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Wii Party - Wii Review

Game Info
Wii Party

Wii | Nintendo / Nd Cube | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote (sideways)
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11th March 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

I've always been one to disagree with those who made claims that there are no good mini-game collections on the Wii. While it is very true that the Wii quickly got a bad rap for serving as the main hub for shoddy games of this nature, it would not be right at all to completely disregard the worthwhile efforts that have come forth. Not only is it the easiest to point to for innovation and timeless fun factor, WarioWare: Smooth Moves is probably the most-loved mini-game-focused game of them all. While I'm not too interested in what the most hated one is, although debates about Mario Party 8's quality still go on even to this day. Personal feelings on that game aside, I was totally floored when Wii Party was announced. Afraid that it would spell official termination of the Mario Party franchise, inwardly I felt forced to embrace the change that Nintendo felt was needed in this genre. For what it's worth, I'm glad Mario Party 8 turned out the way it did, because had it gone on to achieve even more success, it's likely Nintendo wouldn't have saw the point in developing Wii Party, and we wouldn't have been treated to the well-rounded package we see today. 

    Although the game was inspired by the successes of Mario Party, Wii Party expands the board game focus into a more fleshed-out party experience that allows players more to derive enjoyment from, immediately making it one of the game's strongest features. Games in the Wii series have always been very big on variety, so to see Nintendo try their hand at a party game they could later feel proud of has only resulted in good things. With obvious intentions in mind, Board Game Island is the first mode up for consideration. Following that is Globe Trot, an around-the-world tourist adventure; Swap Meet, a Mii colour- and pattern-matching activity; Bingo, the familiar activity with the twist of mini-game incorporation; and Spin-Off, which plays somewhat like Wheel of Fortune minus the guessing of words. Beyond these central options, you're also given a series of two-player endeavours, including Friend Connection (connectivity quiz of sorts), Balance Boat (work together to fit Mii's on a mast) , and Match-Up; as well as some special House Party games strictly for group play, consisting of Hide 'n' Hunt, Animal Tracker, Time Bomb, Word Bomb, and Buddy Quiz. And, of course, with the 80+ mini-games on offer, there's also a mode dedicated to these short events.

Due to the large number of options available and the different styles for gameplay you can immerse yourself in, a considerable measure of the initial enjoyment one can derive is linked to the experimentation of each mode. In fact, the first couple times you have a go at it, you'll find yourself feeling unsure of what to choose because there's so much stuff available. To that end, the Suggestions menu can prove to be a useful option. Right away, the entire setup reflects a very diverse affair, as does the organizational approach. The question arises, though: How do the modes fare on an individual basis? Let's find out.

    Beginning with Board Game Island which, again, is very much based off of the core mechanics Hudson Soft put together for Mario Party, except instead of collecting Stars, your goal here is to reach the highest point of the (mostly) single-path board to retrieve the hidden treasure. The very first thing you'll notice is the fact that play order is decided by mini-game results -- not just at the start of the game, but at the end of every single turn. By presenting players with bonus dice depending on their placement, it's not just one person winning the mini-game and reaping the benefits, nor is it about the "master" of mini-games securing a lead from the get-go. Doing your best is always encouraged and rightfully rewarded in such a way that you always have motivation to follow through. At one point, the player in last place will even get to choose which mini-game players will partake in next. Thus, it's for these reasons that I absolutely love the mini-game approach taken in this mode. As for the board itself, there are lots of surprises to be had and everything feels very fresh. Sadly, this wasn't explored further by giving players multiple boards to cycle through.

In line with the above, Globe Trot also continues these feelings of surprise and motivation but does so by presenting a secondary board game experience that differs from the usual fare. Players are tasked with traveling to various attractions termed as Hot Spots, and using coins earned from mini-game wins, you can take Souvenir Photos as a record of your journey. Going around the board involves, not a throw of the dice, but selecting from a set of face-down cards in your hand. Along the way, you'll encounter Shop Spaces where you can purchase cards that will allow you to travel via a form of transportation, as well as Surprise Spaces that can initiate a (card) burglary, a UFO invasion (players get shuffled around), or a tornado (to send someone flying). For the most part, it's a fairly original structure and although this probably won't get as many plays as some of the other available options, Globe Trot is quite fun.

    If you can make the time for it, Spin-Off is another exciting mode. Set in a casino-themed environment, players spin a giant wheel to add to their own personal supply of medals. There is also a large bank looming overhead that holds its own set of medals, gradually accumulating a large number of medals until players can stop the wheel on a Bank Battle space where the winner of a mini-game will take home the whole lot. Out of all the modes on offer, Spin-Off feels the longest, but despite the fact that it can appear to go on for quite some time, it is really fun when the totals get really close and players are fighting for their lives whenever a mini-game pops up so they can receive the large sum in the Bank. At times, it can get irritating to go for long stretches without ever encountering so much as a shot at playing a mini-game for the big reward, but again, so long as you're not impatient while you play, Spin-Off can be a very fun, often unpredictable competition.

