Games for Lunch: Wii Party

Posted by Kyle Orland (October 06, 2010)

Games for Lunch chronicles the first hour of a different game every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each hour ends with the answer to the only question that matters at that point: Do I want to keep playing? For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions.

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Oct. 3, 2010
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Everything's better with Mii-pets?

0:00 I'm a bigger fan than most of the Mario Party series, and I've been led to understand this is the spiritual successor to that, with customizable Miis in place of Mario characters. So I'm pretty excited.

0:01 As usual when I play party games for lunch, I am playing today in the sub-optimal single-player mode. I feel like I've played enough of these party games to know which mini-games will be fun with a group, even if that group isn't here right now...

0:03 A bunch of highly animated Miis float by in translucent bubbles on the title screen. Also, an airliner, a die and a dog float by, for some reason. The music here will be familiar to anyone who's played Wii Sports, Wii Fit, etc.

0:04 The host looks like a cross between the host from Buzz, Kyle's brother Ike from South park, who's dressed like a more flamboyant Professor Layton and talks like Beaker from the Muppets. REFERENCES! Oh, he's “Party Phil!"

0:05 Party Phil introduces the three main game types: Party Games, Pair Games and House Party games, the last of which “use your living room as part of the fun." I smell a lawsuit over a broken coffee table...

0:06 I'm taken right to a Menu screen with a selection of five party games and three pair games. I was expecting some sort of story or connecting device. Let's see what the Suggestions button comes up with. I tell him I'm looking for a long, single-player game. “Why not put your single-player minigame skills to the test in the solo mode?" Why not indeed!

0:07 Intermediate and Expert are locked, so I guess I'm going with Beginner difficulty by default. I'm told the entire thing will take 15-60 minutes, which should be perfect for my purposes. Before I know it, my Mii stands in a spacesuit on the first of a series of floating, loosely connected squares. Each space represents a mini-game, losing moves you back a space, five stages to reach the end, OK, let's go!

0:08 Starting off with Balloon Buggies, a radio controller racing game seen from slightly overheard. Tilting the Remote acts as a steering wheel, but the controls are a little slippy and subject to oversteer. I'm lucky the computer is so bad, because I have some trouble being precise enough to pop the balloon that pop up on the field. I can see my non-gamer friends getting frustrated with this one quite easily.

0:10 Crash Balls is the next mini-game I choose. Reminds me of my favorite mini-game from the very first Mario Party, Bumper Balls! Only this time you move the ball using surprisingly responsive tilt controls and the bumps send opponents flying into pockets in the corners. Again, the Beginner mode is proving way too easy, but this could be fun with the right crowd (and enough alcohol).

0:12 I have no choice in the next mini-game: Flying Fruit, where I have to count the strawberries while ignore the apples and cherries that fly by. Meanwhile the comptuerized opponents try to block my view with small Mii icons, but they are laughably bad. Probably won't be a party favorite for anyone older than eight years old.

0:14 Again I'm given no choice for the next mini-game, which is called Shutterpup. Cute concept... run around a park with the d-pad and snap a pic when a manic dog is centered and close enough in the frame. I'm a little too itchy on the trigger, taking some out-of-focus shots, but I still barely squeak out a victory. I'd love to see this developed further into a spiritual sequel for the underrated Pokemon Snap sequel.

0:16 I choose Poppin' Pilots over Delivery Duel for the next mini-game. It's your basic tilt-based, auto-scrolling flying mini-game, with some pitch-perfect responsive controls. The single opposing plane is surprisingly aggressive at bumping me off my path, but I'm just as aggressive at bumping back. In the end I pop many more floating balloons than her, and win by a healthy margin. Could be fun with a friend, but I think it would be better with four planes on screen.

0:18 And with that my Mii saunters to the spaceship at the goal. Ten points for each heart plus ten points for each mini-game won leaves me with 90 meaningless doodads total. I hop in the spaceship and blast off. I've unlocked Intermediate mode, but let's go back to suggestions and see what's on offer.

0:19 Four-player battle? Um, I'm only one player. No thanks. Swap Meet sounds interesting. and a bit strategic, but the game says it'll take 30 to 45 minutes? No thanks. Let's try Intermediate Solo mode, I guess.

0:21 The board is slightly larger, and the background is red, but it pretty much looks the same as the Beginner mode. I'm told I'll have to pass 10 mini-games this time.

0:22 Flag Fracas is an example of the worst type of Wii mini-game. I wait for the starting gun, then shake the Remote as fast as possible to run for the flag. At least it's short... it took less than five seconds before I hit A to dive for the flag. Nice animation too. Just not interesting to play.

