Wii Music

Different than any other music game you’ll have played before, Wii Music shakes up the formula by letting you play virtual instruments. But does it play as well as it sounds?

How young were you when you first touched a musical instrument? For some people, it’s as early as when they first learned how to speak. Some families put violins and trumpets and cellos and saxophones in their children’s hands as soon as they can grasp to create the next Wynton Marsalis or Trombone Shorty.

But for many other people, learning in instrument is a gradual process, something which either happens or never does and doesn’t exactly change a life for the better or worse. It’s a hobby or a love, but it’s not a life changer and it’s not required in the same sense that breathing or drinking water is.

For Nintendo, playing an instrument is seen as something fun and easy that anyone can do. That’s the sort of Wii-style that we’re beginning to expect out of Miyamoto, the mind behind Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and just about anything else with “Wii” in its title.

“Wii Music” is designed around the idea that anyone can play music. True to a point, Wii Music works by letting players simulate playing an instrument with the help of various Wii-controllers like the Wiimote, Nunchuk, and even the Wii Fit Balance Board. Unlike other music-based games which come with their own peripherals, Wii Music uses motion controls and hand-positions to simulate you playing the game. For instance, if you want to play guitar, you told the Wiimote and Nunchuk as if one were the neck the other was the body you were strumming on. An easier example is the trumpet which has you take the Wiimote up to your mouth and have you imitate blowing on it while you press buttons on the Wiimote to simulate playing a trumpet.

The idea is simple and can be quite fun even allowing you the prospect of being a drummer with a few different drum sets and playing on the Balance Board.

But while it’s typical for a Wii game to test the limits & rules of how a game is developed, Wii Music goes too far by removing any rules, limits, or penalties altogether. In Wii Music, it doesn’t matter if you’re bad at the game nor does it matter if you really care about playing.

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If you’re not very good at Wii Music – and that would be very hard to believe unless you were perhaps dead – it doesn’t matter. The game will reward you regardless of how good or bad you are. Get a high score and you unlock a song, get a low score and you unlock a song; it doesn’t matter in Wii Music because there’s not a single penalty system other than having a low score, something that neither marks or dents any of the gameplay.

This whole lack of rules might make you think that Wii Music could be fun, an unlimited sandbox sort of play if you will, but that whole idea bursts pretty quickly when you realise you’re playing for no reason whatsoever. There’s no story to speak of and no awards to win. You’d be better off picking up a triangle or a recorder and learning to play those because they at least have some sense of accomplishment whereas Wii Music does not.

It gets more pointless because it doesn’t matter how you play Wii Music. Simply holding the Wiimote & Nunchuk and performing the action similarly to how each instrument is demonstrated yields the response and after that all that matters is getting the actions in some sense of time. The concept of time seems fairly loose too as even correct time – or what your brain perceives as correct time – will be strangled by strained music if you decide to play as either the conductor or in a jam session.

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As for what it sounds like, “cheap polyphonic mobile phone sounds” were the first words uttered from my mouth after a coworker suggested that every sounded like a Midi file. That’s not too far from the truth as the quality of sound here is nothing in comparison to the sort of sound you’re used to hearing in games like Guitar Hero or even the Dance Dance Revolution series. It’s not even as good as the Nintendo DS’s Elite Beat Agents or Osu Tatake Ouendan series.

The variety of music on offer ranges from classic hits such as Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, the “Super Mario Bros.” theme, all the way to actual licenses tracks by artists such as Madonna, Wham!, The Jackson 5, Sting & The Police, and even a little Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music. But while there’s a decent amount of music, none of it sounding all that good makes any of it a joy to actually play. Rather, you’d be better off turning the radio on in the hopes of listening to them to hear these track as the lack of decent gameplay combined with the flat and pointless sound makes all of this seem a little irrelevant.

I’ve played games since when I could first remember and while I liken myself to a kid and absolutely adore kids games, perhaps the lack of solid design in this game actually stops me from enjoying it. I seriously believe that while this has been developed for a family point of view, you should probably be really young to enjoy it. It’s not like Animal Crossing or Zak & Wiki, two games that were ultimately kid friendly but proved to be fun for all ages. No, Wii Music seems limited to people who are young and want something simple and that seems a shame from a company known for bringing some of the most original concepts out of their development house.

If you’re three, I can see Wii Music being a great game to play because of how much effort it doesn’t need and how simple it is. Any older and you’ll get bored & fall asleep. Seriously, playing Air Guitar requires more skill than this game.

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Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Classification: G
Formats: Nintendo Wii
URL: Wii Music

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark