Game Party (Wii) review
"Game Party is another minigame mashup for the Wii. It grafts simple motion control onto seven familiar activities, doing everything to ensure that anyone can pick it up and instantly understand the objective. Unfortunately, the remote doesn't provide flawless interaction, but Game Party fails on a more fundamental level. This “Ultimate Party Experience!”, supposedly a group attraction, generally accommodates only one person at a time. A single guy standing around while everyon..."
Game Party is another minigame mashup for the Wii. It grafts simple motion control onto seven familiar activities, doing everything to ensure that anyone can pick it up and instantly understand the objective. Unfortunately, the remote doesn't provide flawless interaction, but Game Party fails on a more fundamental level. This “Ultimate Party Experience!”, supposedly a group attraction, generally accommodates only one person at a time. A single guy standing around while everyone else watches isn't a party. Somewhere deep down, the developers must've known you would end up playing alone.
Hoop Shoot and Skill Ball (a.k.a. Skee-ball) are the most egregious offenders. Both of these ticket-redemption machines usually appear in groups in arcades, with the idea that you can compete directly with the person at the adjoining station. Simultaneous play allows the participants to exert pressure on each other. This screams out for split-screen action! Forget it. Game Party doesn't offer any multiplayer options for these events. Pull out a notepad if you need to track and compare scores.
Ping Cup, a dry version of beer pong, could use the same treatment and some speedier rules. It gives you unlimited time and balls to clear the empty glasses from the table. In the worst case, one person could struggle with the task for several minutes while others sit and wait their turn.
With spotty controls, that timetable isn't a stretch. These three games utilize intuitive underhand and overhand tosses to mimic real-world action. However, it's very hard to gain a feel for the correct arm speed to use. With comparable swings in Ping Cup, the ball might trickle up to the glasses or bounce clear off the table. Skill Ball has a unique problem; a sticky release point causes a lot of false throws and frustration. In Hoop Shot, there's an alignment issue. The on-screen player's arm isn't directly in front of the rim, so you always have to shoot the ball at an angle.
It figures that the one activity that allows simultaneous play would also feature the worst controls. Table Hockey sets the playing surface horizontally, so that one person defends a goal on each side of the screen. (I think they can't call it Air Hockey because the puck slowly clunks around the table.) The Wii remote dictates the avatar's arm movement. Thrust towards the TV, and the limb moves towards the top of the screen. Pull back and it moves to the bottom. Flailing left and right makes the on-screen talent jab for a shot or pull back to defend. This illogical scheme is completely backwards. In real-life, you would punch forward to smack the puck. Reaching towards the side would move towards that edge of the table. The motion is also jerky and imprecise; it's difficult to hit the puck in an exact direction. The myriad of problems may be a hint of why Table Hockey was the only game dropped when Midway rushed out the next installment.
You would think the trivia challenge would escape from miscues, but it can't. The multiple-choice questions cover several categories, from ancient Japanese history to '80s TV shows to obscure football stats. It even allows four people to play at once. The problem is how they play. You use the remote to point at your selection. The cursor is visible on the screen, giving hints to everyone else. The controller has buttons that would allow for secret input. Why not use them?
A couple of plodding minigames do escape the critical multiplayer and control issues. Darts and shuffleboard are turn-based anyway, so it's natural to see them as individual activities. The Wii remote is more consistent, too. Holding it like a dart, a flick of the wrist fires your projectile towards the board. For shuffleboard, you push the remote forward to slide the puck towards the scoring area. It's easier to find the right touch for how your action translates into the strength of the throw. They're also the only ones with different variations. Darts allows several scoring setups, and shuffleboard has an unlockable mode that transforms it into curling.
Most people will play each game once or twice before abandoning the title, which means the majority of the bonus material will remained locked forever. Many of these are extra characters, or at least, extra costumes for the dozen or so player templates. You can't manipulate the avatars in any way – these aren't Miis – but there are some funny ones, like a guy in Tarzan garb and a full-size bunny (not a bunny suit). For the little it matters, the atmosphere is lively. Most of the games are in an arcade environment, while darts take place in a pub (complete with an Irish jig for ambient music). There's always plenty of extra characters standing around. They'll cheer loudly when you succeed or make horrible faces when you screw up completely.
It mimics the expression you'll be wearing after a few minutes of Game Party. The label alone doesn't make this a communal experience, and the game fails to entertain on every critical level. Now, it's a relic. Not a year after its release, Midway published Game Party 2, which salvaged anything it could from the original. The existence of the slightly improved sequel should at least exonerate everyone from playing its predecessor. Ever.
Community review by woodhouse (April 19, 2009)
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