Let’s cut to the big question: does this Realplay stuff actually work? Well, the hardware certainly does. Tilt the Puzzlesphere ball and the onscreen sphere rolls off in the right direction. Tilt it softly and it rolls at a slower pace; tilt it wildly and it rolls at quite a lick. In the racing game, rotating the steering wheel left and right steers the onscreen car left and right, and there’s a certain degree of range between harder steering and softer steering (and the game has the sense to include three default settings of responsiveness). I was sadly unable to test the golf game, but you could definitely see the accelerometers working in the three-part Realplay Pool cue. Soft shots gently push the cue ball into play, while hard shots send balls rocketing around the table in a fairly satisfying manner.
The problem is that the software supported by the hardware is at best adequate and at worst pretty rotten. I kicked off with Puzzlesphere – a game I had heard some good things about – and I was immediately horrified by the primitive 3D backgrounds, low-resolution textures and poor lighting on display. It makes the PS2 version of Super Monkey Ball 2 look like Bioshock.
Still, graphics aren’t that important here. What is is the gameplay. Is Puzzlesphere as much fun as, say, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz? Sadly, that’s a big, big no. For a start, it’s nowhere near as accessible. In the very first level you’re hit with demanding, twisting narrow paths with fatal drops on either side, forcing you to constantly reach for the brake button if you fancy any chance of survival. And from here Puzzlesphere only grows more difficult. Checkpoints within the level help reduce the frustration factor by a miniscule amount, but that good work is undone by the decision to give you only three lives with which to complete the level, otherwise it’s back to square one. It’s a shame, because the motion sensitive controls are actually quite well implemented, but the whole game design and difficulty level is pitched above what the casual gamers will normally stand.
Realplay Racing isn’t really any better. The visuals are just about functional, but on a system that can produce racers as good looking as Gran Turismo 4 and Burnout: Revenge ‘just about functional’ doesn’t really cut the mustard. And once again the course design and initial difficulty seems weighted against casual players. Just about anyone can pick up Excite Trick on the Wii and have a good time, but Realplay Racing doesn’t give you the simple tracks you need to get you started nor any incentive to keep playing. The bare bones racing and simple championship structure just doesn’t seem optimised for fun.