While the Wii certainly had its positives, especially when it came to appealing to the casual market, the incredibly popular console had a dark side. You see, the device quickly became a shovelware magnet, as various developers took the short road and released half-assed products for laughable amounts of money. The problem is that quite a few of those titles sold, because unsuspecting mothers and fathers picked them up for their families to enjoy together. As a result, many are worried that the same thing will happen to the company’s brand new Wii U and its touchscreen facets.
In the end, the hope is there that great titles and improved third-party support will make this holiday season’s most popular gift more appealing to the seasoned crowd. So far, things are looking good, thanks to hardcore games like Darksiders II and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition. However, the system’s launch line-up wasn’t without its duds.
Last month, I published a review of Rabbids Land, the anemic party game from Ubisoft. Now, I’m here to hopefully save you some more money by letting you know that ESPN Sports Connection, the interactive result of the publisher’s partnership with the American sporting giant, is even worse. I can’t say that I’m surprised, given the quality of most sporting mini-game collections, though I must admit that the lack of quality this one presents came as a bit of a shock. In fact, it’s hard to believe that they slapped a $50 price tag on this thing, because it’s not even worth a fraction of that price. That is, unless you’re looking for an expensive coaster for some reason.
As you’d expect, ESPN Sports Connection is all about motion-controlled athletics. Its list of mini-games includes ones based on golf, tennis, baseball, soccer, football and go-karting. Yes, go-karting ended up making the cut, for some unknown reason. Not only does the vehicular experience not fit in with its sweat-filled peers, but it also happens to control the worst out of all of them, and that’s saying a lot. I blame it all on the developers’ confusing decision to go with gyroscope motion turning for steering, as opposed to something more precise. If I had a nickel for each corner I hit at the beginning of the race, I’d have upwards of twenty to thirty cents. That’s not good when you’re only counting the first thirty seconds. Needless to say, that particular mode is next to unplayable.
The aforementioned list does offer a couple of slightly enjoyable experiences in soccer and tennis, but even those pale in comparison to what else is out there. Regardless of what name you’d like to call it, the soccer mini-game is by far the best one, because it works relatively well, despite being slow, ugly and incredibly basic. The others, with their GamePad swipes and Wiimote flicks, range from below mediocre to bad. Sure, the tennis is OK as I previously mentioned, but its swipe-based shot controls are quite finicky. Then again, they shine in comparison to football’s abysmal throwing mechanics, baseball’s motion fielding, and the go-karting nightmare.
Unsurprisingly, the game’s aesthetic is tailored towards young children, mixing poorly designed sprites and jaggie-filled environments with bland music and annoying announcers. Some youngsters may find fun within its digital designs, but only if they play on easy and have someone show them how to control each mini-game. Then again, the ever-changing mechanics and required accessory changing may confuse them or turn them off altogether.
Those who are in the market for a family friendly and accessible sports experience for the Wii U will have to wait, as ESPN Sports Connection is the epitome of shovelware. Its negatives greatly outweigh its positives, creating an experience that pales in comparison to both Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort. Play those instead, and save your hard-earned dough for something else.
This review is based on a Wii U copy of the game that was provided to us.