0:23 Saucer Snap is a single button game -- simply press A to take a picture of the UFO as it flies by the unmovable camera frame. I actually finish in second place after taking a slightly off-centered photo. I still get to move on, though.

0:25 In Roll to the Goal, I have to use gravity and a titling Remote to guide a large ball down a wooden maze. You see the entire maze quickly at the beginning, but a zoomed-in viewpoint afterwards makes it hard to remember which is the most efficient path. Luckily there are no dead ends, and the computer is pretty inefficient, so easily finish in first. It's a nicely polished experienced, if largely unsatisfying.

0:27 I have a surprising amount of trouble guiding my Mii down to the ground in Moon Landing. He floats so slowly, and the asteroids flying parallel to the ground move so quickly. When I finally do land, it's because I ricochet off the bottom of an asteroid to knock me quickly down to the surface. Finishing in third place loses me a heart and knocks me back one space. Bleh.

0:29 All right, let's try Puzzle Pick-up instead. Four pointera fight to pick up puzzle pieces from a disorganized stack and fit them into simply two-piece puzzles shapes. Reminds me of the board game Perfection. I was always awful at that game, but here I squeak out a 7-6 win over my nearest opponent. Could be fun for a group.

0:30 Tropical Punch is literally over in four seconds. Everyone's walking around with ridiculous extendo-gloves. I throw two quick punches and knock everyone else off the stage almost immediately. Waaaay too simple.

0:31 I get a replacement heart before starting Splash Bash, which has me throwing a tethered ball at three opponents standing on a far-off line. The ball flies so slowly, I would think they'd have plenty of time to sidle away. But no, they just kind of stand there and let me hit them. Seems unlikely to be interesting in a party setting.

0:33 Hammer Heads is a competitive whack-a-mole game where we all walk around with hammers, bashing moles and each other. The ability to knock out opponents briefly is sure to help this be a party hit. The touchy controls, which require perfect positioning and angling to hit the moles, are not.

0:35 I choose Cry Babies over Pearl Plunder next, out of morbid curiosity as much as anything. It asks me to rock the Wii Remote up and down to the pace of a gently beating heart icon on the screen. As I do, the baby in my Mii's arms stops crying and starts laughing and smiling and making cute noises as the camera zooms ever closer. One false move and the baby bawls, and the camera zooms back as my Mii looks alarmed. Cutest. Mini-game. EVAR!

0:37 I was hoping for more from Spring Time. My Mii bounces along a straight path on springy shoes. All I get to do is jerk the Remote up when the spring compresses to get an extra high, extra-fast bounce. The timing of the jerks isn't all that clear, which is sure to cause frustration in a group setting.

0:40 Derby Dash is the final game of this session. Swing the Remote to whip your horse, but whip too fast and you'll run out of energy for the final stretch. I whip my horse mercilessly to get out to big lead at the start, then conserve energy around the turn. I almost start whipping too late in the final stretch, but still win by about half a length because of my early lead. Cute enough, I suppose.

0:42 I head on back to the main menu and stumble upon a set of “Challenge" mini-games. “Some might look familiar at first, but they're actually a much deeper experience." That's what I'm talking about! They're supposed to take 5- 30 minutes each. Let's start with Marching Orders.

0:54 Wow... that was interesting. Basically Miis get dropped randomly on to an 8x8 grid, then start marching forward. I had to point at them and tap A or B to turn them towards house entrances on the edge of the grid, and to keep them from falling off the unprotected sides. It starts off incredibly slowly, but after ten minutes or so the grid was getting cluttered with half a dozen Miis at a time, bumping into each other and generally clogging things up. At that point things deteriorated quickly. I liked it, but I'd like a version that gets hard more quickly even better.

0:55 Garden Gridlock is my next Challenge mini-game. It's a slower paced puzzle game, asking me to place Miis on a grid so they'll walk forward, pick up a watering can, then water a set of flowers. Things like arrows and teleporter boxes mix things up a bit. I run into a slight challenge already on the third stage, before I realize I can back up the starting point for one of the Miis so they won't bump into each other.

1:00 The interesting solution for stage 6 involves sending two Miis through opposite ends of the same teleporter at the same time, so they can get by each other. There are 24 more stages of this, and I'll definitely be trying them all.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? At the very least I want to see what up with the rest of the Challenge games. After that, I may break it out if my next get-together is getting dull, but I can't see it becoming a regular party hit.

This review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

Check out hundreds of archived Games for Lunch reviews on the official Games for Lunch blog.

I've been writing about video games for 17 years now and for some reason they're still paying me


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