In Swap Meet, everyone has six Mii's in their circle at a given time, with four located in the center "draw pile", if you will. The idea is to use these to create matching pairs or otherwise jiggle things around in preparation for future characters, with the order, again, being decided by mini-game results. While I thought the setup was kind of interesting, I actually enjoyed the two-player variation (Match-Up) so much more. Match-Up plays a lot like a game of Memory but with Mii's instead of cards. Players must select Mii characters to reveal patterns and colours on their shirts, and must then match these with another Mii character lingering somewhere in the town square. It's always funny to see Mii's of people who are related to each other get paired up by fluke, especially when you see them doing a dance in the background. Platinum Mii's will earn you four points, while you can also earn combos for matching multiple pairs in a row -- especially fun if you're just guessing. Adding some balance to the mix, every two rounds will have you playing a 1-vs-1 mini-game to break it up and give you the chance at a bonus guess for your next turn. Who would've thought matching pairs of Mii's would be so much fun! Much superior to the side mini-games modes often featured in recent Mario Party titles, Match-Up has a lot of charm to it that, surprisingly, doesn't wear off.

    Rounding out the selection of Party Games is Bingo. Rules follow how you would expect in this quick-to-play activity, with players choosing from six different bingo cards with Mii's being used in place of numbers. Balls are systematically extracted from the large machine and revealed to all players. There are a total of 10 mini-game balls added at the start of every game which afford you the opportunity to check off any entry you like. I really didn't expect to develop such a liking to this one, but it quickly became one of my favourite parts about the whole package.

In the name of friendly competition, Wii Party comes packed with over 80 mini-games that make random as well as systematic appearances in all the Party and Pair Games in one way or another. Making the transition from Mario Party to this game won't be in the slightest bit difficult since some of the mini-games have a very familiar air to them. As a matter of fact, some feel like they were practically moved from a past Mario Party title and stuck into Wii Party's collection with not a whole lot of tweaking. These include Jangle Wranglers, where you need to use a bell to guide sheep into a pen, which seems to have derived basis from Boonanza! in Mario Party 6. There's also Tropical Punch, which feels like a lazy version of Super Monkey Ball's Monkey Fight meets Mario Party's Bumper Balls, with players using extendable boxing gloves to knock opponents off a platform. The development team even grabbed concepts directly from Nintendo's own Wii series of titles and turned them into quick mini-games. Examples of this include Jumbo Jump (a ski jump-type affair à la Wii Fit), as well as Quicker Chipper and Basket Bonanza (Sports, and Sports Resort, respectively).

    All of the mini-games I've mentioned above work fine in terms of controls, but it kind of takes away from the overall impression of the package when you realize that some of these feel very much borrowed, not to mention the fact that other party games have used similar so-called "ideas" before on numerous occasions. Stopping timers while the viewfinder is closed? Flipping over cards to create pairs? Like I haven't seen those before countless times! 

    Much like Mario Party, Wii Party also has its own set of luck-based mini-games, between predicting upcoming track splits in Risky Railroad and choosing from four fireworks displays in Lucky Launch. Strategy Steps is another luck-based game where you press one of three buttons to pull up a number sign for the purpose of being the odd one out (yet another concept used in Mario Party before), but you're given a bit more control here than the others. So even if you absolutely despite luck-based games, some of the ones included here have one or two redeeming features that make them less unsettling. Other mini-games have you taking on silly roles as per the quirky atmosphere of the game. Sometimes, the results are kind of interesting, like facing off in a scooter racer against another pizza establishment to make a delivery. Other times, it feels quite safe. Consider the following examples.

    In Chop Chops, players speedily cut up a single vegetable by shaking the Wii Remote, while Cry Babies has you rocking a baby to sleep with proper timing. Hey, while we're at it, why don't we ask (Cooking) Mama to make a cameo appearance! Jokes aside, there are some really lame inclusions here, which, admittedly, is often the case with most mini-game collections. As if these examples weren't enough, the game also has you solving shape puzzles, changing channels on a series of television screens, and karate chopping logs thrown at you. You could argue that by including games like these where there's very little skill involved, Wii Party is doing its part to make gameplay accessible for just about every possible audience. But I'd still argue that there are methods of doing this without the need to stick to overly simple endeavours.

    In using the term "basic" to accurately describe some of these games, this does not necessarily always equal "boring" or even "bad". That's certainly not the case with Splash Bash, where the solo player will find it amusing to toss a tethered ball at the three rivals to knock them into the pool below. Zombie Tag is another really fun one with friends, as are most of the space-themed mini-games; albeit, the controls in Space Brawl could've been better. However, even with these and other examples, it would've made the mini-game collection even more compelling to go through had there been more unique or original ones. 

