Pros: Looking around by turning yourself is a fun gimmick, a way to see places you’ll never visit.
Cons: Lacks some major tourist spots like Cairo.
When I was a kid, people would have their vacation photographs turned into slides that could be projected onto a screen (yes, I’m that old). Friends of my parents would come back from a national park loaded down with slides, and I would have to stare at them for what seemed like hours while they rattled on about what a nice trip they’d had.
If you hate vacation pictures as much as I do, you probably won’t be that excited by Wii Street U, an app for the Wii U (free at present) which is essentially a more high tech way to look at a bunch of pictures of places you’re not at. Those who love leafing through coffee table books full of scenery from other places may, on the other hand, simply adore this modern version of the travelogue.
The Basics: Street View Comes to the Wii U
Wii Street U (always referred to by Nintendo as “Wii Street U powered by Google,” is an app that uses Google’s street view to let users view the rest of the world. For me, Google Maps has always been a tool to find directions or a nearby restaurant or, in street view, to figure out if that store I went to ten years ago is still there. But Wii Street U isn’t focused on - or designed for – usefulness; it’s all about the scenery.
The Experience: Look Around!
By default Wii U displays Street View on the gamepad, although you can push a button to show the same image on screen, which otherwise shows an overhead map. To look around, users must move the gamepad, pointing it up to see the sky and down to see the road; to move to a new spot you choose a direction indicated by an arrow and press A. If you’re looking north and want to look south you can stand up and face the other direction. At first I thought that was the only way it could be done, until someone pointed out that the direction keys would let me reorient my view, allowing me to stay comfortably seated on the couch.
While you can input any address or notable site that Street View has in its database (not every country is a fan of cameras snapping everything in sight, so you’ll find nothing for Egypt and nothing outdoors for India), Wii Street U has a menu of hot tourist spots like Stonehenge, The Great Barrier Reef, The Swiss Alps and Antarctica.
The Verdict: Not My Thing, But It's Free So Why Not Check It Out?
Exploring interesting places is one of the things that made me love games like Myst that allow you to wander through mysterious, foreign places, learn about ancient cultures, and solve intricate puzzles. Take out the puzzles, the story, the unearthly scenery, and the peaceful ambient sound effects and you are left with Wii Street U. If you’re a gamer, that might not be enough, but if you like vacation slides or spending hours perusing your facebook friends’ vacation images then this might be just what you’re looking for.