What do you get when you take the Mario out of the Mario Party? Apparently something really quite bland. But it’s really amazing how much fun a party can have with a game that’s lacking in large amounts of personality.
Anyone who's familiar with the party game formula has a basic idea of how Wii Party works. There are about 80 minigames designed for groups of four players presented in various fashions. There's your prerequisite board game, a bingo game, a more luck-based game featuring a Wheel of Fortune-style spinning mechanic, as well as a few others. The visuals are pretty lackluster, as they match the clean-cut, uninteresting style of the Mii's and the world of Wii in general. It definitely made us miss the days of the super-stylish Mario Party games, even after they had been run so far into the ground.
Unfortunately, the game modes are all as unmemorable as the visuals that accompany them, and some are so slow-paced and random that it takes away from the enjoyment of the minigames themselves. The biggest culprit of this is the Globe Trot game, a board game of sorts where players attempt to move around the world in order to get photos from various landmarks. At first glance, it seems to require a lot of strategy to get around the board in the most efficient manner, but you realize very quickly that there are far too many random elements for there really to be any huge incentives for players to do well in the minigames. What's the point of winning a round when you'll just lose all the coins you've collected to a random event?
If the random elements issue was one contained to a single mode, it could easily be overlooked. But when a minigame that involves simply guessing which bottle rocket will shoot the highest in the sky before exploding, and that's not the only purely random minigame involved, it can lead to some parties going down a rather frustrating path.
Of course, not all minigames are created equal. There's a hell of a lot of variety provided by 80 plus. Some are even a downright blast. Trying to be the last man standing in a zombie invasion stands out as one of the most fun, as well as the hysterical race through a herd of sheep. We’re not sure if we've ever seen a group of people laugh as hard as when they have to push their way through dozens of white furry animals, pushing them in the way of their buddies in the process. There are also a couple of two-player modes that are a solid diversion for the more intimate crowd - the Newlywed Game-esque quiz punctuated by cooperative minigames was the highlight for our group.
When Wii Party strays from the beaten party game path some real potential starts to show through. It especially shines when certain games take advantage of the Wii Remote itself. Passing around a single controller in a crazy version of hot potato in which players have to safely "Pass the Bomb" by moving slowly from one person to the next while pressing the proper buttons is ridiculously fun. There's also a hide-and-seek mode in which one player hides a Wii Remote somewhere in the room, which then proceeds to emit a noise every few seconds. It sounds a bit juvenile, but when you get several people running around, bumping each other out of the way and scrambling to grab the controller first, it's joyously hectic.
So while Wii Party manages to remain entertaining by the sheer numbers of minigames and occasional clever Wiimote usage, the bland presentation and lackluster board games bring it down. You won't be sorry adding it to your party game rotation, but don't expect it to bring the house down.
Oct 4, 2010