Type: Game Enhancer, Peripheral, Shooter
The idea of a gun shaped peripheral designed by Nintendo seems a little odd, given the company's reputation for family friendly fare. That said, the Wii Zapper, a smooth, white, futuristic rifle, is far from menacing; more Buck Rogers than Dirty Harry.
It's also an ingenious bit of industrial design -- for the most part.
The Wii remote slides into a compartment on top of the gun, allowing the B-button on its underside to contact a trigger on the weapon's front grip and the infrared eye to point out through the barrel. The wire that connects the remote to the Wii nunchuk is stowed in the Zapper's body, where it winds around two posts for tidy storage, before exiting at the butt of the rifle, where the nunchuk fits into a second slot. The result is a sleek and nicely weighted gun peripheral with two triggers and one easily accessible joystick.
But it's not perfect. The most glaring issue is that none of the buttons on the surface of the Wii remote are easily accessible without either taking your finger off the trigger or figuring out some awkward means of holding the gun while resting your thumb on its top side.
Plus, unlike a traditional light gun, you can't aim directly at your target. This is, of course, because -- unlike most gaming guns -- aim isn't determined by line of sight but rather by the angle at which the remote's infrared eye sees the Wii's receiver, which is positioned above or below your set. In other words, your shots will hit wherever the remote's standard floating reticule happens to be, not where your gun is pointed -- usually a difference of a few inches, at minimum.
A subtler problem is the fact that things feel backward compared to how one would intuitively wield a real weapon. It seems everyone -- even if those who have never held a real gun -- probably intuitively understands that the grip and trigger of most rifles is found closer to their butts than their barrels, making the Zapper's primary trigger, located just inches from the front of the gun, feel a little weird.
These problems noted, the Zapper proved easy enough to get the hang of while playing Link's Crossbow Training, a game that comes bundled with the peripheral. Based on levels from The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess, this simple and short -- it's only about an hour long -- shooter serves as a demonstration of sorts, giving us a taste of both free movement and rail-based zapping and providing a feeling for what it might be like to play different styles of shooting games with the Zapper.
Of course, all of the controls for Link's Crossbow Training are tailored specifically for Nintendo's new peripheral. Playing a third-party game that requires players to access those awkwardly positioned buttons on the remote's face might make things a little trickier.
However, assuming more games styled expressly for the Zapper are forthcoming, it should prove a fun and useful add-on for Nintendo's console. Besides which, at just $20 for the game and gun, it's hard to go wrong.
Alternately, consider the Wii Blaster
, which costs the same, functions a bit better but doesn't come with a free game, though it is compatible with all Wii titles.
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