It’s time to look at a fairly recent Wii U game I got to play. I haven’t had a chance to play a true cash-in title in quite a while so it was nostalgic to an extent. That being said, the game was pretty underwhelming and falls for most of the traps that the Wii U games tend to sink in. The Gamepad and Wii Remote are both mandatory which is an issue since the Wii U should be able to play the game with its own controls. It’s like asking you to have a Gamepad while playing a Nintendo Switch game.
There are 6 games here and they range from okay to downright bad. It’s really something that Wii Sports has aged a lot better with the controls and pure gameplay. ESPN is just not on the same level and that’s really a bad sign. None of the games feel like they had any real care in them and they were simply slapped together for a quick profit. There is barely even a main menu as the only options are to click into the games or look at your in-game achievements. Those are your only options so the game is incredibly quick as you have probably already begun to suspect. Well, lets look at the games.
First up is Football which should have been great, but unfortunately the game messed this up by making it all motions controls. Throwing the ball is actually very difficult because the game won’t read your commands and by the time you are able to toss the ball it is usually too late so your guy will drop the ball. A lot of the game also boils down to luck as you pick 1 of 4 directions and hope that the other player picked a different one. If you pick the same one then the defender ends up stopping the attacker. It just doesn’t feel like Football, especially since you can’t run the ball at all even after catching it. All you can do is throw the ball which doesn’t even work well. Thumbs down on the first sport.
Then we have Tennis which has controls that are worse than the Balls of Fury game for the Wii. It’s made to be like Wii Sports as you swing your arm around and try to connect but the sensors aren’t perfect for this one either. You’ll have a very tough time hitting the ball and an even tougher time trying to get it to go where you want it to. The points all last way too long and so do the matches. It may be fair to say that this is the worst version of tennis that I have played in a game.
Not to be outdone, the Golf game here isn’t any better. In fairness to this minigame, it’s no worse than most Golf titles. It’s just that Golf isn’t for me and this is not the game to change that. You will have a hard time hitting the ball just right because you’ll end up swinging too hard to compensate for the sensor not reading your light hit. That means you can expect to get a Bogey instead of a Birdie.
Then you have Karting which is the best game almost by default. It’s not great or even that good, but at least it feels like a real game. You can actually accelerate accurately and the stages had a little effort put into them. By now it’s a pretty small bar, but I’ll take what I can get. This was probably the best game out of the 6 and it shows that racing games are still the foundation upon which everything tries to get built. It’s just easy to at least give you the impression of being in control here.
Next is Baseball and this one has the same issues as the Football game. It doesn’t feel much like Baseball because so much of the game is completely out of your control. There’s just no fun to be had here which is a real problem. Pitching feels pretty OP while batting isn’t satisfying. This leads to a poor balance for sure. Finally we have Soccer. Admittedly this one isn’t too bad. It’s up there with the Kart game for at least being entertaining. The controls are simple and you can actually score. It feels like soccer which is the important thing. So, all in all the game got 2/6 of the games right. I can’t really give it a ton of praise for that, but I’ll at least give it some credit.
Not enough to recommend the game though. When you see the name ESPN slapped onto something you expect a certain level of quality. This game did not fulfill that at all. It just went through the motions and ultimately gave you a title that you can’t really be all that proud of. The graphics are okay, but nothing special. They’re going for an art style like Backyard Football, but with less of a budget. It’s all colorful, but not very impressive. The soundtrack and presentation are basically nonexistent here so that isn’t doing the game any favors here either.
There is some replay value through the achievements that the game gives out. Each sport has 40 achievements and there are 28 social ones. Completing all of these achievements will be very difficult unless you have another player to cheese them with. I got a reasonable amount of achievements, but since they don’t unlock anything there really isn’t much point to them either. There isn’t even a mode to play all of the sports at once. It’s like playing Mario Party but without the party mode and knocking the dozens of minigames down to 6. Even if these minigames were amazing (which they aren’t) it would be tough to hold my attention for very long with such a limited selection.
Overall, ESPN Sports Connection is not a good game. It’s probably the most disappointing game since Star Fox Zero. There just should have been so much more to this title but it could not deliver on anything. Even the karting, while okay ends up making Mario Kart Tour look good. You could just buy a game that specializes in one of these 6 sports instead of buying the mini version. It can be done well like Wii Sports, but for the most part I tend to see a pattern of these kind of games being low quality. The game is only 2-3 dollars so it’s not a big loss if you buy it, but I would recommend going for something else instead. This one just won’t last you very long at all.