Games 7/21: Wii Sports Resort, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The Punisher: No Mercy

Wii Sports Resort
For: Nintendo Wii
From: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: Everyone (cartoon violence)

Nintendo was perhaps more lucky than good with “Wii Sports,” a terrifically fun compilation of games that made the Wii remote look considerably more versatile than it actually was.

With “Wii Sports Resort” — and particularly, thanks to the Wii MotionPlus attachment that’s bundled inside — that illusion is now for real. The MotionPlus attachment allows the Wii remote to mimic real-time motion in ways the remote cannot do on its own, and “Resort” takes full advantage en route to establishing itself as a superior sequel.

Structurally, “Resort” feels a lot like the original “Sports.” Each of the 12 available sports (up from five) features a handful of modes built around the sport, and each mode offers a single-player mode with scalable difficulty, two- or four-player local multiplayer or (in most cases) both. Online play, once again, is a no-show.

The incremental differences are no surprise, because “Resort” exists primarily to make the MotionPlus’ introduction a smooth one.

That, happily, is where the game shines. Bowling returns almost structurally unchanged from “Sports,” but the added control flexibility makes it easier to add spin and pick up trickier spares. Tennis, now reborn as Table Tennis, also benefits immensely by giving you more control over not just the trajectory of your shot, but the angle with which you hold your paddle. (Golf, unfortunately, still suffers from the excessive sensitivity that hampered it in its original incarnation.)

The new events hit more than miss as well. The Frisbee events, which include Frolf and a Frisbee Dog contest, replicate the sensation of tossing a Frisbee shockingly well, taking into account both your toss and how you hold the disc while doing so. Archery, which employs the Nunchuck attachment, never quite feels realistic, but it nevertheless incorporates the motions and the science of archery to surprisingly good effect. Basketball’s Pickup Game mode is a bit weird — you can’t control your player’s on-court movements — but the 3-Point Contest is great because of how well the remote replicates the artistry of a perfect jump shot. Even the Canoeing event shines due to how responsive and flexible the paddling feels.

But it’s the Swordplay events, which allow you to wield a Nerf-style sword with remarkable freedom of motion, that headline this endeavor. The freedom is such that you can even turn the Wii remote around and bonk opposing swordfighters with the butt of your sword, and the range of events — from one-on-one battles to a surprisingly lengthy single-player adventure game in which you take down waves of enemies like a wannabe Jedi — allow you ample opportunity to take full advantage.

Doing so much right makes “Resort’s” lowlights entirely forgivable. Cycling and Power Cruising, in particular, feel gimmicky and unnatural to the point of unwieldy. The Air Sports (flying, skydiving) and Wakeboarding events fare better, but their simplicity positions them as occasional diversions rather than heavy rotation material.

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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
For: Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 2 and PC
From: Blue Sky/Eurocom/Activision
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ (cartoon violence)

Games based on kids movies absolutely love to bounce around between genres under the assumption that multiple jobs acceptably done makes up for an inability to do any one of them especially well. More often than not, the assumption doesn’t fly.

It takes longer than it should, but “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” emerges as an exception to the rule. Instead of diluting the experience democratically, “Dinosaurs” lives dangerously by getting its worst moments out of the way and rewarding anyone who remained faithful long enough to keep playing.

It isn’t easy. “Dinosaurs'” first level, starring players as Sid, feels like any old so-so 3D platforming level from any old so-so game. Sid controls sloppily, his hand-to-hand combat repertoire is pitifully bad, and his mission objectives never aspire beyond simple forward progress and item collection.

The second mission, which thrusts Sid into what essentially is a multiple-part chore simulator, fares even worse. It also ranks among the game’s longest levels, combining with the preceding level to create a most distressing first impression.

But it’s during mission three that “Dinosaurs” starts turning it around, embarking on the first of what amounts to an impressively high number of successful right turns. The mission, starring players as Diego and sending him on a high-speed chase to catch a gazelle, is as simple as it sounds and lasts barely two minutes long. But it’s fast, slightly exciting, and more fun in those two minutes than the preceding two missions combined.

Following another so-so Sid level — which, happily, is better conceived than the preceding two — “Dinosaurs” mixes it up again with a mission objective that sends Sid rolling down a mountain atop of giant snowball. The challenge amounts to a simplified but fun riff on “Super Monkey Ball,” and bumping into certain enemies like a high-speed sumo is a blast.

From there, “Dinosaurs” tries a little of everything — second-person-camera escapes from rampaging dinosaurs, 2D platforming levels starring Scrat, third-person projectile shooting, a ride on a pterodactyl that pays strikingly good homage to 2D sidescrolling space shooters that dominated arcades in the 1980s. Somehow, it all works. Even “Dinosaur’s” later 3D platforming levels, starring the much more capable Buck, are a considerable upgrade over what preceded it. It’s as if another developer took the reigns halfway through the game’s creation.

The sum total of “Dinosaurs” — a single-player story mode that runs five or six hours and a healthy collection of single-player challenge levels and multiplayer party games — would amount to ideal rental fodder were it made for older players. But the level of variety found inside — to say nothing of how well “Dinosaurs” pulls most of it off — makes this a surprisingly viable (and replayable) buy for younger fans of the movies. Outside of perhaps “Monsters vs. Aliens,” it’s the best of its breed so far this summer.

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The Punisher: No Mercy
For: Playstation 3 via Playstation Network
From: ZEN Studios
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)
Price: $10

“The Punisher: No Mercy” comes to the Playstation 3 on the assumption that those who purchase it have no need for the mountain of advances first-person shooters have made in the last 10 years. It exists primarily as a multiplayer shooter (eight players), but the online play lags and the interface makes it trickier than need be to set up a game with friends. In terms of action, “Mercy” is similarly uninspired: The bounty of unlockable weapons and power-ups is nice, but the modes, maps and general look and feel of the action just feels old and excessively simple. It doesn’t help that you need to play through the single-player mode — essentially a collection of multiplayer matches with absolutely lobotomized A.I. bots charging at you instead of human opponents — to access most of that armory. The reliance on such ancient conventions and technology is slightly forgivable considering “Mercy’s” $10 price tag, but that leniency goes out the window when games like “Battlefield 1943,” which costs $5 more but feels exponentially more modern, release at the same time. In terms of which shooter deserves your dollars, it’s not even a contest.