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Disney Guilty Party (Wii) artwork

Disney Guilty Party (Wii) review

"There are three settings. As a rookie, you won’t have any trouble at all. Just mashing buttons or waving the Wii Remote around is enough to pass half of the challenges with flying colors. Before long, you’ll earn a promotion and the game offers more resistance. You should still do quite well, but then you’ll earn yet another promotion and suddenly all of the mini-games leave so little room for error that (until you’ve played them a number of times) you’ll fail them as often as not."

It’s a momentous evening at the Dickens Detective Agency. The various investigators have been called together and now they stand at the brink of the most critical time in their distinguished careers, for the most unexpected skullduggery has just occurred: someone has eaten the Commodore’s pudding!!!!! Yes, the crime really did warrant all those exclamation marks. The man loves no person and no thing as much as he loves his pudding. Clearly, someone must find the culprit.

What begins as pudding gluttony will of course venture into more serious territory over the course of Guilty Party, a casual title for Wii that blends mystery with mini-games and cheesy characters. The unusual result plays a lot like you might expect a video game adaptation of the board game Clue to play, only with a variety of new complications that (for better and for worse) twist the experience in some unexpected ways.

Unless you unlock the Game Room and start playing only the mini-games (not recommended), a round of Guilty Party plays out as follows: somewhere between one and four people enter an environment--either by advancing to the next destination in the Story mode or by choosing one of several options from a menu--and then they spend turns dashing around the area in search of clues. Those clues can then be parsed for information and, once the players have enough data to assemble a sketch of the culprit, the accusations start flying.

It’s a simple enough setup, but the complications are what will make or break the experience for you.

Savvy cards serve as one of the complications. At the beginning of a round, you can draw one of three offered cards and it will grant you an ability that you can use on that turn or on any others that follow, as long as the card isn’t stolen (an infrequent occurrence). One card might let you light a candle so that you can make out your surroundings when venturing into a dark room. Another might grant you an extra move, or it might allow you to disable traps. Since you can only carry up to six cards and some of the longer games can last nearly 30 turns, you’re obviously intended to put those cards to frequent use. Sometimes, you’ll have no choice but to burn through a card or two if you want to reach a suspect or investigate a clue (indicated by ‘?’ icons on the map).

Turns end when you run out of moves and can’t replenish your supply with an appropriate Savvy card. You spend moves by dashing from one room to another--the location of each room is irrelevant; each update seems to cost one move--or by examining a suspicious point of interest or by talking to someone who appears to have new information. You also use up a move when you play a mini-game, and perhaps multiple moves if you fail a mini-game and must attempt it again.

The game is very good at making you waste your moves. Sometimes you’ll trot across a map and you’ll be pleased as punch because you know that you’ll arrive at your destination with a move to spare so that you can immediately interrogate the butler before your turn ends… only you’ll arrive in the room and he’ll cry that someone needs tea and go dashing off to the next room. You can follow him, of course, but then your turn ends and you have to wait until the next turn before you can resume your investigation. Or perhaps you’ll be deciding how to advance when suddenly your nemesis, Mr. Valentine, will produce an effect on the map and suddenly the chamber you are interested in visiting is locked from the inside and you don’t have a Savvy card to open it. Such moments are frustrating.

The most exasperating moments, though, are provided by the mini-games. When you first begin playing, you can choose a difficulty level that impacts how things go for you. There are three settings. As a rookie, you won’t have any trouble at all. Just mashing buttons or waving the Wii Remote around is enough to pass half of the challenges with flying colors. Before long, you’ll earn a promotion and the game offers more resistance. You should still do quite well, but then you’ll earn yet another promotion and suddenly all of the mini-games leave so little room for error that (until you’ve played them a number of times) you’ll fail them as often as not.

There are a lot of mini-games--around 50 in all--but almost every one of them proves more frustrating than fun on that highest difficulty setting. For instance, one game requires you to bribe the person from whom you are attempting to extract a clue. You have a hand full of money and you need to pass that money into his or her outstretched palm. This is accomplished by pressing the ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons on the Wii Remote to grab a bill, then moving it on-screen so that it lays over the receiving party’s hand, then releasing the buttons. On the lowest difficulty level, that’s all there is to it. On the next setting, the person who wants the money hops around so that the hand is always moving, and sometimes he or she will switch which hand is outstretched just as you release the buttons and the bill drifts off the screen as you rush to grab another. On the highest setting, there’s also a hand that sneaks in from the side of the screen to grab a pile of cash if you’re not paying attention. You fail the mini-game if you don’t transfer all of the cash in the pile quickly enough, or if the sneaky hand makes off with the money.

So it goes with nearly every mini-game. You’ll wind up dreading the mini-games, rather than looking forward to them, simply because of the precision required to overcome each new challenge. What’s the fun of peeling away wallpaper to reveal items hidden underneath when on the higher difficulty settings it almost immediately rolls back up to its former position? How much fun can it really be to move a pair of eyes around the screen so that they overlap with an erratically moving object in the background (or even worse, so that they don’t touch a second pair of eyeballs with which you are sharing a confined space)?

When the mini-games aren’t making things overly difficult during the latter portion of a typical mystery case, the game is a great deal more fun to play. It’s still not perfect, though. Often, you’ll find clues that seem to reveal a great deal, but as in an old Agatha Christie novel they exist only to throw you off the true scent. If you try to accuse someone of being the murderer, you’d better have all of your ideas sorted and you’d better be sure of yourself.

Even when it’s at its worst, though, Guilty Party is saved from mediocrity by the fact that you can play with friends. After you complete the amusing Story mode, you can revisit familiar locations and solve remixed mysteries that are as convoluted or as simple as you like. If there are a lot of young sleuths in your household, rent the game and see how much fun everyone has. As the Commodore might say, the proof of the pudding is in the playing. Okay, so he probably wouldn’t say that…


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Staff review by Jason Venter (September 01, 2011)

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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