You've hacked your Wii to run homebrew apps and play back DVDs without any difficult hardware hacking and now you want to dive into more of your homebrew options. Let's take a closer look at how to install new homebrew applications on your Wii through the homebrew channel, play back virtually any video or audio format, run old-school video game emulators, and more. Oh, and we'll play a little Doom, naturally.
Browse and Install Applications with the Homebrew Browser
There are a different ways you can go about finding and installing new apps on your Wii, but none are more simple than the Homebrew Browser. If you followed last week's guide to hacking your Wii for homebrew apps and DVD playback, you've already got the Homebrew Browser installed in the Homebrew Channel, so using it is dead simple. Power on your Wii, launch the Homebrew Channel, and then launch the Homebrew Browser.
The first time you run the Homebrew Browser, it'll take some time to download the information for all of the available apps in the repository. (You'll also need a network connection for this, so make sure that's already set up on your Wii if it isn't already.) Subsequent launches of the Homebrew Browser will only take a second, since it's only updating that information.
Once started, the Homebrew Browser is pretty self-explanatory. Homebrew applications are separated into five categories: Emulators, Games, Media, Utilities, and Demos. To donwload an app from the Homebrew Browser, just click the download button. The Homebrew Browser takes care of the rest, and even shows you when updates are available.
After an app has been downloaded through the Homebrew Browser, it'll automatically be available in the main menu of the Hombrew Channel.
Play Old-School Emulators on Your Wii
The emulators support playing ROMs from popular old-school gaming systems from NES and SNES to the Sega Genesis and Dreamcast (TK). You'll find more than one version of different systems, so a little research may be in order. I've been using michniewski's SNES emulator for games (that I legally own, of course), and it's pretty great. It supports virtually every controller type the Wii supports, including the Wiimote, nunchuk, and Wii classic controllers.
When most of the emulators install, they'll add a folder to the root of your SD card. Inside that folder, you'll see a ROMs folder. This is where you put ROMs of the games you want to play. If you don't know where to find a ROM, hit up Google—it's easy.
Play Back Any Video with MPlayer
I already showed you how to install MPlayer for DVD playback, but the same app you use to play DVDs can also handle virtually any video filetype you throw at it. To use it, I'd recommend creating a Movies folder on the root of your SD card and copying any videos you want to watch to it. Once you've done that, just fire up MPlayer in the Homebrew Channel, then navigate to Open... etc.
As far as I can tell you can't play back music over your home network yet, but one can only assume this is a planned feature.
Use Your Wii as a Jukebox with DMP
MPlayer is great for playing back videos, but it's not much right now for a jukebox (it works, but it's pretty light on features). Instead, check out the DragonMedia Player (DMP) app from the Homebrew Browser. It provides a barebones but very usable interface for pointing your Wii at a folder and playing back music. Like video playback with MPlayer, just fire up DMP and point it at a folder on your SD card or a USB drive that you've filled with music. DMP supports several keyboard shortcuts, and though the default interface is rather barebones, you can download and install themes by unzipping them to the
/apps/dmp/themes folder. Next time you run DMP, pick your new theme by pressing the Home button and selecting the folder name of the theme you added. I'm using the XBMC theme in the screenshot above.
Like MPlayer, DMP doesn't yet support network playback.
Manually Install Applications on Your SD Card
If you happen to stumble onto an application that you can't yet install through the Homebrew Browser, installing it manually is a very simple matter. In fact, if you followed my instructions for installing MPlayer for DVD playback, you've already installed an app manually (though the DVD-supporting MPlayer is now available through the Homebrew Browser). Just download and copy any new homebrew app to the
/apps folder of your SD card and consider that app installed and available through the Homebrew Channel.
Apps Worth Checking Out from the Homebrew Browser
There are tons of apps available through the Homebrew Browser, and apart from the apps I've highlighted above, you may also want to check out:
It's Doom. It works with your nunchuk. Nuff said.
Sure you can play it with an emulator, but this version lets you use your Wii remote and trigger just like the guns of old, where emulators can't take advantage of that aim-and-shoot technology your Wiimote has going for it.
Physics-obeying playgrounds are all the rage these days (like previously mentioned Phun, for example), and Wii Physics brings those good times to your Wii; controlling the world is now available by simply pointing your Wiimote.
Twist and turn your Wiimote to drag bones through mazes. With the buzzing vibration of the Wiimote, it's nearly as stressful as the classic board game.
If you're familiar with everything you can do with a classic Xbox and Xbox Media Centre (XBMC) (or even with XMBC on a Mac or USB thumb drive), you may be underwhelmed. Keep in mind, though, that the homebrew scene for the Wii is very young, and there's a lot of potential for this little white box. And with a full operating system like Wii Linux already well underway, it's only a matter of time before the Wii becomes a killer homebrew device that anyone can easily make their own. In fact, with the speed at which the XMBC folks have been porting XBMC to every platform out there, who knows—it may only be a matter of time before your Wii can run XBMC.
In the meantime, the current homebrew scene will do, so share your favourite Wii homebrew apps and tricks in the comments.