When Nintendo started its WiiWare download service last May, the range of its original games was laudable, with the action, puzzle, strategy and simulation genres all represented. The games themselves weren t all that great, but the promise was there.
Eight months later, the WiiWare library has more than 60 titles, some first-rate, some mediocre and some just awful. It s a decent selection, particularly if you like puzzle games, which comprise more than a third of the offerings.
WiiWare still trails both Microsoft s Xbox Live and Sony s PlayStation Network as far as original games are concerned. And the Wii hardware creates another issue: Its limited memory means you can only store four or five games on its hard drive.
Here are some of the highlights of WiiWare s first eight months.
World of Goo (2D Boy, $15)
This independently developed gem is by far the most buzzed-about game on WiiWare. It s a puzzle game whose characters are a bunch of surprisingly endearing blobs of black oil, and the challenge of each level is to guide them to an inconveniently placed pipeline.
You can manipulate the blobs to form towers and bridges, but the structures are wobbly and all too prone to collapse. Many of the levels appear impossible until you figure out the physics of the goo balls, and it s very rewarding when you reach one of those seemingly unreachable goals.
Three-and-a-half stars out of four.
Art Style: Orbient (Nintendo, $6)
There are three Art Style games on WiiWare, all featuring minimalist graphics and mellow soundtracks. Orbient is the most addictive of the three. You control a star moving across the galaxies; using gravity and antigravity, you can absorb stars, attract satellites or avoid black holes.
Using only two buttons, it s simple yet challenging.
Tetris Party (Tetris Online, $12)
The latest version of the block-dropping classic adds two compelling new solo modes. In Shadow, you re given a silhouette, and you have to fill the space without letting blocks go beyond the edges. In Field Climber, you have to use the blocks to build a tower that a tiny animated man can climb.
Add online competition and the option to use the Wii Fit Balance Board and you have a keeper.
Maboshi s Arcade (Nintendo, $8)
Here are three very simple – perhaps too simple – games based on geometric shapes. Three people can play three different games at once, and what makes this arcade interesting is that actions in one game affect objects in the other two. It s a fascinating, if not entirely successful, experiment.
Strong Bad s Cool Game for Attractive People (Telltale, $10 per episode)
This series, now up to five episodes, features characters from the beloved Homestar Runner Web comic. The stories are very funny, and the point-and-click puzzle solving will appeal to fans of the graphic adventures of the 1980s and 90s.