I wasn’t expecting Wii-Party to do anything particularly special. In fact it took some encouragement from my kids to play it over the weekend. I’m so glad they did because it’s a total treasure trove of minigames, board games and family action.
What surprised me most though was how much thought and knowledge of the family gamer had gone into what could have been a game churned out for a quick buck. Nintendo have certainly got the knack when it comes to these types of games – even though they do still insist on lots of pressing A.
So far, for me and my family, Wii Party is easily the game of the year for us. Here’s my lowdown on what makes it so special…
To the casual observer Wii-Party sounds like another derivative set of games cashing in on the novelty of the Wii-mote. But look a little closer and it’s another testament to Nintendo’s ability – and financial commitment – to following through on the Wii offering.
Not only does Wii-Party add hundreds of quality minigames but it also takes some excellent steps forward design wise as well.
The minigames are collected together into three types, Board Games, Competitive Games and Cooperative Games – as well as being able to just dip in and play a handpicked selection. Each of these groupings gives you an estimate of how long they will take to play through – from 5 to 45 minutes. This sounds like a small thing but in a family setting it’s a godsend to be able to know how long you’re signing up to before starting.
Another great innovation, pulling in an idea for New Super Mario Brothers is the ability for the game to take over if one of the players gets tired or fed up – as kids are want to do. Simply pause the game and select CPU for the missing player and you can carry on playing seamlessly.
It’s this sort of attention to detail that shows just how much time and effort has been spent on Wii-Party. There is a real sense of intelligence and quality to the whole experience that made me more than happy to invest time playing – and even got my other half involved before too long.
The minigames themselves have that rare Warioware quality to them. By this I mean that although they are all short and self contained, there is still a sense of depth that makes you want to play them over and over – which we often did.
These minigames are then wrapped up in a range of conceits that feel anything but. The board games feel a lot like a physical Waddington’s game – Monopoly or Game of Life. The other meta-games that give you a reason to play each minigame combine either competitive or cooperative play in sensible proportions.
As well as the board games there are other ways to play through a set of minigames. The Pelmanism Mii matching game is a great example. It takes the Wii-Play find a Mii game play and infuses it with a little more skill and memory as players try and recall the color of each Mii.
The icing on the cake is the use of your Mii’s. When the Wii came out hardcore players joked at how people were wasting their time creating endless versions of virtual family members and celebrities. Wii-Party – like other Wii games – cashes in the personal nature of these characters by using them to populate each game. How much more entertaining is it to match Jesus, Bono, Hitler and Auntie Mable than some nondescript avatars?
As well as this more usual minigame fare there are also some entirely new ways to play together – games that use your physical room and the Wii-mote.
For example, one game has you lay four Wii-motes down in front of the players and then tasks them with grabbing the one making the right animal noise. It’s simple and fun, but more significantly for my family it let our three year old join in.
He also enjoyed other games in this set – particularly where you have to hide the Wii-motes in the room and let the other players search for them while the controllers sporadically let off animal noises. Something that had him in stitches.
With Nintendo pulling the old trick of packing in a Wii-mote like they did with Wii-play, Wii-party looks set to chart very high this Christmas.
But rather than the crass marketing move it could have been, Wii-party offers the best value of any Wii game so far. Nuanced minigames, hand crafted board games, co-operative and competitive family games, not to mention some excellent design developments – this is about as good as it gets on the Wii.
Wired: Swap in CPU player, Duration guide, Board games.
Tired: Packed in Wii Remote may be superfluous.
Wii-Party is $49.99 at Amazon available on 3rd October.