AA batteries load in the back the same way batteries did before; Nintendo hasn't made any other engineering improvements to the Wii Remote as we know it. That also means it's compatible with third-party charging accessories such as battery packs and docks, which is welcome news.
The Wii Remote Plus comes in two retail packages: on its own in four different colors for $39.99, or packed with the game FlingSmash for $49.99. Whether the game bundle's worth your extra consideration comes down to whether you feel like it's worth $10. In our opinion, it is. FlingSmash is a 2D, retro arcade-influenced hybrid of Super Mario, pinball, and Breakout, involving the smacking of adorable little puffball mascots into bricks across eight different worlds. A small icon on the bottom of the screen shows the position of your virtual paddle. Whacking in the air propels the furball creatures across the room. It's no Wii Sports Resort, but the game's production values and co-op play make it a more solidly produced pack-in than efforts such as Link's Crossbow Training or Wii Play. It's also a great game to show off the accuracy of the Remote Plus.
While the gyroscopic technology Motion Plus provides theoretically adds accuracy to the Wii controls, very few Wii games actually make use of it. Wii Sports Resort and Tiger Woods are among the very few notables, along with the forthcoming Zelda sequel in 2011. It's becoming ubiquitous in all Wii hardware currently sold, but older Wii owners can live without it unless they're playing one of the aforementioned games.
$40 amounts to the same cost that the Wii Remote and Motion Plus accessories used to be, and in its more compact form, the Remote Plus comes across as a relative win. Still, it's a lot to pay for anyone who already has a set of Wii Remotes with Motion Plus. The clearest advantages come down to the Wii Remote Plus' more compact size and weight. Nintendo has stated that the Remote Plus is the only Wii Remote that will be available going forward--it's also the pack-in controller in the new Nintendo Wii bundles available this holiday. So, in a sense, you have no choice anyway when it comes to selecting a first-party controller. That's what makes the Remote Plus a no-brainer for Wii owners: the good news is that it's also the perfect Wii Remote, at long last. This controller won't be one-upped anytime soon.