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Family Pirate Party - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Family Pirate Party

WiiWare | Arc System Works / Aksys Games | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer)
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Pay & Play DLC available | 
Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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13th May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

The Okiraku series (better known as the Family series outside of Japan) has tried its hand at a variety of gameplay styles including Table Tennis, Mini Golf and even Air Hockey. The series has been the brunt of receiving some major negativity in recent times for one reason or another. Does Family Pirate Party redeem the series from its less-than-decent track record?

    The general premise of the game tasks players with aiming to get the most treasure of all their competitors. The game has you travelling to different spaces represented by islands, participating in bonus mini-games and using strategy to get ahead of your rivals over who are all working towards the same goal. The general idea is to take control of these islands to call them as your own and to fine rivals who may land on your personal "property". When others land on your island, they must spin a roulette to determine how much gold will be stolen. There are multiple ways of obtaining gold in other ways, though. You can obtain gold by discovering and claiming new islands, stealing gold from other players, playing mini-games, crossing the start space and using what's known as Help Cards to get you ahead of your rivals. In the same vein as Monopoly, once you own an island, it becomes yours and others have to pay you gold when they land on it. Rinse and repeat, right? Well, that's where you'd be wrong because there are many elements of the game that change up things and make the game feel less of a chore and more of an enjoyment.

Event Spaces have you participating one of three bonus games where you can earn even more gold. One has you shooting cannonballs at rival pirate ships using the Wii's IR pointer, another has you slashing a giant octopus with a sword repeatedly and another one (definitely the best of the three) has you fending off meteors coming towards you using a baseball bat through a swing of the Wii Remote. Some of these can be quite humorous amongst friends especially the latter mini-game where the meteors gradually get faster and more challenging. Cannon Spaces allow you to shoot cannonballs at other islands on the map that are currently owned by other players. Whirlpool Spaces transports you to a random space on the map or in some cases, a secret area that can only be reached by this means. The Cherry Blossom Space can be treated as unowned island but once its owned, others that land on it will be put to sleep for one turn and can't collect gold even if others land on their islands. Iceberg Spaces can also be treated as an island that can be claimed but once it is owned by someone, others who land on it will be fined and will be forced to roll only one die on their next turn. There's even an Iceberg Space with poison coming from it and this can cause others who land on it to lose a whole Help Card. As you can see, there are quite a few different spaces which add to the gameplay as a whole. 

One other space is the Help Card Space. Landing here will give you one of 6 cards that will have a picture of one of 6 characters on it who will help you at the beginning of your turn. Each character has different effects such as being able to stop at will on any space between 1 and 6, allowing you to steal gold, rolling multiple dice and so on. Now these cards are very important as they add to the slightly-hidden strategy elements found within this little game. You can use these cards at any point or you can collect a couple of cards and keep them in your possession to have some gameplay-changing effects on your turn. For example, the number of cards you have can tremenduously impact the amount of gold stolen from other players. Instead of being able to steal only 5,000, depending on the number of cards you have, you may be able to steal 25,000! Also, the number of cannonballs you can fire at the Cannon spaces can increase dramatically depending on the number of cards you possess. Usually you are only allowed to shoot out one but with the help of the cards, you may be able to shoot out upwards of 4 cannonballs at once! As you can see, these Help Cards make a big difference and they add to the gameplay as a whole.

The spaces and the level designs themselves also help to add to the aforementioned strategy elements within the game. For example, on the Ice map, you'll come across a crossroad where you can take one of two paths -- the longer path along the outside that has more islands and more card spaces or the shorter path along the inside which poses a bigger danger to you because of the Iceberg Spaces. But if they are unowned then you could use them to slow down your opponents who may take the same path. At the same time, if you happen to be on that path lined up with mostly Iceberg spaces, using the right Help Card can be used to escape danger.

At the end of the game, the final results screen will allow each person three more chances to obtain a bit more gold before the winner is announced by way of awards for good plays. Awards are distributed to the person who moved the most number of spaces, had their gold stolen the most and who used the cannons the most. There's more to the game than meets the eye and those who get into the game will be able to observe this very quickly whereas those with a more critical eye may passively conclude that all you have to do is roll the dice and, essentially, watch the game play for you. There's more to the game than meets the eye, but those with a more critical eye may passively conclude that all you have to do is roll the dice and, essentially, watch the game play for you. Much can be said of the game's hidden strategy elements which make for a more enjoyable experience to an otherwise not-so-captivating game.

