The Wii menu interface is designed around a series of channels, navigated using the pointer or the plus and minus buttons to flip through each channel. As of now there are only five channels, with the news channel yet to be activated. Nintendo has recently announced, however, that a free trial of the Internet Channel – an Internet browser based on the excellent Opera – will be available this coming Friday bringing the total up to six. The full version of the browser should be available early next year.
The first channel, the Disc Channel, does no more than launch games so lets move onto the Mii Channel. The Mii Channel is a neat idea, allowing you to create cartoon like characters and likenesses using a series of menus to select the kind of face, hair, eyes, nose and all sorts of other details you want. It's really fun to play around with creating versions of yourself, your friends, celebrities, animals and other weirder creations.
These can then be used as playable characters in Wii Sports and also sent to friends with whom you've exchanged Wii Codes – more on which later. There's also the Mii Parade, where friends can set their Mii's to 'Mingle' and visit your Wii as part of a parade. This particular feature is somewhat restricted since it only works with friends but in general the Mii Channel is well implemented, and there will no doubt be further games that use Mii's as in-game characters too.
Next up is the self-explanatory Photo Channel. Here you can look at, play around with and enjoy photos from an SD Card and load them onto the internal flash memory. There's even a puzzle mode that makes puzzles out of your photos, and a doodle mode for making basic and fun changes to your photos. You can also make slide shows, and add MP3 music files to accompany them. All in all it works well enough, though it's more of a fun diversion than anything you're likely to use on a regular basis.
The same can be said of the Forecast Channel, which was unveiled in a recent update. Once you've selected your nearest town or city it gives you access to five day forecasts, current weather and all the little details you'd normally expect. There's also a Globe that you can move around and zoom in and out of; allowing you to discover what the weather is like in the South Pole and elsewhere. Again, this works fine as it is, though it lacks the sort of detail you'd find online, especially if you live in a remote area.