Three years ago, Nintendo released Wii Party for their then immensely popular console it was essentially Mario Party; a collection of mini-games attached to a digital board game, only stripped of its iconic characters. While fun in its own way, it never quite managed to capture the same insane, crazy sense of fun that accompanied Mario Party. It’s back, this time on Nintendo’s decidedly less popular Wii U. It’s exactly the sort of game the Wii U needs right now, something that can be picked up and played with friends and family during the holidays. It’s just a pity it’s not better.
To start off with, it’s now thrown off those Mario Party shackles entirely – and while there are still modes that echo its progenitor, there’s so much in the way of content that Wii Party finally seems to have an identity of its own. When you start the game, you will be greeted with a number of different modes and options to choose from – and each of those, in turn, will present you with even more modes and options.It’s divided up in to 4 initial sections. TV Party, House Party, GamePad Party, and Minigames.
The first such option, TV Party, is somewhat reminiscent of Mario Party and the first Wii Party. Within TV Party, most of the game options play in that familiar board game “get to the end” manner, though there a few that are more interesting and unique; Mii Fashion plaza has you collecting costume pieces after minigame wins, eventually showing off entire ensembles. It sounds absurd and girly, and it very probably is, but it’s decidedly quite fun – even if it a little emasculating. TV Party feels very much like it was designed for the original Wii though, featuring minigames that mostly revolve around shaking Wiimotes about.
House Party frees things up from just the confines of the TV, and involves the Wii U GamePad more. Name That Face is an occasionally hilarious game where one player uses the GamePad to take pictures of their own faces acting out a pre-determined expression, and having the other players guess. Sketchy Situation is equally fun, albeit short, and has all players save for one drawing the same picture, then having to guess which the odd one out is. Another intriguing, though less successful use of the GamePad has you put the thing on the floor, which displays a river on its screen. Players are tasked with using Wiimotes as ladles to scoop water from the virtual river, and pour it in to jugs on the TV screen. It’s clever, but its seldom works properly, especially when there’s a scramble with four players all pointing Wiimotes at the GamePad. While there are games and modes contained therein that can be played solo or with just another player, they’re mostly best when played in groups of four.
GamePad Party is a viable option for smaller groups as only two people can play at a time – but it’s got some decent and interesting use of the Gamepad, because that’s where the entirety of the mode is played; you needn’t look at the TV at all. Turn the Gamepad sideways and each player gets grippy with one side of the thing t play tabletop games. There’s a simplistic foosball, operated with just a thumbstick each, and a ludicrously simple, but engaging and charming baseball game that has me hooked. Each player gets turns pitching and batting using nothing but a thumbstick; it’s simple but far more engaging than you’d imagine. There’s also a rock-em-sock-em type boxing game, but it’s frankly quite terrible, amusing for mere minutes before it becomes something you’ll likely never play again. There’re also one or two co-operative games in this mode, like one that has you matching up animals for some reason I can’t quite fathom.
The fourth main gameplay mode allows you to just pick up and play any one of the 80 or so mini-games you’ll find in Wii Party U; and they’re entirely what the success of something like Wii Party U hinges on. Thankfully, out of the 80 games, more are hits than misses and much of the mindless waggling you’d expect to find in a Wii party game. In most situations – save for the TV party minigames – button presses are used instead of waggling, and when waggle is required, it tends to be nicely and cleverly implemented. Most of the games favour actual skill, timing or precision over luck, which is nice. Overall though there’s a distinct lack of depth that means that the fun just doesn’t last very long, and there’s very little reason to keep playing many of the games.
The whole package is exceptional value though – mostly because it comes bundled with a Wii Motion Plus remote, and sells for jus more than you’d pay for either a game or remote on their own. It’s fun in the short sorts of bursts of mini-game mayhem that it’s designed to supply. If you own a Wii U, pick up “Wii Party U.” Not only is it a cheap way to score an extra controller, but it’s a great way for groups of people to play casual fare together – especially those who’ve tired of NintendoLand’s limited number of games.