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The wand the magic factor in interactive Wii games

I got hit on the head by a golf ball the other day. A real golf ball. This is a true story. I was sitting by my pool, next to a golf course where part of “Casino” was filmed, and it finally happened. Some joke of a golfer beaned me on the brain.

I wasn’t hurt, but I wasn’t thrilled with this particular kind of golf interactivity. So I walked into my house and started playing the merely virtual interactivity of “We Love Golf!” on my Wii, which is also a true story.

“We Love Golf!” isn’t a great game, but there is something great about it. “Golf” firmly embraces the fact that it is a Wii game. What I mean is, you use the Wii wand as a golf club. You stand up, you swing the wand, the game reads your swing via the wireless wand, and the golf ball goes “whee.”

This sounds obvious, if you know anything about the interactivity of the Wii. But hear me out. There is a tiresome little trend among other Wii games to basically ignore the interactivity of the Wii wand — even though interactivity is the Wii’s most compelling feature.

Look at “MLB Power Pros 2008.” In that game, you don’t swing the Wii wand like a baseball bat. You hold two Wii remote controls as if you were playing any other game system. You sit there. You press buttons. That might be fine, except the baseball players look like cartoon Weebles. So it looks playfully silly, like most interactive Wii games, but it plays realistically hard, which is a dumb combo.

I prefer the brand-new “Mario Super Sluggers,” where characters also look something like cartoon Weebles, but the baseball game is easy to digest with its Wii-wand interactivity. You form a team of nine Mario characters (Luigi, Princess and the rest) for baseball set on grass, on ice, in an amusement park or in a Donkey Kong jungle. You swing the wand to pitch, field, hit and run. All is right in the world.

Unfortunately, not all interactive Wii games work so well. There are clunkers, like “Wonder World Amusement Park,” where the interactivity is wasted on a handful of Whac-A-Mole-type ticket-winning outings from amusement parks. Alas, these minigames are too short and poorly crafted.

Conversely, if a Wii game is not interactive, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. This summer’s Wii version of “Space Chimps” is nothing more than an old-school, double-jumping, side-scrolling platformer. It is a button-pusher, not a Wii wand-er. But it’s good enough for kids and gamers who are new to scrollers.

The bottom line is, not all Wii games have to be interactive to be good, but it helps. People generally buy the Wii for its interactivity. So why not give it to them? If even this year’s “Manhunt 2” turned the Wii wand into a bloody, violent knife, surely then every cartoony baseball game can turn the wand into a nonviolent bat.

(“Mario Super Sluggers” by Nintendo retails for $50 for Wii — Plays fun and childlike. Looks good. Easy to challenging, based on settings you choose. Rated “E.” Three stars out of four.)

(“MLB Power Pros 2008” by Take Two retails for $40 for Wii; $20 for PS 2; $30 for DS — Plays fun if you like harder baseball games, cute characters and almost no Wii wand interactivity. Looks fine. Challenging. Rated “E.” Two stars.)

(“Space Chimps” by Brash Entertainment retails for $50 for Wii and Xbox 360; $30 for PS 2 and DS — Plays fun if you’re new to childlike, 2-D platform games. Looks very good. Rated “E 10+” for animated blood, crude humor, language, mild fantasy violence. Two and one-half stars.)

(“We Love Golf!” by Capcom retails for $50 for Wii — Plays fun if you like basic interactive golfing. Looks good. Easy. Rated “E.” Three stars.)

(“Wonder World Amusement Park” by Majesco retails for $40 for Wii — Plays dull and small. Looks passable. Easy. Rated “E” for comic mischief, mild cartoon violence. One-half star.)

Contact Doug Elfman at 702-383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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