Nintendo's "Wii Music" invites players to pick up their wireless remotes and strum, toot, bang and drum their way through improvisational jam sessions using more than 60 virtual instruments on which there can be no wrong notes, no mistakes.
But soon after strolling into this supposed happy, feel-good musical world of personal interpretation, my family and I found the experience felt more like a random noise session powered by excessive flailing motions.
"Wii Music" ($50, Nintendo) is rated "E" for "Everyone," and many of the game's publicity shots show adults having a blast. But I can't see anyone older than 9 deciding to cozy up to it for an extended period of time.
The biggest problem is - well - the music.
The song selection is horrid, bouncing between childhood classics such as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "Yankee Doodle" and Nintendo game themes from "The Legend of Zelda" and "Super Mario Bros." And when you finally open up some more modern tunes such as "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" or "Every Breath You Take," the arrangements don't come close to doing the songs justice.
Instruments are played using four control styles.
Jam out on keyboards and drum sets by banging the remote and nunchuk in a downward motion. Guitars, banjos and the like can be strummed with the remote while hitting buttons on the nunchuk. Horns are played by holding a Wii remote up to the mouth while pressing buttons, and stringed instruments involve mimicking the movement of a bow.
The instrument selection is solid, peppered with some ridiculous items such as a dog suit that annoys with barks of various pitches. You can play songs in differing musical styles, and Mii characters from your console will sit in on various instruments if you don't have other humans to join your band.
Four little characters called the Be-Bops guide you through a song's rhythm, although you can ignore them and add in as many extra notes as you want.
Once you finish your jam session, you can save recordings and videos to share with others over the Wii's online connection. I can't see why anyone would want to watch someone else's performance.
Some of the "Wii Music" minigames provided some fun moments.
"Handbell Harmony" gives each player a pair of hand bells and challenges the group to each hit the correct bell when that note scrolls by. Trying to coordinate four people and eight hand bells into a cohesive performance was engaging, although all of us felt the controls seemed slow to respond at times.
The "Pitch Perfect" minigame quizzes players on tone recognition, providing a useful way to teach musical concepts to younger kids.
Mii Maestro allows players to conduct a full orchestra. We tried it with four players and all got a big laugh when the entire ensemble turned around in unison to stare when they couldn't figure out what we wanted them to do.
The game also offers a drum mode that combines the remote with the Wii balance board (sold separately), but if I really wanted to play virtual drums, I'd plug in my "Rock Band" set and jam out to some better tunes.
Younger children might enjoy some of what "Wii Music" offers, but adults and kids who have hit double-digits would be better off passing on this one.
One-and-a-half out of four stars.