Onto presentation, the graphics themselves are nothing to speak highly of but it should be noted that the animations in the game look more polished than those in Family Table Tennis so in that sense the developers have gone in the right direction. The menus themselves are very easy to traverse through. From the Main Menu, players can start a new game, continue a saved game, download new maps via the Pay & Play service, read the rules or adjust language settings. Getting a game started is very easy and it's great to see how interchangeable gameplay is, being able to set as many computers and human players as you want (up to 4 people) instead of being forced to have 4 people playing at once. Something that can easily be overlooked is that Aksys Games has allowed players to input their own names in replacement of the generic "Mommy and "Daddy" titles and this most certainly is a nice touch because that not only means you can add in your own personal name or nickname but you can also add in other names just to be silly. 

    If you ever want to save a game, all you need to do is press the 1 Button to pause, simple press Save & Continue and come back and finish your game later. Although this is a nice touch, it would've been helpful if the temporary save was deleted after you completed the match or if they included a button where you could delete it yourself. The levels themselves are nice but nothing to get excited over. The music that's used for each of the maps is nothing new, they've all been used in past Family games (save for the music for the menu where you can download new maps). While some of the music is catchy, the rest of the music can be annoying after the first couple of listens. The level designs are made with this strategy element in mind and it's great to see that since the developers could have simply done simplistic level designs with linear routes but that would've made the game less interesting. 

    Stepping back for a second, downloading new maps from the Shop is very easy. Aksys Games has released two packs of maps for this game pricing them at 300 Wii Points each. So that's 600 Points for 6 new maps and, additionally, the second pack comes with alternate swimsuit costumes as well. One big problem with the second pack, though, is that the costumes can't be toggled on and off and so, they can only be used on the maps in the second pack. If one wants to use the normal costumes on the maps in the second pack, the player must first select one of the default stages, quit, and then choose the desired map from the second pack. Also when playing using the swimsuit costumes, you'll quickly notice that the character animations haven't been adjusted accordingly. For example, when Daddy wins a mini-game, he holds his gun up to his hat and tips it but with the costume, it looks quite odd when his weapon isn't there. As for the maps themselves, although the designs themselves are quite diverse and add even more strategy to the game, they are all using the same environments (Jungle, Ice, Sky) and what's worse is that the maps don't have proper names, they simply appear as "Download Map 1". Although these are little things, it's rather silly that the developers didn't foresee this. 

Much has been said about Family Pirate Party's gameplay and the core mechanics but the question still remains: Is the game fun? It depends entirely on having the right people playing. If you get a group of people who have little-to-no sense of humor and will take the game too seriously, or people who have a very critical viewpoint, then you're probably not gonna have a good time. Just like with many other games on the WiiWare service and other games in this genre, the game is best enjoyed with multiple players. Families especially will want to give this a look, as it's a pretty good game to play with your kids. Moreover, whether or not the DLC is worth it or not is up to the player. If you enjoy the game and feel that you'd like to see a bit more then by all means give the first pack a try, especially if you have Wii Points lying around. If you don't think much of the game's core concept, you probably won't change your mind with the new maps, even if they do add more strategy to the game. 

Family Pirate Party will mostly appeal to younger audiences and perhaps some who are willing to try something a little different without taking themselves too seriously. There are some flaws in the game's design that stem from presentation and there could've been a bit more to appeal more to those on the fence. That being said, the developers have also made good strides in making some good design choices and for focusing on having more satisfying gameplay, especially when compared with games in the series' recent past. It's just such a shame that these efforts will be ignored by the masses. If the downloadable maps were available from the outset, and the developers focused on having more mini-games and a stronger strategy element, this game could've definitely been a stronger recommendation, especially at such a low price. However, those that do give Family Pirate Party a try, especially those who enjoy games of this genre, may be pleasantly surprised with what's on offer here.

19/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 6/10 - Decent gameplay, not as exciting as it could be, strategy elements add to the experience
Presentation 7/10 - Passable graphics, could look a lot worse, pre-game setup executed well, music is a mixed bag
Enjoyment 3/5 - Can be enjoyable in small doses in the right setting, maps with stronger strategy elements are most enjoyable
Extra Content 3/5 -  DLC further extend replay value and adds to the gameplay, minor bugs here and there

Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Family Pirate Party
Review | Screenshot gallery | Trailer | Preview | Feature | Interview


Review by KnucklesSonic8

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