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Game Party 2 (Wii) artwork

Game Party 2 (Wii) review

"In November 2007, Game Party hit the Wii as a collection of seven simple minigames. Ten months later, six of those games return to a roster of eleven activities in Game Party 2. The major improvement: this time the motion controls work competently."

In November 2007, Game Party hit the Wii as a collection of seven simple minigames. Ten months later, six of those games return to a roster of eleven activities in Game Party 2. The major improvement: this time the motion controls work competently.

All of the contests in Game Party 2 require mastery of a single motion. Actually, there are so few movements available that games must share basic principles with only subtle twists. For example, cradling the Wiimote overhand like a dart, a flick of the wrist sends your projectile toward the dartboard. Launching it straight is rather simple; here, the game focuses on speed control. Move too fast and the throw sails high above where you locked on the crosshairs. Too slow and it sinks low. The QB Challenge uses the same form, but stresses accuracy in direction. This game mimics a little arcade machine where cheap cutouts of receivers and defenders move horizontally back and forth, kind of like two rows of a carnival duck shoot. Here you must utilize left and right arm movement to maximize completions and avoid interceptions. Given these relatively sensitive requirements, the game's improvement at consistently registering the characteristics of gestures is a major step forward.

That doesn't mean it's perfect. Tabletop shuffleboard and puck bowling both use a push of the remote to slide the disk forward, but it's harder to send it precisely straight than in the other modes. The larger problem, though, is that some activities don't vary enough in their approach. Beanbags, lawn darts, and horseshoes all require an underhand toss. In each, an identical throwing arc will yield the best results; there's just a different visual skin on the screen. Having controls that are easy to learn and easy to master is a key for a casual party game, but it needs to change up between all the challenges.

Those visuals always create a colorful, lively atmosphere. Indoors, you're in someone's rec room, packed with other partygoers, or hanging out at the arcade. Outdoors games are like a neighborhood picnic, with a spacious backyard in which to play and some groovy tunes in the background. But the game's continuous need to show these surroundings causes a problem for those same three underhand games. The camera sits behind your character as you toss the object. The camera stays behind your character as the horseshoe or lawn dart plunks down in the distance. If not for the raucous cheers of the crowd for a good throw, it's hard to tell if you've hit the bullseye or overthrown the target by a couple of feet until after the round is over.

The people in Game Party 2 look better than Miis, mostly because of their wardrobe. About a dozen prefabricated models exist, but when you go to customize your own, you realize there's much less control than with the Wii's standard-bearer. You choose a stock hairstyle, head, shirt, and bottoms without getting to change facial features or the color of anything. The main incentive for creating an avatar is to collect tickets from the games you play. These unlock alternate color palettes for the equipment, plus more outrageous options for your character, like mouse ears or a bobby hat. These items are freed in blocks, so you'll get all the accessories at once. As a result, the quantity of tickets required to unlock everything can be collected in a couple of hours.

Ostensibly, the other reason for a custom design is to exhibit your individuality and accomplishments to other players; its profile tracks all its high scores. However, there's no capability to carry that profile to another party. Otherwise, the game has made important strides in regard to multiplayer modes. Tournaments allow up to sixteen players to participate in different styles of competition. There's single elimination brackets or best of three, five, and seven game series. Other options include 'Loser Go Home', where the worst scorer is eliminated each round, or 'Winner Moves On', where only the highest score advances to the next round. In certain configurations in certain games, players can even team up. Maybe most importantly, in hoop shoot and skill ball (think skee-ball), more than one person can participate at a time in a split-screen setup. It keeps people involved and the events moving.

One game where playing at the same time doesn't perform so well is the trivia section. It works like the contests you see in bars where people answer multiple-choice questions on a TV with a wireless remote. As the ten-second clock ticks down, wrong answers disappear, but you get more points for choosing the right answer quickly. In Game Party 2, all the cursors appear on screen at the same time. The choice selected by opponents isn't explicitly shown, but it's easy to guess their answer based on where they initially point the remote. Why it doesn't use the d-pad or other buttons for input is beyond me. The trivia itself is interesting, requiring obscure knowledge of movies, music, history, and American-centric sports, but it's not the best setup for a pure competition.

Of course, Game Party 2 is aimed at all ages, so it won't allude to trivia's bar associations. That's also why 'beer pong' transforms into 'ping cup.' But be the players drinking-age friends or a family with small children, I can see this providing some entertainment on a lazy afternoon. After all, there's eleven different games, several with multiple variations for rules and scoring, so just testing out all the options will take a few hours. Its appeal just isn't going to last beyond that.


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Freelance review by Benjamin Woodhouse (October 21, 2008)

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