Family Party: 90 Great Games Party Pack
Wii | D3 Publisher / Tamsoft | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) / 2-4 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii Remote (sideways)
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9th February 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
First and foremost, all three games follow a similar setup in the way they're presented. From the Main Menu of each game, you'll have four options to choose from: Challenge, Battle, Record and Option. In Challenge Mode, up to 4 players will enroll in a tournament of sorts where you'll go through specific game areas to play sets of mini-games. Do well and you'll earn medals and even open up new games and characters. Battle Mode allows you to choose games individually or set up your own series of events. Under the Records menu, you can check all of your high-scores, and then there's the Options selection which really needs no further explanation.
Of the three games, though, Winter Fun contains some small yet notable differences in its setup. The first being the addition of a co-operative mode where everyone will split into teams of two for all games, an option that isn't available in the other two games. Secondly, you also have access to a Player Ranking feature that will compare all of the points you've accumulated to other players who have set up a profile. Everything else is more or less the same as far as structure goes.
All games contain at least 15 characters to choose from, with Outdoor Fun and Winter Fun coming in with 16 and 17 choices respectively. The character selection is a lot like a family reunion: children, parents, uncles, and even grandparents have come to participate in this bonding experience. Not everyone is available at the start though, meaning you'll have to keep playing to unlock the rest, but since they're so generic-looking, that doesn't exactly give you a lot of motivation. The latter two games do allow you to adjust clothing and hairstyles to your liking, so that definitely helps.
As stated before, all of the 90 mini-games are spread out into themed areas including Athletics, Shooting, Slope, Stadium, Muscle and Mountain. Many of these are actually unlocked from the get-go, which can be good or bad depending on your outlook. But more on that later. At the start of each mini-game, there will be a Tutorial screen that will brief you in on the rules and the controls. Unfortunately, there's no way to access this again after the game has started, which I thought was a bit of an oversight. When a game is over, the results will be tallied, considering both the time you spent and your overall placement. Since everyone's positions can fluctuate semi-regularly (especially on your first couple playthroughs), you'll need to keep your focus to stand a chance at obtaining the ultimate prize at the end. With that said, now would be a good time to begin discussing some of the mini-games you'll encounter in Party Pack. Let's consider one game at a time.
First up, let's talk about Family Party: 30 Great Games. Many of the activities featured in this first release will likely seem very familiar if you have any experience with the Wii's numerous mini-game collections. Much of what I encountered was average, but to the same token, there was probably an equal amount of games I felt were either really lame or surprisingly good. Here are a few examples for you. In The Barrel Ride, players tilt the controller left and right trying to avoid extending poles, and in The Sky Swing, players swing across trapezes to get across a large gap. Both of these games are tricky to control and ultimately not very fun to play.
Sadly, there are games like The Bombardment Bridge where both the waiting time for turns and the total length of the game really put a damper on the amount of fun you'll have. There are some decent ones, like The Fly Catch where you direct your character on a baseball field to catch fly balls and avoid bombs. There's also a Plate Spinning mini-game and a Simon Says variant that has been done better elsewhere. Altogether, it's a really mixed bag.
Interestingly enough, most of the games that I would actually consider to be fun were found in the Shooting and Variety areas. One game called The Hunt Attack has you shooting animal targets as they appear in an outdoor environment. The thing is you wouldn't really think it was from the same game because of the way they've been treated visually. Not that they're amazing to look at, but they aren't what players have been accustomed to up to this point. There were also three other mini-games in particular that stood out from all the other "so-so" ones: The Hole (tilt the stage to roll a ball to the goal), The Spark Ball (use the pointer to guide your ball through a course where the screen is constantly moving), and The Revolving Maze (same deal except you're controlling a horizontal bar that will get you disqualified if you touch a wall). Overall, I'd say the mini-games from these two areas were largely better in quality than what was seen in the rest of the game, which was encouraging to see.
