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Party Planet (Switch) artwork

Party Planet (Switch) review

"Party Planet's unremarkable execution doesn't suit the grand ambitions its title implies the developers had."

Party Planet is a collection of party games available for Nintendo Switch, either as a download or in a physical format available in North America exclusively from EB Games and Gamestop. At launch, you can purchase a copy for $39.99 USD. The physical edition includes a sheet of stickers, and is the one I received from Mastiff for the purposes of this review. I did not actually use the stickers, but I'm prepared they adhere to surfaces very well indeed.

I'm sorry if that opening paragraph was dull, but it's difficult to drum up a lot of enthusiasm for a game that can best be described with that same pejorative adjective.Party Planet gathers 31 mini-games for one to four players, and the developers at Teyon must have figured that fairly meaty assortment would be enough to keep players engaged for a long while. It's not, though. There are times when competent and safe design can feel decidedly less appealing than a broken but more ambitious effort, even when you provide a whole lot of it in one place, and this is one of those times.

Party Planet (Switch) image

When you first start playing, fewer than half of the total mini-games included are actually available. To unlock the rest of them, you must repeatedly play through the assortment that is offered from the start, scoring points that gradually increase your rank and add new attractions to the collection. I played a lot of the games fairly substantial periods of time for precisely that purpose, which gave me ample opportunity to get sick of nearly everything. More casual players may not bother with that exercise, especially since it is necessary to spend way more effort than feels reasonable to unlock the last few options. It would probably have been better for everyone if everything were available right from the start, removing some incentive to repeatedly play the mini-games, but doing players a favor in the process.

So, how bad are the mini-games, really? In their defense, none of them are actually all that bad. Some had real potential, even. In general, the selections included are about as complex as the assortment of activities you might find in a GameCube-era Mario Party title (did I just date myself?). Without the board game conceit to lend your potential performance in the provided activities some additional meaning, however, your main incentive for continuing to play any of them--whether alone or with friends--is your pursuit of the high score.

Party Planet (Switch) image

I hesitate to outline each of the many titles individually, but standouts for me include one where you place boulders to confine a bug within a certain space along a grid, along with another where you chop at a series of totem poles from the left and right sides while trying to avoid getting bonked on the head or freezing to death (playing that particular one repeatedly was a great way to gain points and climb ranks in the early going). I also appreciated a puzzle experience where you place oddly shaped block clusters to form lines and free up space so you can keep filling a grid, along with a stage where you rush along a river of lava and build bridges that allow you to cross gaps. There also were some classics, like Memory and a rip-off of the NES classic, Balloon Fight, though I still prefer older experiences to the gussied up ones included in this particular collection.

Unfortunately, a lot of the games--even the ones I liked--suffer from various quirks that lead to a grouping of high scores within close proximity to one another. A truly talented player isn't likely to score a whole lot more points than the player just barely scrapes by. The developers did include bronze, silver and gold medal ranks, but getting the gold on some of the mini-games is ridiculously easy, while acquiring it on others feels nearly impossible. That's okay, though, since there aren't any online leaderboards, anyway.

Party Planet (Switch) image

One recurring quirk I really could've done without is the sometimes shoddy play control. There are a few of the mini-games that would have been enjoyable on a long-term basis if they featured responsive controls. Instead, the developers implemented a setup that forces you to think about what button will do what the whole time you're playing, which tends to impact your performance. For instance, a game where you direct a snake around an arena to gather fruit (instead of rats, as in the classic Snake title that must have inspired the mini-game) lets you move the analog stick left or right to adjust the snake's arc, instead of simply pressing in those directions to immediately move where desired. In another mini-game, which is based on Asteroids, you control thrusters and turning angle, rather than directly moving the ship. These handicaps make the games more difficult, but they don't manage to add much to the fun factor.

Another problem is that a number of the games aren't often much fun to replay more than a time or two. Every time you start fresh, you have to go through the same tedium to get to the point where you failed on your previous attempt. Then, due to the steadily increasing difficulty level, you're fairly likely to fail again at approximately the same point, and then again for the next dozen times you might try. There's little sense that you're making any real progress, and in some cases you'll get no further than random factors (such as platform and item placement) allow. Worse, it feels like that forced failure is the result of intentional design. The developers must have felt they needed to keep things brief in order to facilitate the promised party atmosphere.

Party Planet (Switch) image

Visually and aurally, the game actually does just fine without standing apart from the pack of similar titles available on older devices. Each game features vibrant visuals, colorful characters and a reasonably uncluttered interface that fans of all ages should be able to appreciate. Cheerful music plays in the background, giving the whole experience the festive vibe you might expect. The selection menu, besides looking nice and featuring a rotating globe to represent the planet on which the parties are taking place, allows you to easily check high scores and find instructions on how to play the game, in the event that you somehow forgotten.

In the hands of a group of four friends with nothing much else to do, Party Planet should provide the makings for a decent (albeit unspectacular) party experience. It could be a terrific investment for a family with young children on Christmas morning, for example. Given how popular the party or multiplayer game genre has already become on the Switch hardware, though, a middling performance isn't enough to warrant a strong purchase recommendation. There are too many other options on the shelf, available at similar prices, that are likely to remain engaging for much longer.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (November 28, 2017)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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