Summer Sports: Paradise Island
Not Quite Paradise
Trevor | March 19, 2022
The Clearance Bin feature returns with a real treat; a tropical island getaway, where some friends with eccentric personalities are gathering for summer fun! Just kidding, it’s a bad mini-game collection.
Title: Summer Sports: Paradise Island
Release Date: April 15, 2008
It’s been a while since we’ve jumped into the deep end of the resort pool over here. We were overdue for a special treat, and what a special treat this was. Not the game, mind you. Definitely not the game. At the best of times, Summer Sports: Paradise Island is a passable mini-game collection from the era of wiimote waggling. At worst, it's a ghoulish hell you will never escape, while you are trapped watching a blonde college girl named Sarah absolutely crush you in croquet before you even get a turn.
No, the real treat awaits us elsewhere, in a most unexpected place. But before we get there, we must play and rank every mini-game in Summer Sports: Paradise Island.
1 — Basketball
Now I know what you might be thinking — Basketball is a weird sport to include in a “Summer” games collection, right? I mean, assuming one plays in an indoor stadium, you could really play Basketball any season. I mean heck, it’s called March Madness, not Summer of Sundering.
I would not blame you for thinking any of these things. I certainly did... until the realization this is not actually Basketball set in, at which point I had bigger things to worry about.
This is less “Basketball” and more “games one could play with a basketball”. Your options are HORSE, Around the World, or Shot Clock. In HORSE players take turns making shots, trying to outdo one another. Fuck it up, and you get a letter. Spell “Horse” and you’re out. In Around the World, players take turns trying to sink baskets from various spots around the court. First to make a shot from every corner wins. And finally, last and least is Shot Clock, where players take turns trying to make as many shots as possible in a set amount of time.
At no point will multiple players occupy the court. One Wiimote is more than sufficient for all four players here.
The good news is basketball functions. There is a repeatable series of actions one can make with their wrist to fling the ball in the general direction of the hoop. Since your aim is determined by wiimote waggling, consistent results are hard to come by. But, within a few attempts, I could at least get in the ballpark of the hoop with every throw. That counts for something.
Visually, this is actually alright for a budget Wii title. The colors are bright and poppy, the presentation is fun, and the UI fanfare is reminiscent of a bowling alley screen.
Is it fun to play? Not really.
One problem we will see in every corner of Summer Sports is AI players. Even on a normal difficulty, they’re fairly good at the game. Since all action takes place one at a time, you get to sit by and watch them take turns at a laborious pace. No speeding up, no skipping animations. You are going to sit there and watch them sink a basket, dammit, and you’re gonna like it.
In the end, basketball isn’t particularly offensive, but isn’t great either. A decent baseline to establish our expectations going forward.
2 — Horseshoes
So again, I do not think of Horseshoes as a uniquely Summer experience. One could play horseshoes anywhere with a reasonably large enough space to throw objects back and forth. You may be wondering where the “Summer” games are at this point, and don’t worry — we’ll get there.
The good news is Horseshoes is one of the two best games this package has to offer. The object is simple; players break into teams of two and throw a horseshoe at a post. First team to hit a set amount of points wins.
Horseshoes is also done via Wii waggling. In fact, it’s almost exactly like Wii bowling — hold the button, bring your arm back, release as you swing forward. The classic “TV Breaker” motion. This works surprisingly well, and it did not take long to get decent at throwing a horseshoe.
You do still have to watch all your AI friends fling horseshoes around too, but at least it’s quick. Of all the games in this collection, Horseshoes is the one I’m most likely to subject others to. Quick, easy, marginally fun. Perfect for a mini game collection.
3 — Croquet
By now, I trust the dread is setting in. Really putting the “sport” in these "Summer Sports", aren’t we?
I will not mince words — Croquet is horrific.
The presentation quality is still here, mind you. The UI elements are crisp and clear, complete with arcadey circles around every wicket. A bouncing arrow points to your next objective. It’s all clear and concise. Giving credit where it’s due, my problem with Croquet is not in the presentation or conveyance.
It’s everything else that's a problem.
I knew we were in for trouble when swinging my arm back cranked the power meter to full... and then it stayed there. No matter how I wiggled or spun the wiimote, nothing happened.
