Nintendo's move of packing in Wii Sports with every new Wii sold in the US proved to be a genius move. Though it was little more than a simple collection of tech demos, Wii Sports can perhaps claim some of the credit for the system's immediate mainstream appeal because it provided built-in proof of the kind of fun, accessible gameplay the Wii was capable of. Less than three months after launch, Nintendo follows up with Wii Play, a similar collection of minigames that lacks that athletic theme as an anchor. Those looking for more of what they got out of Wii Sports will undoubtedly be disappointed because the quality and lasting value of the games aren't as high. There are a few keepers in there, but for the most part the novelty wears off quickly.
Possibly the best feature in Wii Play is the game's prominent and pervasive use of Miis, the simple, caricatured avatars native to the Wii. When you first boot up the game, you're asked to choose a Mii to play as, and from that point on you'll see a variety of Miis--those that reside in your console's Mii Plaza and Mii Parade, along with more-generic Miis produced by the game--everywhere. Considering the paucity of games that employ the Miis, it's a welcome bonus in Wii Play.
There's not much structure to Wii Play beyond the individual games. At first you'll have access to only one of the nine games, and you'll have to play it and then each of the following games you unlock before you'll gain access to all of them. You start off with Shooting Range, which is basically Duck Hunt with fewer ducks, and in it you use the Wii Remote as though it were a light gun. The game consists of several rounds, during which you'll pop balloons, shoot clay targets, juggle tin cans in the air, and, in the final round, prevent marauding waves of UFOs from abducting Miis. The controls are good enough, but the game is not particularly dynamic. The passing references to light-gun classics like Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley are a nice touch, though they kind of make you wish one of those games had been ported directly.
After that you'll gain access to Find Mii, which is similar in concept to Where's Waldo, though on a smaller scale and with faster pacing. With the clock ticking, you'll be challenged to pick out matching sets of Miis from a small crowd, identify Miis that are out of sync with the others, and find a Mii that you had identified as a "favorite" several rounds earlier. It's not particularly challenging, and it takes its sweet time in turning up the difficulty by having the Miis run or swim around the screen and limiting how much of the screen you can see at once. The biggest problem, though, is the limited number of Miis that are ever onscreen at once.
Considering how much physical fun the tennis portion of Wii Sports was, you might be expecting more than you'll be getting out of Table Tennis in Wii Play, which doesn't require you to serve or even try to score points. Your only objective here is to rally with the other player for as long as you possibly can, which requires you to just keep up with the ball by moving the paddle side to side.