Friday, January 14, 2011

Wii Game Review: Wii Party

I LOVE doing reviews.  Especially when it's something I can get excited about.  This is an all me review, I'm not trying to get a kick-back at all.  A couple years ago on another site I did a review of Animal Crossing: City Folk and this will be the same sort of thing.

We received two games over the holidays, Wii Party and Endless Ocean:  Blue World.  Endless Ocean is my daughter's game and she hasn't played it yet, but Wii Party was left in the tree for the whole family and as the person who inspired Santa (see purchased) to get it there, I'd like to share why and how that's turned out.

The game is your standard party type game which is so plentiful on the Wii console.  That means the controls tend to be simple and the games plentiful and short.
From the website:
What is Wii Party?
Laugh together, smile together, play together. Nintendo is throwing the party of the year and everyone's invited! Wii Party™ is a brand new social gaming experience on the Wii™ console to enjoy with your family and friends, featuring 13 unique ways to play over 80 hilarious minigames. With your own Mii™ characters as the stars, Wii Party isn't the life of the party—you are!
It then goes on to expand onto the 4 primary types of play featured in the game:  House Party, Party Games, Pair Games, and Mini Games.  The new thing here is he House Party Section, and this was the biggest selling point of the game, uses the game as an accessory to an in house activity.  The Party Games, of which there are 5, are prominently featured on the main screen and all take at least 30 minutes to an hour to play, all supplementing missing players with computer characters (NPCs) if you don't have 4 people to play with you. The Pair Games also offer a computer if you can not find a partner to play with, but are focused on games for just two people.  Then there are the Mini Games, this is a bit of a misnomer as minigames are critical for the party games and pair games, but in this section you can just play them on their own.

Now, I have several party games for the wii, and there are tons more out there I've never played.  Honestly, after the first few months, none of them (except Rabids) see much play time.  When friends come over, we just don't turn on the TV, and if we do, we almost never turn on the wii.  However, my kids are always asking to play games, but pretty much all of them are too hard for my 3 year old and most are a struggle for my 6 year old.  They just don't have the "gamer" coordination needed to handle the controls for all the various minigames, especially the control pad (when turned for classic controller style) or pointing the wii mote.  That is why I wanted this game so much.  The game featured, full family play, and especially highlighted the House Party Games which include a variation on Hide and Seek and a fun game identifying sounds from the wii motes.  It was these two games featured in the ad (in addition to the hope that the other games would be playable with kids) that motivated me to give this one a try.

So this game has seen some fairly extensive play in our house (well as extensive as play gets with three small kids).  All the kids are very excited about it.  Even the baby got a broken wii mote so he can simulate play.  Unfortunately, the play for full family is pretty limited, and really the whole game feels really limited.  After just a handful of hours everything has the been there done that feel.  It does a couple things really well, but after that, well there's nothing more to brag about.

We absolutely love the House Party idea!  How cool is this, instead of the wii as the focus of attention, it merely helps a game be played.  This is excellent, and I'd love to see a dozen more games in this category.  For example, Hot Potato would be so much fun and very kid friendly!  As it is, the Hide and Seek with wii motes is loads of fun, but very destructive. We have a small house and well, a small living room.  In that living room we have the area in front of the TV and the other part of the living room.  Because of our layout and baby gates the area in front of the TV is the only area we can use for the game, but realistically in a bigger area, you could add the space.  Another room is absolutely critical here as well, so the other players can leave and come back to hunt, aka trash the room.

Besides the flagship Hide and Seek, there an animal sound game that surprised me when it was too tricky for my kids to work out, a pass the bomb game which is a bit difficult and declared not fun by both of my kids old enough to play, a Word Bomb game that my husband and I did enjoy quite a bit and thought would be lots of fun with a group, and then there is the real stinker of the set, the Buddy Quiz.  The Buddy Quiz sounds great, it even has a great setup, but it has one HUGE major FAIL.  There is a timer for all the "contestants" to get their guesses in.  First of all kids, thinking, and timers should never be mixed in a for fun game.  Next, when there are several answer options and a question to read it is absolutely vital to have a non dyslexic speed reading adult playing or in the room.  Seriously, the timer is almost too short for the adults playing, but kids in the picture and not only do I look like a dork shouting words and pointing directions, but there is the inevitable tears from not having time to think about and choose because I am neither of those previous criteria!  But hey, Hide and Seek is fun for a bit.

Next there are the Party Games.  Ok, these leave a bit to be desired as well.  First off you have to have 4 players for each of the games, if you don't have them, computers will be assigned to join you in the game.  This tends to turn the game into less of a friendly game and more into a collaboration to beat the darned computers.  You do get to choose the brains of the NPC, beginner, intermediate, and expert, but that only determines how well they do in the minigames.  All the party games are built around the minigames and there is really only two games that the kids can play, the Board Game, and Bingo.  The Board Game is long, mostly boring, especially since you have to sit through the NPC turns watching them roll, clicking A to acknowledge any dialog they generate, and everything in the game is determined by dice, which is fun on the tabletop, but not so much on the wii.  Sure sure, you play a minigame for position each round (the player that does the best goes firsts and gets the best bonus die) and there is the occasional on board minigame event, but most board things envolve just rolling the die again.  The end is especially disappointing in that the winner is the first to make a combined roll of 6 or higher.... no real challenge there or excitement.  Bingo is better in that you simply play bingo with the occasional minigame thrown in as a wild card chosen by the winner.  Personally, I find it dull, but my 3 year old loves it as long as she doesn't have to play a minigame without help.  There is also plenty of time for me to help her stamp her card and the mii's all dress up in evening wear, I think that helps.

