If you read my Wii U Madden Review, you would know I love sports and love mini-games, so when I saw ESPN Sports Connection on the shelf, I couldn’t resist. Combined with the GamePad, I felt it could be a shining example of the Wii U’s unique hardware, and multi-player enjoyability, while giving me the competitive rush without a huge investment of time. Unfortunately, I was mostly wrong.
ESPN Sports Connection offers 6 different sports – Tennis, Golf, Baseball, Soccer, Kart Racing, and Football – each offering a combination of single player and multi-player with different game modes. Depending on the game the Gamepad either functions as a vital tool gameplay or simply a secondary screen with minimal effect. An awards system exists in the game but is somewhat hidden and untouched, which is unfortunate, as that would add a much needed level of depth to Sports Connection. As in the video above, we’ll walk you through each sport and share our likes and dislikes.
Sincerely missing my Madden Mini-Games in 2013, football was the first sport to which I turned, and it set an unfortunate mood which was left lingering throughout my ESPN Sports Connection experience. Right off the bat, the game game took so long to load it seemed it froze, picking our first plays was unintuitive and seemed unresponsive (poor design), and controller calibrating was so horribly inaccurate that we seemed like Kyle Boller or Ryan Leaf with every hike/throw.
The concept of using the GamePad for defensive stands is a cool concept, but our players continually would stand and do nothing when ordering their defensive routes. It would have been interesting to see, as in Madden, using the GamePad to draw offensive routes; but without the routes working it makes very little difference.
Football was by far the most disappointing sport in the entire ESPN Sports Connection game, earning 0/10 stars. But look the positive side: it can only get better from here.
The other Futbol, or soccer as Americans would say, was light years ahead of this game’s American Football counterpart but still failed to captivate. Starting with controls where passing and shooting were the same button, limited skill is involved in actual gameplay. Nevertheless the game functioned properly and could be paralleled to a dumbed down Fifa. Revision: extremely dumbed down Fifa with the sweet spot being for grade schoolers. And it’s fine to target grade schoolers, so long as you know that’s who would most enjoy the game.
Get a gang of people, whether friends or family, to all collab on the game at one time and you could have a pretty wild time. The absence of complexity puts all levels of players on equal ground and reduces the learning curve. That being said, you’re likely to grow sick of playing rather quickly. Penalty shootout mode is worth trying, but as with most soccer games, incredibly boring. I’d give the soccer mini game a 4/10 on my fun factor.
By far my favorite of Sports Connection’s games, Baseball offers a very fun and interactive experience that leverages the GamePad and Wii remotes to achieve a bit of success. In addition to using the GamePad to pitch the ball, with the ability to curve it in crazy directions and change speeds, you also use the GamePad for fielding when the opponent puts the ball in play. Rotate your GamePad to the direction of the ball and “lock in” to catch it.
Batting in the game was fun as well, albeit with varying responsiveness. As you would imagine, swing the Wii remote as the ball passes by to hit- simple. Having one player standing up batting and one player on the couch tossing the ball made for a dynamic and fun environment.
While baseball would be great for groups of people and kids, the simplicity of the game makes it rather boring for one or two people playing head to head. Once the batter swings there is nothing more they can do on the base paths, and beyond the opportunities of fielding the ball, your defensive players have a mind oftheir own. As with the other sports, fun for awhile, but quickly wears. Still, I’d give baseball a 4/10 for what it does offer in its limited playability.
Another interesting Wii U GamePad twist comes in 2-player golf where one person (with the GamePad) is the caddy and the other player is the golfer. By getting a course overview and selecting recommended spots to hit the ball, the Caddy effectively (or ineffectively) gives his golfer onscreen TV queues of where to aim and how hard to swing.
Beyond this twist golf is what you would expect out of a regular Wii title. Somewhat enjoyable but completely predictable. Unfortunately, all that fun was partly ruined by the game’s very slow load times between holes and the need to calibrate your controller far too often. Golf gets a 3/10.
Another predictable mini-game, Kart Racing uses motion controlled steering with a acceleration, brakes, and boost. Nothing original here beyond the ability for one player, the chosen one with the GamePad, to view their car on their very own screen. (Pro tip: make sure you remember which car you are).
Really nothing new or too interesting with this arcade game which is fun for what it is – a simple multi-player racing game – but bores quickly: 3/10.
If by now you haven’t caught the theme, you haven’t been reading very closely. Tennis is another overtly simple sports minigame using motion control. There is limited GamePad use, allowing the GamePad player to see the game from their character’s perspective, but beyond that it adds little value.
The simplicity quickly loses your attention and if you’ve made it through all 6 mini-games, you might consider turning off the Wii U and staring at the wall for some much needed excitement. Tennis gets a 2/10.
It seems Ubisoft put out an incredibly rushed product with ESPN Sports Connection, highly contrasting their attention to detail with the critically successful Zombi U title. The games are far too simple to enjoy for anyone with an attention span, games are glitchy and unresponsive, load times are long and control calibration is required far too often, and the games are unpolished and offer little to no value beyond the typical Wii u sports title. While the Gamepad does see limited additional functionality, it doesn’t help much. It can be used to play games without the TV in solo mode, that seems more like a punishment than a plus.
Retailing at $50 (on launch) at GameStop, you have to wonder if it was purposefully launched for ROI, sucking in customers on an impulse buy who think, “ESPN, sports, mini-games, wii u”… it’s the sport gamers equivalent to Homer Simpson seeing donuts.
Don’t get suckered into this Wii U Sports title by the allure of head to head action with the GamePad… you’ll be sadly disappointed. Averaging the score for all 6 sports gives this game a total (rounded up) score of 3/10.
- Almost zero learning curve
- Can be fun for younger kids or big groups of non-gamers.
- Far too simple for most to enjoy
- Games have very little depth and get boring quickly
- Long load times are frustrating
- Frequent controller calibration is irritating
- Game responsiveness ranges from mediocre to non-existent
- Seems unpolished and haphazardly released
Final Score: 3/10