Moving onto Outdoor Fun, this collection offered a slightly more appealing look and feel, but still not enough to push it into "great" territory. Once again, there were many games that I felt were just really boring, such as The Unicycle and The Pole Climb. And continuing with other trends of the original release, some mini-games went on for too long, including The Home Run. Scoring touchdowns in The Quarterback was actually pretty good, but honestly the alternating turns killed this game's replayability too. On a more positive note, I thought it was interesting that one mini-game, The Floating Island, felt like a segment off TV reality show, 'Wipeout'. Other than that, I had a hard time labelling anything as fun. Sure there were some decent games, including one that played a lot like Flag Fracas from Wii Party (but not nearly as much fun). But as a whole, I found there was a greater ratio of below-average to good mini-games than what existed in 30 Great Games.
Thankfully, the presence of Winter Fun really helped save this title from being totally mediocre. The quality in the mini-games this time around did improve. And I think part of that is because many of them are so clearly inspired by Olympic events and more extreme sports, which isn't a bad route to travel. Climbing and rappelling off a large glacier, for example, was kind of fun. Same goes for the Speed and Figure Skating events, even if they didn't match the level of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. And trying to save yourself from flying off a steep icy incline was both enjoyable and humorous (surprising, I know).
That's not to say Winter Fun doesn't have its flaws, though. As if to indicate the developers didn't learn a thing from the previous releases, I still thought some games went on for too long - like The (Ski) Jump for example. And there was a fair share of poor efforts, like The Snowboard Cross where almost nothing worked the way it should have. But I thought the overall pace was better than the other two games. Not only that, but there were more games this time around that I would feel comfortable suggesting for multiple plays.
As you've probably already observed by now, there was not one mini-game in this whole collection that I would consider excellent or really fun to play. Most of the games that I actually enjoyed provided mild enjoyment that, admittedly, would wear off after a while. But for a family with kids, I don't think that should be a huge concern. What parents should be attentive to is the fact that so many of the games suffer from weak premises, or dry gameplay. The amount of good quality games of the ones I played probably amounted to 20-30% of the entire collective group. The rest are either terrible (which didn't occur too often) or just barely decent. It would probably be wise to include those figures in your calculations.
When it comes to presentation, it's important to note that this collection isn't always consistent with its visual approach. But I'd say the default appearance does look fairly average. As you move away from the original title, though, you'll notice the menu screens and the layouts become a lot better, taking on a more cartoony look. This was something I actually really appreciated since I was starting to feel things were becoming very dull by the time I moved onto the second game.
Speaking of dull, I can't close off without mentioning the annoying in-game announcer. She can drive you nuts with all of her constant comments on the menu screens. I would cringe after the third time I heard her say "Choose how many games should be selected". Thankfully, the developer's ears finally tuned in by the third release and toned it down significantly. I also got annoyed with hearing character sound effects and cheers constantly being repeated. There were also many times where the players would sound like they were gasping for air, and this got to me very quickly. Sadly, this didn't ever get properly addressed. The music wasn't a whole lot better either. Many mini-games used annoying carnival-style music, or other weak, forgettable tunes. The menu music was decent though, so I can at least give some credit there. But as a whole, all three games could've really used improvement in this category.
The whole process of going through each release and discovering which mini-games are worth playing more than once can be very tedious. And that's because a huge portion of the activities featured in Family Party: 90 Great Games Party Pack either feel really dry, or are hampered by design choices. Unfortunately, this means the good ones stand out only momentarily before players return to more dry substance. Having said all that, I think a parent should still consider picking this up for their kids to play. I mean you could just stick with Winter Fun since it's the best of the bunch, but why not get two more full-fledged games with it? It's a no-brainer, really. Even if the collection's mediocrity does overpower its strengths, there's still some decency in what it offers that may be worth exploring if you're in for a new family-friendly game.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 6/10 - A good number of mini-games feel dry, are hampered by design choices or have been done better elsewhere, decent structure
Presentation 7/10 - Visual presentation is initially dull but does improve significantly, annoying announcer & character sounds, largely forgettable music
Enjoyment 3/5 - Most mini-games are either just barely decent or aren't worth replaying, the good ones need to be sought out, overpowering mediocrity
Extra Content 5/5 - Lots of content, it really is good value as advertised, leaderboards and medals to challenge yourself, co-op mode in the third release
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)