Last year saw Nintendo get serious about online gaming. But is the Wi-Fi service worth the bandwidth it's written on? To find out, we secured three of last Christmas' biggest games, and maimed, killed and traded fruit with everyone in sight. Here are our findings...
Quantum of Solace
"Name's Bland, James Bland." "No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die of tedium." Oh, the 'Quantum Of Solace is rubbish' jokes could go on and on. And yet a tedious FPS-by-numbers with the worst frame rate since the View-Master (ask Dad, or Google) is saved by a multiplayer mode which, defying all known logic, is absolutely BRILLIANT.
There are only four modes (as opposed to the eight that you get on Xbox 360), but what's there is good. There's the standard 'you against the world' option, here called Conflict, and a team-based variant called - oh yes - Team Conflict. If you tire of these, you can always opt for 'Rush' (or, indeed, 'Team Rush') - an objective-based twist on the game, requiring you to retrieve briefcases, assemble golden guns and other such intelligence officer-type things.
Does it work?
Lag? James Bond knows not of lag. The motion-sensing, as in the single-player game, tends to be a bit woolly, which can make pulling off kills needlessly difficult. Fortunately, it seems to be the case for everyone else too, so it's a level playing field.
It can be quite difficult to get a game at times, although once you find a match it tends to fill fairly quickly. Quantam Of Solace's online mode seems to be a bit of a secret, so the quality of play is quite high, although clever balancing ensures that it never devolves into a snipe-fest. The game was a relative success at retail, so there's no reason to suspect that the online community will fade away any time soon.
A more measured, patient game than Call Of Duty: World At War, with an increased emphasis on finding cover and picking your spots. At its best, it reminds us of the Xbox's Rainbow Six Vegas - and that's one of the console's best online games. What few levels are present are colourful (sometimes the wrong side of gaudy) and memorable, although the design doesn't have the finesse of Call Of Duty. The HUD is ugly and, at times, obtrusive, but overall it's an enjoyable experience. If you find a copy of the game for under £20 (hardly mission impossible), Quantum Of Solace is well worth a punt for its online mode alone.
Animal Crossing: Let's go to the City
Make your pretend world seem a bit more real and justifiable by inviting your real-life mates over for a spot of coffee and fishing. Four minutes later, after they've trampled all your flowers to death and turned your neighbours against you, show them the door.
Animal Crossing's most lauded online feature on Wii is the ability to invite up to three of your friends round to your village for giggles and gossip, but the potential of the online implementation stretches much further than that, and sometimes in quite subtle ways. Firstly, there's the auction house, where you can, hypothetically, flog your useless tat in exchange for enough bells to keep Tom Nook's pipe-wielding goons at bay for a year. Alas, the bidding is restricted to people on your Wii friends list, so it's somewhat less than amazing unless you have a bulging contact list. Of more interest is the way the Wii draws information from your friends' worlds and incorporates it into your own. Your fuzzy neighbours reminisce over your pals' habits sometimes weeks after they've departed, and tell tales of faraway lands lurking in the depths of your friends list.