During its much-publicized time in the spotlight, Nintendo’s revolutionary Wii console had its sails deflated by a lack of great games. Sure, there were some, but they were few and far between, highlighting a Nintendo-specific issue that started with the under-appreciated GameCube and has also affected the present day Wii U, although not as much. Part of the problem was a lack of third-party support, but the Big N is also to blame because it relied too much on a select number of franchises and didn’t experiment with other options very well. However, there’s also the fact that retail store shelves where the console’s games were marketed ended up being flooded and overcrowded with shovelware, including low-budget knockoffs, uninteresting adventures and bland party experiences, with the latter genre ending up as the most notable culprit. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true, and it’s left a sour taste in many gamers’ mouths as far as multiplayer mini-game collections are concerned.
In an attempt to remind us that inventive and entertaining party experiences are still achievable, Nintendo originally packaged copies of a licensed genre effort named Nintendo Land with its premium Wii U consoles. Thankfully, it did as advertised, and provided us with hours of entertainment based off of the company’s most popular franchises, such as Metroid, Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. However, other than that particular release, things have been rather quiet on the system’s mini-game front, which is a good thing. In fact, up until recently, there was only one other noteworthy/similar title to be found on store shelves, with that being Game & Wario. That has now changed, though, with the release of Wii Party U, a family friendly multiplayer game that promises fun for all ages but is actually quite lacklustre.
Like its similarly named predecessor, Wii Party U touts a plethora of unique mini-games and hours of replay value. However, the package, which also contains a GamePad balance tool and a black WiiMote Plus controller, doesn’t include much creativity, and ends up becoming stale rather quickly. It’s unfortunate, because there’s definitely a market for this type of thing, especially with the holiday season quickly approaching, but the honest truth is that we’ve seen many better games than this one. Honestly, those who want to challenge their friends to short burst activities in order to see who will emerge victorious, should revisit one of the early Mario Party games, or just pop Nintendo Land back into their consoles.
Although this review has been chock full of negativity since its opening, this isn’t a terrible game. In fact, it works relatively well and has some upside. The problem is that it’s unspectacular in any way, and predominantly offers a rehash of popular mini-game designs from yesteryear. The inclusion of the GamePad does help things, though, because the developers were able to come up with a few interesting ways to use the touchscreen-based controller, including a battle tanks mini-game and a handful of other multiplayer scenarios. In fact, there are areas where the accessory is used intelligently, but those modes and variations are buried underneath quite a few mediocre-at-best offerings.
Found within the game’s approximate total of eighty new mini-games are challenges that are based around collection, WiiMote tilting, memorization, motion-based aiming, timing and evasion. Certain ones are moderately impressive, but none ever achieve anything more than that, while most of the very brief engagements are uninspired and somewhat dull. They’re there and serve a purpose of pushing things forward, whether it’s during competitions, board games or something similar, but you won’t remember them in several months’ time. To me that’s the true test of quality, because I fondly remember some of the great times I had playing classic Mario Party mini-games with my friend(s), and those competitions took place years ago. I don’t think I’ll remember much from this, other than the fact that it came with a controller, which is too bad.
With Wii Party U, developer Nd Cube had an opportunity to really impress us, especially considering that they had the GamePad to develop for. However, although there are some relatively impressive engagements that use the second screen fairly well, its standalone group of tabletop experiences leaves a lot to be desired. You see, the menu is set-up so that you can pick board games (which centre upon the core goals of collecting the most items, moving the most spaces or winning the most mini-games), have a multiplayer party with a few friends, play solo mini-games (something that will probably bore you after a bit) or play tabletop games, which are accessible for up to two players. The first thing I really bothered with was the latter option, which thankfully allowed me to play against the computer. Going in, I hoped that I would have a lot of fun, but that didn’t end up being the case, and I left the menu wondering what the rest of the game had in store for me.
The idea behind the tabletop games mode is quite brilliant, though it’s obviously been stolen from Sony’s PS Vita and other mobile devices. You get together with a friend and use the same GamePad to play several different activities, such as foosball, tabletop baseball, dodge the spiked ball and more. On paper, this section of Wii Party U sounds like an absolute blast, but it’s honestly not. The artificial intelligence is all over the place, and the games themselves are of low quality. That’s especially true of foosball, which I found to be quite bad, while the one I had the most hope for (tabletop baseball) suffered from awfully basic batting mechanics that kept it from ever being entertaining. There were a couple of options that offered more quality than those two, but even those were nothing special. What a missed opportunity.
Aesthetically, things are fine. In true Nintendo fashion, this compilation is full of colour, and is surprisingly nice-looking, although it won’t win any awards. Going further, it runs well, and also has decent sound. That’s all that can be really said, though, because nothing ever jumped out in this department, though the same is true on the opposite side of the spectrum. Truth be told, there’s little to complain about and little to applaud.
Unless you’re in the market for a new WiiMote Plus controller and don’t mind spending a bit of extra cash in order to get a sub-par party game for your family to play once or twice, Wii Party U is something that you’ll probably want to skip. There are much better options out there, though not all of them will work on the Wii U. Still, Nintendo Land is definitely a better option than this particular release, and we all know that it was made specifically for Nintendo’s latest device.
This review is based on the Wii U exclusive, which we were provided with.