Tamagotchi Party On! (Wii) review
"The mini-games in Tamagotchi: Party On! are entertaining at first, but quickly grow tiresome because of the frequency with which they are repeated. You might play the same one three or four times in a single round of default length, which certainly isnít optimal."
Party games are a big deal on the Wii, as youíve likely noticed. Tamagotchi: Party On! is Namco Bandai owning up to that fact and releasing a title in kind. Where Mario Party and such projects are aimed at a broad audience, though, the Tamagotchi creatures and their political aspirations are definitely skewed specifically toward children 10 and younger. Presentation and gameplay alike should delight that group but will fail to retain appeal for older gamers unless theyíre experiencing the outing with a younger sibling.
In Tamagotchi: Party On!, players assume the role of one of the eponymous critters as it tries to get itself elected. To succeed, it will need to raise goodwill in the districts that will be casting votes. As the gamer, youíll root for your chosen avatar by picking him from the offerings (four are initially available, with several times that number unlockable as you play) and guiding him around a board game of sorts while participating in mini-games that boost reputation points and campaign funds.
If that concept sounds a bit obtuse for the youngsters in its target audience, donít worry; the presentation actually makes things simple to monitor. Good, old-fashioned points indicate your Tamagotchiís current reputation and you have a number next to the icon of a coin. Itís not unlike Mario Party, with the stars from that game replaced here by your popularity. Original it is not, but it works. It also happens to be quite vibrant. The worlds somehow look flat and three-dimensional at the same time, and the artwork is endearing enough that itís hard not to laugh at and appreciate the various Tamagotchi critters.
With the basic structure in place, Tamagotchi: Party On! finally heads into more intriguing territory. Some innovations may actually catch a few people by surprise, particularly the lack of four-player mini-games that have fast become a genre staple. Some turns pass without the opportunity to play any mini-game at all. Frequently there are forks in the road that allow a player to decide whether he wants to take a chance with a mystery space or try his hand at a mini-game. If they land on an event space, players gain or lose reputation points or cash, while if they land on a mini-game space theyíll be whisked off to a single-player event where they try to maximize their level of esteem in the community.
The mini-games in Tamagotchi: Party On! are entertaining at first, but quickly grow tiresome because of the frequency with which they are repeated. You might play the same one three or four times in a single round of default length, which certainly isnít optimal. Youíll find yourself doing things like waving to crowds or scooping ice cream, dull activities that sometimes are made more interesting by the use of the Wii Remote but that will at other times leave you wondering if Nintendoís unique controller made things any better at all.
One obvious example comes when youíre directing characters in one direction or another. You might think you would simply tilt the Wii Remote in the desired direction, but thatís not true. You just swing it to one side or the other--it doesnít matter which one--and the character on-screen will switch the direction the sign points. It just feels counter-intuitive to swing the Wii Remote left and find the character suddenly switch his sign so that it points to the right, but what are you going to do? Despite occasional moments of similar confusion, the average game is neither bad nor good. It simply exists. Youíll probably find yourself wishing there were more to choose from, though children tend to like comfortable repetition and wonít likely mind at all.
Mini-games arenít as important as you might suppose, anyway. The boards themselves are a significant part of the campaign. They represent chunks of a larger world. Youíll begin in one zone, with the goal being to race to a set point at the center or far end of the area. Whoever gets there first gets a huge boost in cash and popularity. Then everyone leaves that zone and heads to the next location and starts over. This is interesting because it prevents someone from dominating the whole game because of a few high rolls at the start. If youíre trailing well behind someone who reaches the campaign pulpit first, then you have less distance to backtrack into the next zone than he does. That nicely ensures closer matches.
Headquarters customization is another neat idea. If you have a nicer home base, youíll earn more points from exemplary participation in mini-games. That gives you good reason to invest and to worry about how much cash youíve earned, since a superior player who hasnít invested his money properly can easily lose to a less competent player who simply knows how to spruce up his domain.
Parents concerned that theyíre exposing their children to nastiness and making them competitive little brats also can rest easy, since Tamagotchi: Party On! relays positive messages. You get ahead in the game not by stomping on the heads of your rivals and kicking them into lava or ice water, but by doing your own personal best to make a positive contribution to the community around you. While this wonít necessarily appeal to the older crowd weaned on death matches on alien planets--people who never were likely to enjoy this game in the first place--it means that kids arenít going to feel as bad about a loss and will feel worthy of victory after helping the people throughout each community. Thatís a nice touch.
On a less positive note, the game flow could still use some work. Many of the stages have load times or brief pauses that simply arenít present in other such games. Theyíre never a huge deal, but they do detract from the experience enough over time that they warrant mention. Even when thereís action on-screen, itís annoying to watch your character traipse through a given board, and the mechanic to look at the map before taking a turn is rather unwieldy. Besides that, you have to wait through everyone elseís turns even if theyíre computer-controlled opponents. The process takes even longer than it does in older Mario Party games. Itís a shame the developers didnít learn from those mistakes (which Hudson has since rectified) and avoid them here.
Despite those flaws, though, Tamagotchi: Party On! knows its audience and caters to it well. It should make a decent investment for older gamers that are looking for innocent games to enjoy with their kids, or for a younger sibling that likes games and needs a break from murdering prostitutes and collecting massive swords. A positive message, engaging characters and balanced gameplay help to cancel out some of the repetition and occasional lack of polish. A lower than average price point doesnít hurt, either. As time wears on and more options become available, Tamagotchi: Party On! will probably be completely forgotten, but for now itís one of the best options out there for gamers with kids of their own. Thereís no shame in a good party!
Staff review by Jason Venter (June 10, 2007)
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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