Wii Sports is surprisingly absent for the launch of the Wii U. Nintendo Land is filling that void for demonstrating what the tech can do. So Ubisoft has taken it upon themselves to release an equivalent title in the form of ESPN Sports Connection. This collection of sports mini-games feels so strikingly familiar to Wii Sports minus one key ingredient: the fun. There are six total games included, and each one presents its own form of issues. Let’s break them down and get a better idea of the playing field.
This was an obvious choice. Tennis allows players to engage in some back-and-forth action with either the Wiimote or the Gamepad. Playing with the Gamepad is definitely cumbersome. For starters you cannot look at the TV. Drawing lines across the ball on the touch screen controls your shots. It doesn’t help that the timing feels off, and half the time the swipes completely miss. If you opt to go with the Wiimote, things do improve, but it still lacks the precision of Nintendo’s offering from six years ago.
Who doesn’t like a good game of footie? Well, Ubisoft’s effort supports up to four players with either the Wiimote of Gamepad. It really doesn’t matter which you use, as the controls are fairly traditional. The shoot and pass buttons are the same, which can be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of, it isn’t terrible. You aim shots with the directional pad and sprint with the B button. There is nothing offensive here, but it also really isn’t that much fun to play.
Again mimicking Nintendo’s ideas seems pretty straightforward, but the execution here is terrible. You use the Wiimote to adjust your swing power, but even when it works, it isn’t accurate. It is also worth noting that without a Wiimote, you cannot play this game, so if you did buy a Wii U and don’t have some old hardware laying around, you will have to skip this particular sport.
This is probably one of the most fun of the bunch, but again, only when it works. You use the touch screen to aim pitches and the Wiimote to bat. Again you have to have a Wiimote to even play this game. The pitching controls are fine, but the batting suffers the same accuracy problems the rest of this collection does. It seems like this was pushed out without getting even the fundamental aspects of the motion control right.
This was the one I was most excited for, and easily the most frustrated with. You have to have a Wiimote, as you use it here to throw the football. The touch screen is used to call plays and move players around the field. Both of these parts are broken. Picking plays tells you to defend against what your opponent is doing, which you never know, and moving players is a hassle as you can only move one at a time, while the action never stops. This package continues to get more and more disappointing.
This was the one I had the most fun with. You can opt to play using the gyroscope in the Gamepad, or traditional controls. You can drift, and it feels good most of the time. However, one of the weirdest issues is that it has terrible frame rate issues. The game chugs constantly. I’m not sure if it is the programming or the hardware to blame, but this isn’t exactly a powerhouse title visually.
Overall, things just feel broken here. The visuals have issues in every sport, and the game just doesn’t look that good. The navigation is also confusing at times, and the title doesn’t feel like it was designed solely for the Gamepad. It is also troubling that you are required to have a Wiimote for half of the titles. This just screams “rush job.” There is nothing redeeming about ESPN Sports Connection. This may look and seem like Wii Sports, but you are better off just popping your old disc in the Wii U. Those games are still better than what is offered here, six years later.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.