Although most people think of Mario as an industrious hero, the renowned plumber also has a hedonistic side: the guy just can’t resist a celebratory gathering. With eight iterations of Mario Party on consoles (in addition to several portable versions) our hero has offered nearly as many board-game based titles as platform titles. While critics seemed to consistently adore his koopa-stomping adventures, they’ve been increasingly disparaging of the mini-game collections.
Wii Party sees the venerable protagonist on a short hiatus, his starring role given to Mii’s- Nintendo’s ubiquitous avatars. Along with the switch in lead characters, a number of other changes have been made, endowing the title with both a dose of variety and a distinctive personality. Regrettably, a few small but troubling oversights prohibit Wii Party from earning a place in the first-party pantheon.
The game wisely complements the familiar board-based structure with a number of other meta-games. From a variants which tasks players with circumnavigating a globe, a Wheel Of Fortune-like contest, and even a quick bingo-based competition, a robust range of matches await players. Those favoring a cooperative test may opt for one of three ‘pair games’, which demand a delightful collaborative effort from participants. Of these, a quick favorite became Balance Boat which required players to stabilize an increasing population of Mii’s across three horizontal sailboat beams. As each mini-game was successful completed, teams were given two identically-sized avatars, while failure met with Miis of wildly different proportions. Wisely, deciding on a diversion is never difficult, thanks to Wii Play‘s clear indication of time and player requirements; the game can even offer suggestions upon answering a few questions.
Given the healthy roster of eighty mini-games on the Wii Party disk, there’s surprisingly few clunkers. Generally, the games which require players to turn their Wiimotes sidewise work well. One competition had players steering remote control cars around a dirt track in an attempt to pop balloons. While inherently simple, with spot-on controls- the contest was undeniably amusing. Challenges which utilized the IR functionality of the controller were nearly as gratifying, especially the title’s shooting gallery-esque tests. Where Wii Party stumbles is with the odd gesture-based trial; rocking a crying baby or throwing a ring in a carnival game often lacked precision. Since a single mini-game can occasionally determine the match, getting the infrequent dud be truly frustrating.
Whereas Mario Party presented frequent opportunities to upset the player standings- by giving trailing gamers a helping hand, Wii party does little to balance the rivalries. A few matches pushed participants into such a dominating lead, that the other players began to lose interest. More puzzling is Wii Party’s lack of player handicap- while players can choose the level of AI aggressiveness, they can’t make adjustments to balance to the proceedings. For a family-friendly game where players may have very different levels of skill, this omission is inexcusable.
Visually, the title offers a familiar Wii aesthetic- modestly detailed characters set in wonderfully vibrant environments. Like other first-party endeavors, The game is bolstered by a fluid sixty frame-per-second delivery, embedding Wii Party with a velvety sheen. While the title forgoes the appeal of Nintendo’s popular characters, seeing your likeness participate in each component of the game has its own charm. Players who have a console full of family, friends, and celebrity lookalikes should enjoy the constant inclusion by familiar faces.
For households with several gamers who share a similar level of ability, Wii Party has the potential to be a catalyst for a rousing multiplayer romp. While the title’s focus on both competitive and cooperative events won’t hold much interest for solitary gamers, this compilation of eighty mini-games should provide hours of enjoyment for groups. It’s a shame that a few small additions weren’t added to make the party accessible for mixed groups.