Bundled in with my review packet, I found a lovely letter from the marketing people over at Core, our local Nintendo distributor. It didn’t include a cheque, but it did say this:
“Wii Party will be the life and soul of any gathering as you enjoy games that refine the traditional party videogame experience.”
Now, I’m not entirely convinced that the “any gathering” claim is quite true, but I’m sure Wii Party does have at least one relevant occasion.
It’s 4am in a luxury hotel penthouse suite somewhere in, say, New York. A hypothetical rock band with a mid-80s’ dedication to indiscriminate extravagance has just wrapped up their planetary world tour with characteristic debauchery. The four people who haven’t yet drowned in the pool discover that the entertainment console has a Wii. In that final blurry, psychedelic hour or so before succumbing – probably permanently – to methamphetamine comas, they give Wii Party a spin. It’s the most awesome thing ever.
For just about every other occasion, however, I can only imagine Wii Party falling flatter than a pre-Socratic science project model of Earth.
Basically, Wii Party is a series of minigames stuffed into a series of metagames. Most of the minigames aren’t that abominable on their own, perhaps, but the metagames are so thoroughly revolting, it’s kinda like bobbing for apples in a rattlesnake pit.
Actually, it reminds me of my seventh birthday party. Like most just-about-to-turn-seven-year-olds, I’d sent out invitations proposing an afternoon of Red Rover, kiss-catch, hide and seek, and all the hotdogs you could shovel into your jaws before vomiting all over the lawn playing Red Rover, kiss-catch, and hide and seek. It was totally going to be the talk of the kindergarten treehouse the next week. Unfortunately, my gran happened to be in town and decided to gatecrash and officiate over the party like a fascist dictator, culminating in a bunch of kids sobbing over their boudoir biscuit racecars while they were forced to sit still and listen to Peter Rabbit stories.
Actually, that fascist dictator bit is rather appropriate, considering the in-game Mii generator managed to turn up a female with a Hitler moustache.
Consider the Spin-Off game, for example. It’s a Wheel of Fortune-style game, with four players competing to bank the most pretend-cash “Medals” over ten rounds. Each player takes a turn to spin a massive carousel, featuring pretend-cash wins or losses, or minigame events. The problem is, the overwhelming majority of prizes printed on the thing are those pretend-cash wins and losses, meaning you can go entire rounds (theoretically, in fact, and not at all unlikely, an entire game) just adding and subtracting numbers, and the very occasional possibility of maybe rushing around punching other Miis with a giant fist for 15 seconds doesn’t much mitigate such a dreary contingency. There’s also the very real possibility of one player blagging an enormous pretend-cash multiplier in the second or third round, and pretty much winning the game – while everybody else has to slog through another eight rounds of adding and subtracting numbers, and pretend it’s fun or something.
Elsewhere, something like the Animal Tracker game has up to four Wii Remotes laid out in front of players. The built-in speaker on each Wii Remote barks out a different animal sound, and players must scramble to identify the sound with the on-screen critter. Seriously. Wii Party is where Wii parties go to die.
Ultimately, unless you plan on spending most of your social events in a state of complete intoxication and/or you want your friends to hate you, Wii Party is really just a tedious, vapid, and boring waste of cash.