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Wii Party Review4
by Ryan Davis on
Nintendo elevates the oft-maligned party game with a simple combination of character and craft.
Nothing serves as shorthand for thoughtless shovelware quite like "party game." This rings no truer than on the Wii, where hastily stringing together a fistful of cheap, waggle-heavy toys, slapping on a few different backgrounds for a vague sense of variety, and then waiting for the undiscerning grandma bucks to come rolling in is dangerously close to the status quo. It's a cynical and condescending way to do business, and it's rampant enough that it has left an indelible mark on the Wii platform as a whole. Leave it to Nintendo to prove that there's nothing wrong with a party game with the bluntly yet accurately titled Wii Party. The house-brand name actually helps to underline the fact that you don't need some half-assed carnival theme or a shoehorned mascot to make a party game work. The only gimmick here is a plainly presented collection of fun, clever minigames. Doesn't seem so hard, does it?
Other than the Miis that populate the game, the only character to speak of in Wii Party is a muppety, pink-tuxedoed ringmaster whose primary purpose is to get you up to speed on certain mechanics and to point you to the minigames you'll have the most fun with. Wii Party assumes that you're here to party, so the very first time--and every time--you boot the game up, you're immediately presented with a simple menu giving you a few different ways to approach the 70-plus minigames contained within.
Top row, you've got five different board games to choose from, each of which helpfully lists the average runtime of a full game, ranging from 15 minutes to about an hour. Longtime Mario Party players should be familiar with the infuriating odds-evening that can happen within this format, to the point that your performance in the actual minigames can be inconsequential. Wii Party has a few built-in mechanisms for introducing some random chance and keeping games from being complete washouts, but it does so with a certain restraint. It also doesn't hurt that the board game mechanics themselves are appreciably different from one to the next, going from a dice-powered trip up a perilous mountain to a Mii-themed game of bingo.
There's also a suite of cooperative two-player games, the most interesting of which test how much you know, or think you know, about your partner. Similarly, the best of the House Party selections tend to be more about facilitating parlor games that involve quiz shows about your fellow contestants, hot-potato word games that have you tossing Wii Remotes back and forth, and a straight-up, Wii-Remote-based game of hide-and-seek. The level of quality and variety in the minigames is admirable across the board in Wii Party, but these House Party games felt particularly clever, and I wish there were more of them. In most cases, Wii Party will pinch-hit with AI players if you can't wrangle up two to four players, though these House Party types require live competitors to work. Then again, if you're playing a party game all by yourself, you probably need to reassess some things about your lifestyle.
With a few exceptions, you can access just about everything Wii Party has to offer right from the get-go. If you don't need the board-game framing devices, you can go straight to a list of minigames, or if you'd rather not poke around the list, you can hit the "suggestions" button on the main menu, dial in the number of players and the amount of time you've got, and go from there.
I think it speaks volumes to just how low the level of quality in most Wii party games has become that all it took was Nintendo putting together a competent, though still largely familiar package, to put everyone else to shame. This is still a very straightforward collection of minigames, though with the right casual group of players, it can be a fun time indeed.