Then suddenly, as if by magic, the ball propelled forward through no action of my own. If you’re lucky like me, the ball goes through a wicket, and then you repeat the process.
Theoretically you win by making it through the whole course, but there’s no “winning” here. If you get the ball through a wicket, congratulations, time to try and conjure momentum into the ball via some series of gestures again. If you don’t, you get to watch an AI companion play croquet instead.
And these fuckers don’t miss.
Remember, there’s no skipping or speeding up animations. You get to watch as the AI absolutely crushes you in one turn, hitting the ball just enough to go through one wicket at a time. If you have 3 AI companions like I did, the other two aren’t liable to get a turn — and you certainly won’t get another shot.
If Croquet was actually fun to play maybe it would be worth the agonizing wait, but on the rare occasions you get a turn, it's back to gesticulating like Trunks prepping his burning attack in a vain effort to get the ball to do anything.
Then you miss and the AI clowns on you some more.
Fuck Croquet. We’ll give it one point for presentation, and only one.
4 — Basketball (again)
Okay, now Summer Sports: Paradise Island is just fucking with me. Are we really already out of “Summer Sports” to include in this Summer Sports collection?
You might be wondering: “why are there two Basketball entries? Is this one actually the sport of Basketball this time?”
No. It’s the same goddamn thing. Horse, Around The World, Shot Clock.
Now is when you might ask: “So what’s the difference?”
The difference is now you are in front of someone’s house instead of on a court. That’s it.
The next reasonable question to ask is: “Why wasn’t this just a level select?” The only answer I can come up with is to pad out the menu and make it look like there are more games than there actually are.
We only have four more to go.
5 — Lawn Darts
After the last two games, Lawn Darts is like coming up for air. It’s not great, but we’re at least back to a level of quality I expect from a mediocre mini-game collection. That is, admittedly, a low bar, but we’ve somehow scraped under it anyway.
Players take turns throwing giant darts into the air. These are not the new modern, child-safe, foam lawn darts; these are giant murder sticks.
In a shocking display of detail, we actually have wind speed to account for. Perhaps even more shocking — this mini-game works. Aim, then throw. Simple, effective, and requires minimal wiggling.
Sometimes a bird flies by with a giant target. Hit it, and you net your team 5 bonus points. I don’t know why the bird is there or why it has a big red target, but who cares? The judges recognize it as a legal move.
Lawn Darts is excellent — in comparison to everything that has come before it, at least. Maybe still not worth the price of admission to Summer Sports: Paradise Island, but who knows? We still have three more games to play.
6 — Badminton
Sure, whatever. I don’t even care anymore. Everything is a “Summer” sport today.
Badminton is god awful. There’s so many bad things about this rendition of Badminton I’m not even sure where to start. Absolutely no aspect of this mini-game functions as desired.
As a brief aside, I’d like to point out we are fast approaching the end of this mini-game collection and this is the first one you can play simultaneously with other people.
Problem the first; it is impossible to move your character. This isn’t the worst thing, but it does make a game like Tennis or Badminton — games where you typically win points by catching your opponent out of position — stale. Fortunately, your uncontrollable avatar is pretty good at tracking the dart, leaving you to only worry about the stick waggling.
Problem the second; the stick waggling is an ungodly mess. The timing on when to stick waggle is tricky. You might think the ideal time is when the shuttlecock approaches your avatar, but no. Trying to play on reaction is a sucker’s game; you’ll miss every time. No, the trick is to swing the wiimote ahead of when the shuttlecock approaches. Due to the varying angles of approach, this gets hard to time consistently. But don’t worry, because even if you do start timing it perfectly, it’s not over.
Problem the third; Badminton is unbelievably sensitive to the slightest pronation of your wrist. If you want this shuttlecock to fly straight you better tape a yardstick to your arm, because if you tilt even a little to one side or another, that thing is flying way the hell out of bounds.
There is an “accolade” for maintaining a volley for 25 hits. I am willing to bet this is the hardest achievement in the game.
7 — Volleyball
Holy shit, finally an actual “Summer Sport.” I almost can’t believe it. An actual Olympic event, represented in Summer Sports: Paradise Island.
