One of the greatest challenges that developer Longtail Studios had to overcome when making a game such as ESPN Sports Connection for the WiiU was the fact that they whatever they would do would be compared to Wii Sports, due to the fact that this game was being released as the “Sports” launch title for Nintendo’s newest gaming console.
Sometimes that sort of pressure can bring out the best in certain studios, but that just isn’t the case with this game.
One of the first things that I have to wonder is why ESPN allowed their name to be put on this game (unless they were paid a considerable amount of money.) ESPN hasn’t had their name attached to a game of this poor quality since the old Konami sports titles early in the 2000’s.
Right when you get into the game, you choose an Avatar for your character. What bothered me about this is the fact that they weren’t able to work with Nintendo to pull in any of your Mii’s into the game. You’re stuck with cartoonish characters that seem out of place considering that you were just looking at your Mii on the screen before you launched into the game.
The controls for most of the game modes are problematic at best, and incredibly frustrating and broken at their worst. For example, in the football game, when you are passing the ball (there are no running plays) there are times when you are holding the Wii Remote controller as the instructions tell you to do and the ‘passing arc’ on the screen, that shows you where you are trying to throw, will just disappear and you can’t get it back. Once this happens, you’re stuck and all of the simple arm movements or flailing that you attempt will never allow you to get the throwing arc back. I wish I could say that football was the only game with control issues, but baseball and golf also seem to have issues with detecting the Wii Remote (Plus is required) as well. What I found most comical about this is the fact that you’re constantly calibrating the controller to play the mini-games. How could a system have so many detection issues, when you should always seem to have a calibrated controller?
The baseball and golf mini-games feel like almost direct rips of the original Wii Sports games, but without the fun that those games offered. Never mind the fact that when you are making a copy of a game that is over 7 years old, that you should try and enhance or improve upon it, but these games do none of that. They just parrot the originals giving you a very, very basic game play elements that leave you bored within minutes.
Also included is a soccer game that allows you to use the WiiU Gamepad to control your shot, but only in the shootout mode. The rest of the time (for the regular soccer game,) you might as well just have the WiiU Pro controller, because there is no interaction with the Gamepad screen (which you would think would be the item they would try to let you use for some sort of control or shooting mechanism.) That thought sums up a lot of the mini-games in the collection. It seems as though they wanted to make WiiU Sports, but lacked the inspiration or time to try and actually utilize the new hardware, and as a result most of the games become very monotonous very quickly.
The only two modes that were even remotely fun for me to play during my time for the review for the game were the tennis cannonball mode, and the go karting game.
The tennis cannonball mode has one player swinging the Wii Remote while trying to hit into certain sectors on the cannon’s end of the court. The cannon player, uses the WiiU Gamepad (through the gyro sensor) to aim the serve through rings that are floating over the court. While the cannon shooting aspect was fun for a brief bit of time, there is no great incentive to get better and better at it as there are no high scores in the game to try and break. Any incentive to stick with the game mode is lost once you see that you’re really doing nothing more than playing for pride against a friend (and achievements, but I will have more on those in a minute.)
Out of all of the game modes, go-karting was by far the best (which isn’t saying much due to large frame rate drops and terrible rubber band AI,) but here’s the thing…. why would you pay $50 for this collection of mini-games, just for the go-karting, when the Sonic All-Stars is so damn good for $10 less.
The achievement system is the last thing that I wanted to touch upon in the game. There are 100’s of achievements in the game, which, in my opinion completely devalues them. If you get an achievement almost every time you do something, it starts to feel like getting a trophy for showing up for work that day. “You did something that you were supposed to do. Congratulations!” Of course, some of the achievements do require quite a bit of time to complete, but you would have to be an absolute masochist to actually try to play for all of them.
To sum up my thoughts on the game, if there was any part of you that was thinking of getting this game, I have a few words of advice. Don’t. Please, don’t. I don’t want to think that my time spent playing it was done in vain.
Verdict : Don’t… just don’t. (1 out of 4.)