If variety were the spice of life, then Wii Party U would pack enough punch to make your tongue sizzle. With Nintendo Land having served as the starter in exploring the Wii U GamePad’s potential, nearly a year later we find ourselves discovering the amalgamation of Nintendo’s unrivalled creativity, neatly housed within one delectable package.
It isn’t unfair to say that minigame compilations were often seen as the bane of the Wii, but equally a point of accessibility to the casual market from which the console had thrived. Even though Carnival: Funfair Games was met poorly by critics it still went on to sell more than 7 million copies, an area Nintendo would soon tap into through the original Wii Party.
The myriad of ideas shown in the 2010 Wii release largely equates to the experience that we find ourselves feverishly lapping up here. Nintendo knows their market, with Wii Party U supplying enough gaming pizazz that could ignite any occasion and, in some ways, outpacing Nintendo Land.
Party Phil makes a return, the Muppet-like host to Wii Party U‘s minigame wares, as you firstly select between the broader TV Party, House Party and GamePad Party modes – seeing you participate in board games à la Mario Party, turn your room into a gaming playground, or pit two players against one another respectively using the Wii U’s dare-to-be-different controller.
A few option screens later and you’re propelled into Nintendo’s latest party antics. Whether you’re flipping through your notepad to be the quickest to match the Mii character taking centre stage in Face Flippers, memorising car designs in Speed of Sight as they whizz by, running as fast as you can to dive onto rubber tubes to slide as far as you can on ice in Super Snow Sliders, or speeding around a Pac-Man style level to collect more than your rivals in Power Prisms, every minigame that you’re thrust into is retains a sense of joyous discovery like no other game before it. It’s almost a shame to ruin the surprise for you.
There are those that take inspiration from classics too – Button Battle easily showing some parallels with the popular Twister, Sitting Pretty being a button-based musical chairs, with even Pictionary present somewhat in Sketchy Situation, where one player is challenged with a different clue to the others and must get away with drawing something they won’t realise is supposed to be different.
As with Brain Training, these are all multifaceted minigames that are designed to test varying skills – memory, reaction speed, concentration, and timing. It’s so often subliminal, but there’s care here beyond simply churning out duplicated experiences for you to wade through.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t a few duff ideas in there, either due to awkward control schemes or simply being concepts that don’t quite match the otherwise exemplary quality that’s frequently on display. Randomly choosing sides of the screen in the hope of dodging incoming asteroids is an initially hilarious yet ultimately pointless activity, Hide-and-Go-Beak where you choose a hedge to hide behind and merely wait to see the order in which an Ostrich discovers each player to determine the winner, whilst Close Knit sees you hold buttons down as you wiggle your Wii Remote Plus from side-to-side. Nintendo asks you to rate games as you progress, so they’re seemingly eager to learn which is the more popular of the bunch.
It will be GamePad Party that most will look to for some ingenuity, and whilst these Off-TV experiences don’t necessarily use the controller in an overtly innovative way there’s plenty to enjoy when your TV’s otherwise occupied. Tabletop Football’s passable, whilst Tabletop Baseball takes a more astute pinball angle to the sport, though it is the screwball scramble-inspired Tabletop Gauntlet that proves an easy favourite even if it’s short-lived. There’s Mii-in-a-Row in which you must join three differing tokens (Head, Torso, Legs) to create a Mii, interspersed with GamePad-only minigames that have you tapping dragonflies and dodging spikes balls, whilst Puzzle Blockade tests your teamwork skills, and the tile matching Animal Match-up.
Nintendo is placing plenty of faith in Wii Party U, even going as far as to introduce a new Wii U bundle with the game across Europe, and that is broadly deserved. It’s a fun-filled package that can be enjoyed by friends and family alike – a rarity amid the Christmas season which now finds itself dominated by the otherwise gun-blazing experiences.