You could simply hold the Wiimote in one hand, the nunchuk in the other, and play any Wii game as you normally would. But it's all about the ergonomics. While the Zapper doesn't add any meaningful or unique features to the Wii's control system, it provides a near-ideal grip for shooting games--the Zapper simply feels better than holding the remote and nunchuk normally. It doesn't offer quite the same experience as a genuine light gun, since you're still constrained by the Wiimote's sensors, but it still makes those games feel much more intuitive than the typical Zapper-less remote/nunchuk control scheme.
Or at least it does while you're aiming and shooting; moving around (with the nunchuk's thumbstick) adds something of an ambidextrous challenge to games that takes a bit of getting used to, and may be downright frustrating for some. Judging from the Zapper-centric games in the pipeline (, , and are all available now, and a retooled House of the Dead is on the slate for 2008), publishers are focusing on "rail shooters"--games that have you automatically progressing through a level on a preset path. That lets you concentrate on aiming and blasting, not on moving around.
Even if you don't want those new titles, the Wii Zapper justifies its $20 price tag with its pack-in game, . This simple, Zelda-themed shooting gallery game would have easily been worth $20 alone, without the Zapper. It's not the largest or most complicated game for the Wii, but it offers enough fun and variety to satisfy both casual gamers and Nintendo fanboys. You play the ubiquitous elf Link, who got his hands on a crossbow after almost two decades of using a bow and arrow. Coincidentally enough, Link's crossbow looks very similar to the Wii Zapper. You can run through nine levels, each with three separate stages, to test your marksmanship. Besides the typical shoot-the-bull's-eye on-rails experience, Link's Crossbow Training includes modes where you must fend off hordes of skeletons advancing upon you, shoot your way through a goblin camp, and even plink flying skulls out of the sky in a stage that feels more than a little like the original Duck Hunt's skeet-shooting mode. It's not a very deep game, but it's simple and fun--a recipe for success on the Wii.
The Wii Zapper doesn't quite live up to its formidable pedigree and probably won't burn itself into gamers' memories like its predecessor. Still, the Zapper is a fun little gadget with a great pack-in game that justifies its scant price tag. It might not be a must-buy accessory/game for the Wii, but it'll give you more than enough fun for the Jackson you'll drop on it.