When the Nintendo Wii debuted several years ago, it became the go to console for almost all of gaming’s most family friendly projects. A lot of these ended up being mini-game collections aimed towards getting children and their parents off of the couch with the promise of fun, interactive gaming. Unfortunately, a lot of these games didn’t do very well and ended up being too rushed to achieve great success on the critical front. However, there were some bright spots, such as the Rayman Raving Rabbids series, which is still going today after launching with the console. Another surprise on this front is Go Vacation from Namco Bandai Games, which is a decent activity collection for the younger crowd. One you should certainly look into if a child finds his or her way onto your holiday shopping list.
The premise behind Go Vacation lacks creativity, considering it’s basically an expanded version of Wii Sports Resort – a game which makes sense to borrow from considering how well-received it was. Your Mii (or chosen in-game avatar) is plopped onto the world’s perfect vacation destination. This island not only includes one resort, but four different ones spread throughout its varied landscape. Your first stop is the sunny beach resort, with its ATV driving, beach volleyball and water sports. Then, it’s off to the city resort, the snow chateau and, eventually the final mountainside retreat. Each one has its own themed games, activities and hidden treasure chests, containing new clothing to dress up in. In total, there are approximately fifty different games, which include a ton of variety and a lot of expanded gameplay options.
Young gamers can jump into the experience with up to three friends, in order to participate in a whole whack of different types of events. The list is very long, so we won’t get into every single activity. Though, you can bet that there’s everything from dancing, to pie throwing, to skeet shooting, with element-based activities mixed in throughout. Stickers are earned upon the completion of each activity, however that doesn’t mean the game is done. After the first try, different variations will unlock, such as slaloms and specific race types. Winning every event on the list will earn you silver and gold keys.
The entire game world is open to explore for those who would prefer to take a break from mini-game shenanigans. Horses, ATVs, skateboards and skii planks are available for travel throughout the island’s varied landscape. During these day trips, photo points, new friends and message balloons await. Very young kids will probably have trouble learning exactly how to get into some events, but they will be able to move around within the world as they wish, learning how real-life movements can translate into a virtual environment.
What Go Vacation does well is that it creates a digital sandbox for gamers in training, as well as their family members. It’s easy to jump into this game having had no prior gaming experience whatsoever. Hands are held and every aspect of the game is considerably easier than in most games. All of the activities – whether it’s tennis, driving, rollerblading, skeet shooting or skydiving – are quite basic in terms of required control, with movement around courts automated to make things easier. As a result, Go Vacation is a good way to teach a youngster the ins and outs of gaming. Though, it’d be better if the controls were more refined.
A downside to this experience is that aforementioned lack of precise control. Go Vacation takes on motion-based forms that we’ve seen before in quite a few other games. It tries to replicate the movements of each activity through easy-to-learn gestures, such as pushing, pulling and swiping. There are a lot of control schemes to be found within, which causes a problem. Had there been a smaller amount, the development team could have refined things much more than they did. The result is a lot of variety with imprecise replications. Sometimes, gestures can feel a bit inaccurate. Others can become cumbersome. The great emphasis on motion controls is both an asset and a hindrance at times.
When the game takes the form of a light-gun shooter, things work quite well. Though, the in-game vehicle (and horse) controls are considerably lacking in the precision department. Tilting and turning the Wii-mote and nunchuk correlate into the turning mechanics for each method of transportation. It’s quite easy to understand, though very floaty. Slight tilts work best, though issues result from just doing that. For the series’ possible sequel, its development team would be smart to refine these controls to a less extensive and more precise form. Perhaps the addition of some joystick-based turning could make things better in the long run, even if it decreases the amount of motion found within.
Getting used to the way this game works may also be a tad difficult for the younger crowd. There is an activity list, but it’s not present within the main campaign (for lack of a better term.) Instead, the entire island is at your fingertips. This is both a positive and a negative, with the aforementioned exploration ability being the pro. On the downside, finding every activity can be a bit difficult. They’re spread out all over the map with just a red mini-map dot as an indicator of where your next task is. There’s no set order to play things in, though a young girl acts as a tour guide, giving the player ideas as to which option to try next. Opening up a full map will give fast-travel options, though activities located near each one are absent from the piece of parchment.
Progression is never limited to those who don’t make it onto the podium. Event completion is all that counts, with the game adopting a no-scores kept idea. Think of it like a child’s soccer game, played in a league that is just for fun. That’s what Go Vacation and its getaway island are like, though other sports take the forefront here. The gold and silver keys are more for bragging rights than anything, considering that they don’t act as a requirement for any sort of forward movement within the game. That’s certainly a plus for families with younger gamers, though the absence of great rewards means that there’s less incentive to play through everything.
Namco Bandai Games‘ disc-based trip to an island paradise is colourful and varied in its geographical look. Its characters are admittedly quite basic in design however, employing caricatured and cartoon looks. Nothing here screams of originality, but it’s not a requirement when it comes to family-friendly games like this. What matters is that there’s a ton of colour and a lack of performance issues – for the most part. I noticed the odd hint of slowdown, which is something that won’t be complained about by the title’s target audience.
Surely you’ve heard those kids’ songs which act more as motivators than actual music. That is exactly what you’re greeted with upon inserting the Go Vacation disc into your Wii console. It’s happy, flamboyant and loud. The stereo’s volume level drops in-game, resulting in quieter music that fits quite well. Since there is no voice acting to be found, this original score and its cartoon sound effects play a big role in creating an immersive game world. Combined, both sections of the game’s soundtrack do a good job of accentuating the on-screen action. Kids will enjoy the thunks, thuds, engine sounds and everything else.
Despite its shortcomings, Go Vacation is a solid mini-game compilation for young children and others who are interested in casual, easy-to-learn gaming. There are a lot of varied options to participate in throughout the island, though control issues sometimes negatively affect those experiences. At an affordable price of $39.99, it’s easy to recommend this digital outdoor excursion to those whom would benefit from it: The younger gaming crowd and those who have never picked up a controller before. Perhaps those two will combine at certain points – an area where Namco Bandai Games‘ latest Wii title will be a good fit. Anyone looking for a good holiday gift for a little niece or nephew should certainly check this one out. Although it’s not the most original game on the market, Go Vacation is a lot better than most of its competitors.
Go Vacation was released on October 11, 2011. This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes. We utilized the standard Wii-mote and nunchuk control scheme for this review, though the light gun and balance board attachments also work with this game.