Picture tennis on the Wii, but without a Remote. You could say it's like Microsoft's Project Natal, but the surprise new Wii game that pulls this off is actually borrowing an approach from Sony's EyeToy. Kotaku swung through it yesterday.
The game is Ubisoft's newly-announced Racquet Sports. It offers tennis, squash, table tennis, racquetball and badminton and supports up to four players. Control options initially seemed, during a demo of the game in a New York penthouse hotel suite last evening, conventional. Racquet Sports can be played, like Wii Sports Tennis, with just the Remote. Or, for more sensitive motion control, players can use a MotionPlus. Using that second option, I competed in a virtual squash match in an underwater glass box against a Ubisoft developer. She had no mercy.
But the surprise was that the Ubi rep then offered me the chance to play the game with no controller. Racquet Sports enables this via the publisher's proprietary Wii camera peripheral, which originally sold with the company's 2009 fitness game, Your Shape.
The camera-controller mode only works in single-player and reminded me of games I've played with the PlayStation 2's Sony EyeToy. As with games like EyeToy Play, I had to stand within the dimensions of an outline rendered on the TV so that the camera could detect where I stood in the room. From there it would be able to register my movements.
Once I was calibrated, a tennis match started. An image of me was gone from the screen, replaced by the Racquet Sports' straightforward tennis-match visuals. I'm left-handed, so I lifted and swatted with my left hand to serve, and then volleyed swinging forehands and backhands. Between serves, a replay showed how the previous point was scored, but I could skip that with a wave of my right hand.
The Ubisoft camera doesn't operate with the sophistication I experienced in demos of Microsoft's Project Natal. It's not detecting my joints and mapping my movements to that of a virtual stick figure. It's, in the words of the Ubisoft developer showing me the game, looking at "pixel clouds," determining if my movement is straight out to the side or at an angle and interpreting that, along with the speed of my movement, into different kinds of shots.
I had a good time playing without the controller, though I wasn't sure why anyone would forgo the option to use one other than to conserve battery power in their Remote. It worked well, evidence that there's more than one way to do motion controls on the Wii.
I asked if the developers had tried using the camera mode with real tennis rackets in their hands. Not yet, I was told. But with a table tennis paddle, they said, it works just fine.