WiiWare Demos! FINALLY!

It's no secret that Nintendo is the underachiever in console features this generation, especially in the online space. While Xbox Live and PlayStation Network both started strong and have been continually updated with emerging content, Wii's only online feature at launch was the Virtual Console, and only the bare minimum has been added since then. Even now, Wii's online service looks downright antiquated next to what Sony and Microsoft provide. Perhaps that's why Nintendo tries its best to keep its meager online offerings a secret.

Case in point: game demos. Both PlayStation Network and Xbox Live offer hundreds of free, playable sneak peaks at retail and digitally distributed games. And Wii? Most of the time, that number is zero. Almost a year ago, to the day, an experimental batch of WiiWare demos were made available through the Wii Shop Channel. A few months later, they were no longer available.

A year after the experiment began, it seems Nintendo's going to start giving WiiWare the demo support it deserves...sort of. On Monday, November 22nd, Nintendo released a second batch of WiiWare demos and promised that more would be made available on Mondays. The following games are currently available: And Yet It Moves, BIT.TRIP FATE, Jett Rocket, ThruSpace, and Cave Story. If you have a Wii, you should download them all right now, though: they'll only be available for a limited time, assumedly replaced by new demos. Read on for my brief impressions of each, or head to the Wii Shop Channel and download them right now. You'll find them in the WiiWare section, under New Releases. Or you can find a Demos category when sorting by Genre.


and yet it Moves Fall

And Yet It Moves is a 2-D platformer originally released for the PC last year. The player maneuvers a hero made of paper through an artsy environment by rotating the stage with Wii remote tilts. Manipulating the stage while also accounting for momentum and environmental hazards makes for a well-paced puzzle platformer. I actually just bought and finished the game on sale from Steam this weekend, but I have to say I prefer the Wii remote's precise rotation controls to the keyboard setup that restricts all rotations to 90 degree shifts. Anybody in the mood for a bit of a mind-bender should look into And Yet It Moves.


bit Trip Fate Curves

BIT.TRIP FATE is the fifth installment in the WiiWare-born BIT.TRIP franchise. Each game in the series features a unique take on rhythm-based gameplay with visuals inspired by the Atari era, and FATE takes this premise somewhere between a rail shooter and a bullet hell shmup. The player moves Commander Video along a line while the stage slowly scrolls to the right. The Wii remote's pointer is used to aim and fire at enemies while moving along the line to dodge enemy projectiles. BIT.TRIP BEAT was included in the first experimental batch of WiiWare demos, and it convinced me to purchase the full version along with VOID, a sequel. My short time with FATE has convinced me to send more Wii Points Gaijin Games' way. It's trippy, catchy, and probably quite challenging like its predecessors.


Jett Rocket Statue

Jett Rocket is a simple 3-D platformer from German developer Shin'En. The game seems rather casual and relaxing...maybe even a little boring. There doesn't seem to be much to it: a jump, some jetpack hover, a ground stomp, and a rolling dash attack are Jett's only abilities in the demo. The platforming and combat features are equally bare. What little is there, however, is quite polished, with clean visuals outclassing many retail Wii titles. And considering this is merely a demo, there could be more variety packed into the full download. Those looking for an uncomplicated, easygoing platformer at budget price may want to check this one out.


Thruspace Endless

ThruSpace is a bit hard to describe. I guess I'd say it's Tetris meets Hole In The Wall. Players move and rotate a figure made up of cubes so that the object will pass through a small opening in a wall. This simple premise is expanded into a rather complex combo and bonus system: rotating the object in a pattern that would fill the entire opening before passing through yields combo bonuses, and some areas in the opening have pink orbs to collect for extra points, as well. I used the nunchuk/Wii remote configuration, which uses the analog stick to move and the D-pad, A button, and B trigger to rotate, but the Wii remote can be used alone as well. ThruSpace takes a very simple premise and injects it with plenty of depth that would be perfect for score chasers. If you've got a mind for spatial awareness and thinking fast, this is a puzzle game for you.


Cave Story Eggs

Finally, Cave Story is a 2-D platformer often described as a mix of Metroid and Mega Man. It's actually been available since 2004 as freeware for the PC, but it was released on WiiWare earlier this year (and DSiWare this past Monday). It's also totally awesome: I played through the game on my computer last year, then bought it when it came to WiiWare with updated graphics, music, a few new play modes, and the ability to play it with a sideways Wii remote, which I definitely prefer to keyboard controls. Frankly, anybody who enjoys platformers should get their hands on Cave Story somehow: this WiiWare demo (and of course the free, full version you can download for your computer) provides a hassle-free method to do so.

I recently promised myself that I would finish up my extensive backlog before purchasing any new games. Thanks to some firsthand experience with these WiiWare demos, that's going to be quite the struggle. I already broke that vow for a deal on And Yet It Moves, and I'd buy Cave Story again if I could. BIT.TRIP FATE is quite tempting as well. If you've ever bothered to hook your Wii up to the internet, do yourself a favor and check out these five demos on the Wii Shop Channel. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more demos on the WiiWare service. Here's hoping Nintendo doesn't start slacking in that regard like it has with so many other Wii features.