A shame it’s just as bad as Badminton.
Just like our previous entry, there is no moving your avatar. They do their own thing, and you get to the waggling.
Remember how in Badminton it was hard to appropriately time the Wii waggles? Well, thanks to how Volleyball works, now you get to do it three times in a row. The bump, the set, and the spike all suffer from the same timing problem. The odds you will drop the ball and score on yourself are quite high.
This is especially true for the spike. The addition of a jump animation (plus your avatar’s incompetence) makes landing the final smack nearly impossible. And, when you do nail it, the AI will have no problem bouncing it right back. Good luck accomplishing this magic a second time.
The only nice thing I’ll muster up for Volleyball is your wrist movements don’t fuck up the direction of your shots like Badminton. That’s worth a point, at least.
8 — Mini-Golf
Oh god oh hell, it’s the same controls as Croquet.
The similarities end there, because Mini-Golf is a thousand times worse than Croquet. At a full 9 holes, it takes much, much longer. Fortunately, the stages are extremely unforgiving for golf — once you’re 4 strokes over par, you’re outta there. If the game was fun to play this might be disappointing, but instead this mercy rule keeps suffering to a minimum.
The nice thing about Croquet (well, less horrible thing), however, is if your shot was lined up you could rest assured it would approach the wicket. It may sail too far ahead and put you in a bad spot for the following hoop, but you’d at least progress through or near the current one.
In Mini-Golf, you hopelessly flail near the green in an effort to gently sink the ball, only to slapshot the ball onto the next hole like Happy Gilmore. Repeat until you either get lucky once and manage a low power shot to sink the ball, or go over par and get mercifully executed.
Mini-Golf does excel over Croquet in one respect; outrageous course designs. Some expected Mini-Golf themes are here, like "pirate ship" or "tropical resort". Now, how about a graveyard?
Maybe a course themed around farmland alien abductions?
We’ll give Mini-Golf a point for creative course designs. Seeing the next absurd course is all that kept me going.
Just for fun, let’s pause and review our total score. Out of a possible 80 points, we have awarded Summer Sports: Paradise Island... 29 points.
On a test, this would be 36%. Summer Sports: Paradise Island is not qualifying for the Olympics this year, that’s for sure.
So that’s it. All the Summer Games. At the end of the day, two decent games in a sea of terrible ones is probably not worth what this game cost on launch... but ten years later for four dollars? I can live with it. Still, I would not recommend Summer Sports: Paradise Island.
This is the part where you notice that for some reason, your scroll bar has more give than you would expect for what sounds like the end of an article. Weird, right?
That’s because there’s one more thing we need to talk about. See, everything up until now has barely warranted the writing of an article. It’s tragic, but the truth is there’s not much here to dig into, and if this is all I had to share, this article would’ve never been written.
But then I cracked open the box and pulled out...
The Summer Sports: Paradise Island Instruction Manual Is Pure Madness
Soon as you take hold of the manual, you know something’s up. There’s an odd heft to it, a weight one might expect from the instructions to a new shop vacuum and not a “Summer” themed min-game collection.
The manual for Summer Sports: Paradise Island is 45 pages.
Allow me to share brief excerpts which might explain how this tome came to be 45 pages.
From page 8.
Point your Wii Remote at the back arrow to highlight the menu choice then press A to confirm the selection. Select Exit. You will return to the main menu.
Seems simple enough! Now let’s take a look at page 10.
Point your Wii Remote at the back arrow to highlight the menu choice then press A to confirm the selection.
Got it, okay. Why don’t we take a look at, say, page 21?
Point your Wii Remote at the back arrow to highlight the menu choice then press A to confirm the selection.
The instruction manual for Summer Sports does not trust you to remember, ever, what the back arrow will do on any given screen. This instruction is repeated 10 times throughout the manual.
There’s a telling note included in the Badminton entry. It reads:
Game Play Tip: waiting longer to take a shot and pre-winding your body for a forehand or backhand shot will result in a more accurately, and more extremely, placed shot.
You heard the manual, pre-wind those shots. This is a clever, diplomatic way to get players to swing sooner than it seems they should.
Another delightful tip awaits us under the description for Basketball, which reads:
Swing forward and release B button to take your shot; the motion should feel just like shooting a basketball in real life!
