At first, Realplay Pool looks like the best of a bad bunch. The graphics are still fairly dire, but there’s a world tour mode along with quick match options, and even a Create your own Player feature (though not one that will give EA any cause for envy). But then you discover that the pool cue only really controls the vertical angle and the velocity of your shot, while the specifics of aim and spin are controlled using the D-pad mounted on the shaft. Worse, there’s no real-time feedback on the forwards/backwards movement of the cue, making it hard to judge the strength of shots. Realplay Pool is playable – and with a bit of practice roughly enjoyable – but in no way does it approximate the feel of the real thing.
And overall you can’t help feeling that In2Games has missed what made the Wii and its best games so lovable and so successful. These were games that a huge range of people from different generations could just pick up, play and have fun with. They had been playtested and doubtless focus-grouped to destruction, and they made a virtue of the Wii’s limited graphic capabilities through great design. Most of all, the best parts of Wii Sports – particularly tennis – caught a little of the flavour of the real thing. You could feel the way the position and movement of the remote played out in the action on-screen, and you didn’t even need a clumsy plastic racket attachment to make that happen. By comparison, this first batch of Realplay games feel amateurish, poorly conceived and badly executed.
I’ve no doubt In2Games has the technical know-how to build effective hardware, and I’m still keen to see whether its next-generation Freedom controller, aimed at the Xbox 360, PC and PS3, can use its advanced ultrasound-based technology to give a Wii experience on the next-gen console hardware. But if it’s going to take off, then its software needs to be an awful lot better than what I’ve seen here. As they are, neither Puzzlesphere nor Realplay Pool nor Realplay Racing is going to make an adequate replacement for a Wii this Christmas. You might be looking for a stopgap to keep the kids happy, but you’re only going to pile one disappointment on another.
The Realplay hardware seems sound, but the software just isn’t up to scratch. It takes better game design than this to make something that can stand in for a Wii.