Most gamers who grew up in the 1980s have fond memories of "Duck Hunt," one of the games that came with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Your controller was a plastic gun, the Zapper, that you used to shoot on-screen ducks; if you missed, your hunting dog would snicker.
Despite the ubiquity of the Zapper and "Duck Hunt," light-gun games for home consoles never really caught on. For the last decade, Namco Bandai's "Time Crisis" series has pretty much had the genre to itself, although if you visit an arcade you're likely to see a broader selection (with bigger weapons).
Nintendo's Zapper has a spiritual successor in the Wii console's remote control, which you operate by pointing directly at your TV screen. And Nintendo has acknowledged the connection by introducing a new version of the Zapper — essentially, a plastic doohickey that turns the Wii's remote-and-nunchaku combo into a two-handed firearm. It's not exactly state-of-the-art technology, but it does add something fresh to the first-person shooter.
"Link's Crossbow Training"
(Nintendo, $19.99 with the Wii Zapper)
The game that's packaged with the Zapper isn't the deepest title in the Wii library, but it's a fast-paced challenge that just about anyone can enjoy. You are Link, the hero of Nintendo's "Legend of Zelda" series, and "Crossbow Training" takes you on a whirlwind tour of sites from 2006's "Twilight Princess."
There are three kinds of competition: target shooting, in which you have to fire at (mostly) stationary bull's-eyes; defender, in which enemies come at you from all sides; and ranger, in which you have to hunt down your foes. Accuracy pays off, because your score is multiplied by the number of consecutive targets you hit — but other people I played with had just as much fun shooting willy-nilly.
There are a few surprises. For example, if you shoot a glowing green monster you get rapid-fire powers for a brief period. The ranger levels are a little tougher because you have to move with the nunchaku while swiveling your weapon with the Zapper. And the game can get quite competitive when you have four players taking turns on the firing range. Overall, the simplicity of "Crossbow Training" makes it a lively party game. Two-and-a-half stars out of four.
"Medal of Honor Heroes 2"
(Electronic Arts, $49.99)
EA's long-running World War II series has been eclipsed in recent years by "Call of Duty" and "Brothers in Arms," but there still may be some life in the old soldier yet. There's nothing original plot-wise — hey, welcome back to Omaha Beach! — but the savvy use of the Wii controller makes "Heroes 2" feel brand new.
An arcade mode, designed specifically for the Zapper, moves you across the terrain automatically and lets you focus on the fun part: shooting Nazis. It has the somewhat cartoonish feel of a classic light-gun game like "House of the Dead," but it's fast and accessible for players who have never tried a first-person shooter before.
More serious gamers will go right to the campaign mode. Aside from the usual running, shooting and hiding, you need to use the Wii remote to throw grenades, tune enemy radios or set explosives — actions that are easier to execute without the Zapper. Still, with its intuitive controls and precise gunplay, "Heroes 2" is one of the Wii's best shooters yet. Three stars.
"Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles"
Like the arcade version of "Heroes 2," "Umbrella Chronicles" moves you along a predetermined path; your only job is to shoot the zombies and other monsters that want to eat you. It's not as satisfying as, say, 2005's "Resident Evil 4," but it's good, brainless fun.
"Chronicles" recreates classic scenarios from previous games in the series, and fans will enjoy the trip down memory lane. But a newcomer can have fun too, particularly when joining forces with a veteran in one of the cooperative levels.
The aiming isn't accurate enough, especially when you need to hit a small spot on a very large beast. And some of the boss fights seem unfair, with difficulty levels that are way out of whack with the rest of the game. Having a helper definitely makes the ordeal more manageable _ and enjoyable. Two-and-a-half stars.