Review – Summer Sports: Paradise Island (Nintendo Wii)

Summer Sports: Paradise Island
Publisher: Destineer
Developer: Destineer
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 4/15/2008

Mini games seem to be what the Wii was built for. Get some friends, throw in a game, and get to the fun without the mess of a complex backstory, an overwrought controller layout, or strategy guide. Summer Sports: Paradise Island promises a few summer sports the original Wii Sports seems to have missed. Head to the pacific, grab some friends, and play some badminton, lawn darts, and putt-putt golf.

Did Summer Sports turn my Wii into a tropical getaway?

Read on to find out…

Story/Modes

Story? What story? Ten somewhat hip-looking kids are plopped down on an island paradise to play lawn darts. Remember lawn darts? Jarts? Someone threw one at my head when I was a kid. I have no idea why the Man banned the things. The characters do seem to have needless back stories, although accessible only in the instruction manual. Since the game is published by a Minnesota company, there’s a chick in there from Minneapolis. I played as her, just as a subtle spite to Lucard. Theres no “Ëœmode’ option to speak of in this game, either. You pick a character, grab your friends (if applicable), and start gaming.

Story Rating: 1/10 (A point for the home state)

Graphics

This is the Wii, so the game of course gets a mulligan begin with. These graphics however, are short of stellar even by Wii standards. The initial check-in screen, although nostalgically reminiscent of my old 386, is not what I like to call “pretty.” Graphics in-game are better, but by no means good. The putt-putt golf levels should be the highlight of the graphics, but backgrounds were glitchy and incomplete. It seemed like some of the moving backgrounds (hippos, pirate ships, etc) would flash in and out of existence in spite of a stable camera angle. Unless pirates have cloaking devices. While a few holes show off some nice touches, nothing feels like the immersive world of, say, Twilight Princess. Also, I have yet to figure out why 1 mph wind is visible in the lawn dartslevel. Seems like wind should be more “visible” the faster it goes, but no, this stuff is hurricane level graphically at low wind speeds even if it would be unnoticeable in day to day human existence.

Graphics Rating: Dreadful (For ridiculous looking hippos)

Sound

What do the tropical islands sound like? Want to find out? Go buy the cheapest Casio keyboard you can find and press the song demo button that’s labeled “tropical island.” It sounds like the music designers spent about $15 on a sample CD on the rare occasions they managed to get away from stock MIDI. I noticed this especially on the putt-putt levels. Horrible, horrible music. Not just horrible, but short. It seems like there are 45 second loops playing ad nauseum. Some levels just plain confused me with sound. The graveyard putt-putt has no music, but occasional, unintentionally hilarious moaning. And a low level Casio Laser® sound on the area 51 level just….confounded. The sound effects themselves are mostly good enough. I was impressed with how much the croquet balls sounded like croquet balls when they whacked into each other, but the crowd noises sound too much like the Fox canned laughter I’d prefer to forget.

Sound Rating: Poor (For wicket nostalgia)

Control & Gameplay

Ease of control should be the one area where Wii excels over all other consoles. Not so for this game. It’s a rehash of Wii Sports, only without custom characters and the fluid, out-of-the-box gameplay. Most of the games were straightforward in control design, but with a reputation for being playable by anyone right out of the box, a tricky learning curve can be a major drawback for trivial Wii games such as this. One irritating quirk of the game is the large time delay in between turns. For croquet and golf both, it takes an awfully long time for the ball to come to rest, and the game will proudly flash the SUMMER SPORTS! logo between every single turn in every single game, in case you forgot what you were playing. There is one major thing the gameplay has going for it, however, and that is the taunt. Hit the taunt button while your (human) opponent is trying to take a shot, and their Wiimote will make obnoxious noises. I managed to get my opponent to mess up quite a few times with this option, and it never got old.

Badminton:
Control is similar to Wii Sports tennis. The physics of the shuttlecock are fairly realistic, but there seems to be a fundamental flaw in registering shots occasionally. I would swing the Wiimote like a madman and my avatar would do nothing.

Putt-putt golf:
The mechanics here are pretty much what you’d expect, since I’m sure you’ve played Wii sports golf. I’m not sure if it’s a fundamental issue with accelerometers or what, (and I never had this problem on Wii Sports) but, while short and long putts can be gauged with ease, anything in the middle is nigh-impossible for the first 4 or 5 rounds. You’re either tapping the thing or trying to use the putter as an iron; there is not a lot of middle ground. And if you manage to get stuck at the top of a small incline, expect to watch the ball slowly roll. For two or three minutes.

Volleyball:
This one is similar to badminton, only you can hit a or b to set up or spike accordingly. We noticed a bit of a delay between Wiimote action and actual avatar motion, which is rather jarring. It may be a quirk of the game that requires some time to inure, but that’s a definite drawback for a game that should be accessible right out of the box.

