Due for release later this week, Wii Party is the first mini-game compilation from Nintendo since Mario Party 8 received a mixed reception in the days when demand for Wii consoles was still outstripping supply. Of course, Wii Party promises to fit closer into the groove established by Wii Play, Wii Fit and the Wii Sports titles than the Mario spin-offs, also offering it a much more inclusive approach to market.
Wii Party will feature thirteen different gameplay modes in the final build, divvying-up seventy mini-games between them. In the build Electronic Theatre got hands-on with, only two of these gameplay modes were available, the first of which lends itself greatly to comparison with the Mario Party series. Players move around a board attempting to one-up each other both with tricks and bonuses on the board, and by besting them in the mini-games.
The second mode was based on a ladder system, where players work their way through games – both co-operative and competitive – earning points for successful completion. Progression in the mode is tied to the same help/hindrance mechanic that is evident in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, tasking the player with fighting for themselves one minute, and being forced to team-up with their nearest rival the next.
Only a handful of mini-games were available to play, with Balance Boat being the most original of all those presented. Not so much in its rules, playing similarly to Buckaroo and a number of other more action-orientated board games, but in that of its use of the Wii Remote. Most mini-game compilations on Wii are content with simply asking the player to waggle the Wii Remote or carefully time flicks and button presses, perhaps occasionally incorporating tilt controls. Though Wii Party does utilise these techniques regularly, they appear more forgivable when the associated on-screen action relates more directly to the gesture being performed. Balance Boat is a perfect example of this, as while the player simply uses the Wii Remote pointer technology to drop a Mii onto the mast of a swaying ship, the positioning is always that which was intended and the resulting topple is never unfair.
While Wii Party is unlikely to be held as a pioneer for the genre, it’s certainly looking set to become an easily recommendable purchase for those looking for a new party game experience. With no Mario & Sonic title set for release this Winter, and Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort having become yesterday’s news for most family, Wii Party is certainly looking very likely to fill the void in Nintendo’s release schedule.