The three other party games are alright, but the kids don't care for them as they are too hard, yet they aren't really hard enough for adults.  Globe Trot is a better board game, but it suffers from too few goals and a time limit.  It becomes a game where the first guy to the objective is most likely to win and getting to the first objective is mostly chance as it typically happens before any strategy can be started.  It's not bad, but playing with the computers is dull and you have to have 4 players for the minigames that determine play order.  The next game involves playing mini games to get first pic of mii characters wearing various colors in a goal to get groups of three out of 6.  The grouping happens too fast for any strategy to be used and the only way to increase complexity is to lengthen the number of rounds, not the miis in play.  We played it a few times and declared it dull.  There is a game show game that I quite enjoy.  It is fun with friends and not too bad with the computer, but my husband and I find ourselves constantly collaborating against the computer.

The pair games are very limited, but fun.  There is a lightening fast game show that tests compatibility by having each person answer 5 questions, once again the timer is in play and ruins it for the kids.  Then the two players play a teamwork game together.  Unfortunately, there are only a few teamwork games, because they are really fun!  The idea of collaborative play is really lost in the other sections of the game.  My husband and I find the pair games  to be the most enjoyable for playing, just the two of us.  Working together to complete challenges is really rewarding, and there is no annoying AI characters to deal with.

We've spent a lot of time on the Balance Boat game.  The "game" part itself is just ok.  You're goal is to place pairs of miis on assigned beams (3 high) while keeping the boat balanced and everyone on board.  The real fun comes in playing minigames together to reach a common goal.  Failure to do so results in unbalanced miis.  Completion of the goal gives you two miis of equal size to place even if they don't go on the same beam.  It's a lot more involved than it sounds.  There are also a couple 2 player challenges that are great fun, where you play against each other.

One game that isn't highlighted on the main screen and I've really grown to enjoy is spot the sneak.  In this case there are once again two computer players, but they don't really "play" with you.  They are place holders so that you can play the four player minigames and so that you have two other people to guess might be the sneak.  In this game one person is the sneak (as assigned secretly by the computer through a rumble period) and they get a special advantage in a minigame.  Everyone then plays the minigame trying to do their best to get points, then there is a chance to steal points from the sneak if you know who it is or lose points to the sneak if you guess wrong.

There are a few other huge problems I need to mention when playing this game with kids. It's actually a common problem with many nintendo brand games.  When your character isn't the winner in a minigame, the mii gets totally bummed out, slumping shoulders and even getting on all fours and pounding the ground with it's hands sobbing, while the dark cloud of bummed-outedness hovers overhead.  To an adult this isn't a big deal even if it is lame.  To a kid, you might as well have called them horrible and laughed at them for even trying.  The worst part is, it does it even if you are playing solo and don't do well at a given game.  Personally, I like my kids to be challenged to set their own goals for a game.  If making the ski jump for the first time means they still come in last, at least they come in on their feet and not as a snowball.  Their mii should celebrate as much as they do.  And hey, some of the games are pure chance, but the bummed out expressions persist.  Ahh man I picked the wrong firework, it's a randomizer people, get over it!  Oh and there is nothing worse than losing a game to the computer character because of a randomizer game!!!

I know this is long so I'll summarize:
Pros:  Innovative play in the House Party Section.  Ok variety of party games to play with friends or the computer friends your wii chooses for you.  You can play it almost entirely with one hand if you try (which I have) so if you are one handed or nursing a sleeping baby, there are few things you can't do.  I don't recommend the tree chop game if you are nursing though, it's hard not to shake in that one game, but the rest are fine.
Cons:  Minigames are too hard for smallest members of the family and they get overly sensitive when their mii does not have a good sports attitude and get bummed themselves.  Not a lot of variety, in reality the games are all very similar and there just isn't much skill needed to switch between games.  Not enough original content to be worth $50.  I paid $35 for it and I'm still not sure if I got a great deal.

You should look into getting this game if:  You can rent it for a night or two to play games with the family or friends.  It's fun enough for a couple days.  If you are older than 6 but younger than say 13, it might be challenging and fun for you, I don't have anyone in my family in this age range.  If you don't mind having the game for just a couple fun unique distractions you can play with younger members of the family (like Hide and Seek).
You should look elsewhere if:  You want some shooting, driving, or scrabble action.  This game is not action packed, nor does it require great coordination, or cognitive abilities.

In my thoughts Wii Party is amusing for a bit, but will most likely collect dust on my shelf.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your detailed review. I will look into renting this for the family. :)


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