Croquet:
Croquet was easily my favorite of the minigames. Identical to golf in mechanics, but the weightier balls seem to slightly balance out the middle-power shot issues from golf. This is the one I’d play if I had three friends over on a lazy, mimosa-fueled Sunday afternoon.

Basketball:
This is the sole game that doesn’t have a direct or near-direct analog in Wii Sports. I played this with a friend, and we both found the learning curve for basketball a bit disconcerting at first. It is incredibly difficult to gauge force/distance from where you are relative to the basket without an hour or two of practice. Since I am judging this game based on immediate accessibility, this is again a huge drawback. We only played horse (actually, the game allows you to play whatever word you like, so we played a round of fucko) but I don’t understand why the game allows you to dribble. All the games are stationary shooting games, so why even have the option? The game also forces you to hold the controller upside down for basketball, which I found a bit awkward.

Lawn Darts:
Its like Wii sports bowling. But, anyone who remembers lawn darts or jarts misses them, so this was an amusing enough game, if a bit boring after a couple turns. There’s a bird you can hit with your dart for additional points, but I got bored and moved on before even bothering.

Horseshoes:
This is, again, bowling. And, again, lawn darts. The physics seem pretty good, and close actually counts in this game and in hand grenades (not available as a summer sport, alas), but this is another one that got old quickly.

Control & Gameplay Rating: Bad (for the Wiimote fakery of cell phones)

Replayability

The one thing this game offers in the way of rewards for reply are accolades, which are rewarded for various feats in the minigames: hole-in-one, receiving no letters during a game of horse, etc. They’re not particularly interesting and I cannot imagine anyone lacking a psychological disorder will be too interested in receiving all of them just to change a title (only seen on the graphically challenged load screen) to “Ëœtiki XX’ (look up). If there were, like Rayman Raving Rabbids, some simple outfit changes or customization, it would add some draw for solo replays. Outside of that, the main draw is just a few more minigames for Wii parties. I can see bringing this out on a rainy day to get in my croquet with my friends (all named Heather.)

Replayability Rating: Dreadful (for gagging me with a spoon)

Balance

This is one thing the game seems to possess. The “Ëœeasy’ setting CPU characters were easy enough to not be too tough and hard enough (especially on putt-putt golf) to give some kind of challenge. This difficulty setting can be pretty readily bumped up to add some challenge to the single-player modes. Amusingly, if you play a really poor round of golf, they’ll take a bit of a dive later on so you don’t feel too bad. AI with sympathy. Awwww.

Balance Rating: Good (Thanks for making me feel better about the first game of putt-putt, Sanchez)

Originality

Ever play Wii Sports? Then you’ve played this. Toss in a couple stock, “hip,” uncustomizable characters and you’ve got Summer Sports. The look of the sports may change slightly, but the entire game feels very familiar. Even the 7 wonders of the world style putt-putt levels (which should be an easy area for creativity) seem stock and derived, especially to any fans of Goldie Hawn’s oeuvre. Once again, though, the taunt option rears its enjoyably ugly head. This is the only truly creative use the game made for the Wiimote and it’s an incredibly fun way to abuse your opponents.

Originality Rating: Bad (points for Kurt Russel movies and the airhorn.)

Addictiveness

If you bought a Wii, you have Wii Sports, and you’ve already played this game to death. The game is not enthralling enough on its own to draw you in and the rewards are far too trite to make long sessions worth sitting through stock MIDI music. As Wii is a group event more than a system for individuals, this game does offer a few minor variations that would keep a party of four occupied for a good hour-long jag and not a minute more.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad (a short tour of the island is session enough)

Appeal Factor

This game would potentially appeal to everyone – it’s a Wii game through and through. It’s simple enough to pick up and play and is completely inoffensive enough for the Wiis in the old folks’ homes. With so many other and better minigame based games out there, this one is a poor choice.

Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average (Grandma likes lawn darts, too)

Miscellaneous

One thought occurred to me playing this thing – where the heck is bocce ball? Soccer? Hackey sack? Frisbee? Seems like the game is short a few beach sports. Heck, you can play bocce ball on a tropical island, right? Although I don’t particularly mind a lack of cohesion in minigames, (Not every game needs to be like Rayman Raving Rabbids) if you’re going to skimp on structure, excel in variety.

Miscellaneous Rating: Dreadful (Wouldn’t you like to drink some beers and play some Frisbee golf after your croquet and mimosas?)

The Scores
Story: Worthless
Graphics: Dreadful
Sound: Poor
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Good
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Dreadful

FINAL SCORE: Pretty Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary
If you want minigames, the first Raving Rabbids game is on sale…

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