Focus on the peripheral.
Sometimes the simple and direct approach is best. How confusing would the world be if we all went around calling orange juice something like “squeezed citrus effluent”? Sure, it might sound more exotic, but we would never be quite clear on what we were getting. “Orange juice" is clear. By the first word, you know both the color and the fruit. By the second word, you know you won't be chewing.
Nintendo applied the same even-handed judgment in naming Link’s Cross Training. The title says it all. It uses environments from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for target training practice. Would you like to train with the Wii Zapper or wouldn't you? All very simple and direct.
Likewise, there are three straightforward modes of gameplay: Score Attack, Multiplayer, and Practice. In Score Attack mode, a single player goes though nine levels, each of which contains three challenges, trying to score as many points as possible within a time limit. The first challenge on each level is generally stationary rail-type target practice, in which targets pop up and the player shoots them down. The next two levels involve moving around the environment by scanning the area with the Zapper or by moving the nunchuk. Consecutive hits multiply your points, so accuracy is key if you want a high score and receive bronze, silver, gold, and platinum medals.
In Multiplayer mode, up to four players can play and compete on a single challenge. Players pass the Zapper one to the next and the player with the highest score wins. Unfortunately, the game only comes with one Zapper, so you have to share unless you want extra copies of the same game. In Practice mode, a player can go back and play any challenge on any level from Score Attack mode. Practice makes perfect, and this mode gives you ample opportunity to sharpen your skills.
The interface with the Wii Zapper is impressive. There is no noticeable lag and your aim feels true, although there is an option to calibrate anything that feels off. However, your weapon never runs out of ammunition, so you never need to reload, which is a missed opportunity to build intensity and realism.
Score Attack mode can easily be completed in less than two hours. You can practically snooze through this mode and gain a silver medal on each level, but it will take a real sharpshooter or many visits to Practice mode to get really high scores that you can be proud of.
All in all, the game deftly demonstrates the potential of the Wii Zapper, although it is much too short and lacking in the intensity department. As a standalone game, this title would be a letdown, but let's face it, you're not buying the game - you're buying the bundle. The main draw for most buyers is the peripheral, which can be used in other shooters. That being the case, a closer look at the Wii Zapper itself is warranted.
The Zapper holds a Wii remote and nunchuk, combining the two into one shooting device. The configuration of the components of this peripheral is reminiscent of the Tommy Gun, which has the leading hand pull the trigger. The way the pieces fit together is pretty sexy; you don't need a degree in engineering to appreciate the design. They even thought of a nice place to tuck away the strap.
In a real Tommy Gun, the rear hand holds the gun and provides stability on recoil. As there is not enough vibration in the peripheral to approximate recoil, the first time you hold the Zapper you will be reminded of your first time on a snowboard, where you had to decide if you were goofy foot or regular foot. Which hand should pull the trigger? Once you have that sorted out, using the Zapper feels pretty natural and you can go about the business of shooting everything in sight.
The Wii Zapper is a perfect companion to Link’s Crossbow Training, but its shortcomings become evident when use it with other shooters on the Wii. The only two buttons that are easily accessible in the Zapper are the 'B' trigger button on the underside of the Wii remote and the analog stick on the nunchuk. If you play a game like Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles with the Zapper, you'll find yourself at a disadvantage every time you need to pick something up with the 'A' button or change weapons with 'C'. You just end up looking like you're toting a real Prohibition-era Tommy Gun - a sticky vintage relic that never got cleaned again once the bars re-opened. (You need something like this.)
Environments are beautifully rendered, as they are from the world of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Indeed, many of the characters you encounter are from that game. Music is similar to the previous title too, but it becomes droning and monotonous pretty quickly, taking all traces of intensity with it. If you close your eyes, you may believe you’re in the world's slowest elevator on your way to the world's comfiest mattress store.
If the direct approach is truly the best, then the Wii Zapper is an unnecessary peripheral for the Wii console. Most modern shooters employ guns with real-life configurations that are different from the Wii Zapper's. In the end, the Wii Zapper is just a hunk of plastic and the game is too short and kind of boring. Link's Crossbow Training will make a nice chunky gift to fill in blank spots under the tree, but all wrapped up like that, you can never be sure exactly what you're getting.