    Some of the better mini-games have little touches here and there that actually go a long way in enabling players to create lasting memories on account of the game. For example, in Flag Footrace, you’ll be given a Foul if you start before the gun is fired, and you’ll be disqualified if you do it twice in a row. When playing this two-player version (as opposed t the four-player Flag Fracas), the resulting animation of seeing the other player get up from the stand so abruptly and express shock over the default win is hilarious. There were times when I would purposely get disqualified just to see it happen. Another great one is a 1-vs-3 mini-game entitled, Hide-and-Peek. Three players aim at one of seven different spots to hide in an open park, from a slide to a boathouse, as well as a small "swing set" in the very middle. What makes this particular hiding spot hilarious is when players try to use this as a decoy knowing full well that their Mii bodies aren’t obscured by the swings all that well. I was dying of laughter when three of us all purposely were trying to hide in that area. It was so incredibly obvious! It's moments like this that allow the simple mini-games to take on greater depth within the context of person-to-person experiences and unexpectedly memorable screw-ups.

Furthermore, moments of creativity are actually best seen, not in the four-player activities, but in the Pair mini-games. These have you co-operating as a two-person team, trapping a key-equipped mouse in Rodent Rundown, shooting balloons while riding on a roller coaster (think Pinna Park's 8th Mission from Super Mario Sunshine), and rotating platforms to get a herd of sheep across to the other side of the river. I found this area had some of the best mini-games in the whole collection.

    Aside from the standard Free Play and Battle modes, the Minigames section also features a Solo mode for single players that honestly won't get much use once you've unlocked all the mini-games. If you're looking for more worthwhile diversions, the Challenge area has a couple fun bonus activities for players to play either on their own or with a friend. About Face, Garden Gridlock and Marching Orders are exclusive to this mode, while Banana Blockade, Clover Hunt, and Shifty Gifts are all extended versions of the mini-games they are based on. About Face didn't do anything for me -- especially since I was tired of the similarly-structured bonus mini-games by the time Mario Party 8 came along -- and I personally didn't find Marching Orders to be very fun. On the other hand, the simple wind-up-toy puzzles of Garden Gridlock were pretty amusing; the other ones were kind of fun one-off's too. Last but not least, another fun bonus mode is Spot the Sneak. This creative mini-game-focused mode makes use of the rumble to secretly clue one player in that they will get a hidden advantage in the mini-game to follow. They must do their best not to make it obvious for fear of being called out during the subsequent call-out session.

As touched upon at the outset, Wii Party also includes a host of House Party games that strive to make the gameplay experience a more interactive and social one. In Animal Tracker, the game will use the Wii Remote's speaker to play animal sounds, and players must race to find the right one specified on-screen. This one can be fun at times, but only if you create enough distance between the folks involved and the Wii Remotes you have set up. Time Bomb has you passing the Wii Remote back and forth very carefully so as not to set off the timer, while Word Bomb is simply a loose digital version of the kids game, Concentration. It shouldn't take you long to figure out that this could easily be played without the game, and quite honestly, playing this digital version doesn't make it more enjoyable. Buddy Quiz plays exactly how you would think, with players seeing if they really know one of their pal's likes and dislikes, but it's very much a one-trick pony that doesn't have that much appeal beyond one or two tries. Easily the strongest game available here is Hide 'n' Hunt where you literally hide Wii Remotes around the room and task your friends and family with finding them. It's a ton of fun with the right group of people, making this mode a great exclusive that only Wii Party offers.

    Even for families who end up playing with relatives that have no experience with that iconic party franchise (or many other video games for that matter), part of the reason why Wii Party works so well is because it has a strong pick-up-and-play appeal going for it. Not to be overlooked, to, is the hospitable aesthetic made effective through the use of colourful visuals that allow your Mii's to stand out as stars. And although they could've easily felt they could get away with it, I'm glad Nintendo didn't haphazardly throw some generic tunes together in compiling the soundtrack for this game. The songs they've included sound pretty entertaining, funky, and quirky, and there are quite a few that are even addicting in their own right (i.e., Bingo and Match-Up themes most notably). 

Overall, Wii Party manages to differentiate itself very well from the mob of mini-game collections with its attractive look and varied gameplay. Even managing to one-up Nintendo's earlier efforts in Mario Party 8, Wii Party deserves to be a part of the game collection of just about any Wii owner. With so many things to do, not even the weaker aspects of the package can keep the level of enjoyment at a low. Not only is it a hoot as a multiplayer experience, but Wii Party also does a pretty good job when it comes to catering to the single player through fun incentives. Even if you go out of your way to avoid digital board games, mini-game collections and anything else of that sort, get a group of your closest friends or your relatives together, and you'll see just how refreshingly fun Wii Party can be!

26/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - A really fleshed-out experience, endearing and replayable modes, some mini-games could be better, could've gone the extra mile in places
Presentation 8/10 - Great visuals as per Nintendo's usual flair, features surprisingly addicting tunes, strong pick-up-and-play appeal, welcoming aesthetic
Enjoyment 5/5 - Loads of fun, absolutely hilarious at times just like Mario Party, lots of charm, instances of creativity make for a memorable time
Extra Content 5/5 - Plenty for everyone to get involved in, some modes take the experience into your living room, bonus games for solo and co-op play

Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

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