I admire the optimism on how well designed the basketball mini-game was. And don’t worry, in case you missed it, this helpful tip is repeated four times in the instruction manual; once to introduce Basketball as a concept, and again for all three game modes.
Under Mini-Golf, we have another hint.
Players can hit their balls into the balls of their opponents. Are you a dirty player or someone with questionable aiming skills?
Disguising the spotty controls as “bad aim” on the player’s part. Nice.
Upon further research, it came to my attention the first printings included the instructions for horseshoes twice, croquet twice, and basketball three times... in place of instructions for the other games. To quote Daemon Hatfield’s IGN review from 2008:
Opening Summer Sports' manual, we thought it felt a little heavy for a casual, mini-game collection. As it turns out, this is because the instructions for basketball were reprinted three times, and the croquet and horse shoes instructions were each reprinted twice. After all this redundancy, there apparently wasn't enough room to describe the game's four other events.
This appears to have been fixed by the time my copy came into existence, however.
On page 37, as we approach the end of the manual, we are introduced to a concept which feels like maybe it should be closer to the front — picking a character.
When I say this next part, I mean it unironically. This here? This section right here, is where true genius lies.
All ten characters in Summer Sports: Paradise Island have biographies to peruse. Let's start with Jackie.
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Favorite Sport: Croquet
Jackie aspires to be the next great film director. A fine athlete who relishes in outdoor activities that challenge his intellect as well as his physicality. When he’s not reading his favorite superhero comics or watching his favorite DVDs, Jackie enjoys relaxing with outdoor sports such as Golf or Croquet.
Got all that? To recap quickly; Jackie is an aspiring film-maker in LA and loves comic books. Now, let's move on to Lucy.
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Favorite Sport: Croquet
A nimble athlete, and the most health conscious of our contenders. Truly a nature-lover and an environmentalist at heart, Lucy is a goal-oriented kind of gal that remains constantly active. She loves the great outdoors and is always enthusiastic about a new adventure. Though Lucy has a tendency of being too hard on herself, her stead-fast determination, and self-discipline remain unparalleled.
Lucy here is so self-driven and determined that it has exposed a personality flaw; negative self-talk! Lucy beats herself up too much for failure.
Brief reminder this is the biography for a character in a mini-game collection. None of this is reflected anywhere in the game, ever, and it’s a shame. These bios are fascinating; I have spent more time thinking about them than anything else in this game.
My personal favorite is Maria.
Hometown: Santa Monica, CA
Favorite Sport: Lawn Darts
A total surfer chick, Maria is headstrong, smart, and has a passion for meeting new people. Maria also has a unique talent for challenging an opponent in a way that’s positive. Though she’s not a fan of losing, she’s a good sport and likes seeing her encouragement being put to good use. Get her in the game and she remains unshakably motivated and focused.
First off, it is extremely funny this “total surfer chick” lists lawn darts as her favorite sport. But, putting that aside, this is an astoundingly complex series of personality traits. Think about the personal trap Maria is caught in here; she hates losing, yet loves bringing out the best in her opponents through positive banter. Thus, Maria is always increasing her chances she will experience loss.
And Maria will embark to Summer Sports: Paradise Island where her true character will be tested in eight (but really seven) mini-games.
Now, I don’t know what happened here. Maybe at one point, Summer Sports: Paradise Island started life as a Survivor clone and rich personalities were crafted for the social aspect. Maybe in pre-production, there was an ambitious dating sim component that got scrapped for time. Whatever the case, I know this; Summer Sports: Paradise Island is better because these descriptions exist.
I’ve included scanned pages below of every competitor’s description. As you read them, I will remind you one more time — this is for a mini-game collection.
I hope whoever wrote these went on to work somewhere where their talent was appreciated. I hope they write for television, film, something. This is an outrageous amount of work most people were probably never going to see or appreciate.
And with that, our Summer Vacation is over. We may forget all the activities (and boy, will we) but we will never forget the amazing friends we made along the way.
Summer Sports: Paradise Island is available somewhere near you in a bargain bin full of Wii games, probably. I would not buy it. It also has a sequel, if you really want to roll the dice.