognize a few tunes. Various musical genres (jazz, Hawaiian, etc.) enhance worldwide inclusion even more. Widely popular songs include “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, “Material Girl” by Madonna, “The Entertainer” by Billy Joel and “Woman” by John Lennon. Other song standards include “Daydream Believer” by The Monkees, “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5, “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes and “The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva. Wii Music also includes numerous arrangements and symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mozart and Strauss plus pieces from Carmen and the Chariots of Fire theme. Developers also had Nintendo game music from Animal Crossing, Mario, Zelda and even F-Zero. You can always improvise, modify and create your own song arrangements any time, which creates endless results.
Music instrument/theory veterans have a great advantage here, especially in the pitch tests and conducting mode, and can probably just jump right in, though novices might want to hit the practice modes before big performances. These songs work well in an arrangement with the wide instrument base (60+). The visuals really help with the timing on percussion instruments while other challenging instruments just take time to master. Developers throw some entertaining musical elements into the mix such as dog barks/cat meows (with your Mii in costume), modified vocals, cheerleader, martial arts and game sound effects.
The game modes and mini/side games incorporate several multiplayer and online sharing options. The jam mode has quick or custom set-up with a great improvisation set allowing you isolated performances without background music. Quick jams randomly select a song to play while custom jams allow many options as you play with Tutes, AI band mates who fill in the gaps (five maximum and two minimum). The wide musician control options produce some creative scenarios. You can toot your own horn by overdubbing an entire song yourself by performing each part individually then recording it. Recorded jam videos include big screen background, environmental effect and camera angle options.
The exciting online options let you broadcast your creations and share videos with other Wii Music owners who can then change your performance and send the altered video back. Re-arranging songs requires a lot of talent and time investment so developers wisely give players this option so experienced players/musicians can share some amazing hints and unique spins on the whole process. The online element has great possibilities. Developers should consider more life related songs like “Bridal Chorus” in the future so players could send them to friends as a video greeting card or announcement (using future text options for lyrics and/or messages).
The endless gameplay and expansion possibilities plus an infinite amount of future songs put replay value through the roof. The custom jam and learning elements create a unique, worthwhile title that represents all music genres extremely well. A well constructed, challenging game that breaks away from other music titles in the ever growing music game genre. It’s great that you don’t need to spend extra money buying peripherals and setting up the balance board for the drum takes a minimal amount of time. This game might bring back music class memories while creating challenges that might even lead to some real lessons and overall music discovery worldwide (****, rated E).
Personal Trainer: Cooking (Nintendo)
This user friendly Nintendo DS exclusive title further blurs the line between game and electronic companion while providing helpful, informative and, yes, entertaining ways to strengthen your cooking skills. Yes, cooking for real here folks, just be careful when you’re cutting OK (see other disclaimers at the game’s beginning). This trainer totes a large recipe cookbook (approximately 240) and a smooth, flexible way to go to culinary school at the Tsuji Cooking Academy on your own time.
After setting the voice instruction speed (the animated cook does not really match the engaging voice), you progress through a calendar that scribes your edible works (up to three recipes a day) and provides records for revisiting those recipes and experiences – special day bonuses are an especially nice touch.
Now for the detailed game mechanics and free flowing format. All the interactive information and recipe presentations are well organized. Browse through categories like preparation, ingredients, helpful tips and cooking techniques any time before you actually start making your dish. You can even preview every step in a recipe for even more warm up preparation so the cooking goes more smoothly, especially recommended if you’re going to have an audience. Other aids include a term glossary (background of foods), conversions, substitutions, and a handy timer.
The superb organization allows you to find recipes by main ingredient, country (not necessarily by origin), calories, cooking time/method and difficulty. You can also find recipes through your notes, which are scribed through writing recognition boxes similarly seen in the latest crossword/puzzle games. It’s a personally customizable element where you can input peoples’ names or specific events then have the ability to search and categorize them all later.
20 quick, but concise tutorial videos on simple tasks, like making sushi rolls and washing rice, make great visual aids. Picture visuals always accompany the text throughout the game in helpful interactions like ingredients identification. The visuals increase your retention rate as you learn the dishes.
Once you are comfortable to do the real thing, the voice recognition (a.k.a. Hands-Free Voice Control ) allows you to set your pace. The voice recognition saves time, provides a faster information process and even improves your speaking skills so your hands, eyes and body can focus on the cooking. It’s a great tool for gamers and rising chefs willing to try new things. Frustration and memories of telephone system nightmares can surface, but can be avoided by conducting the mic test so you know your ideal volume and range before trying the recipe. Using the voice recognition in an environment with minimal background noise helps too (don’t slam though oven doors either). Once you find your voice, the recognition works well. “More details” and “Repeat” say anything
This game has all the bases covered, even allowing adjustments for one, two, four, or six servings and a selectable grocery list where you can pick ingredients you do or do not like. The music needs some improvement, but overall the game is a well planned, educational trainer with great considerations for the audience (e.g. deselecting foods – perfect for eaters with specific allergies) (****, rated E).