Review by super_luigi16

"Wii Party U? More Like Wii Bore U..."

Many of Nintendo's recent “multiplayer” games could be considered party games. Mario Kart Wii? Party racing game. Super Smash Bros. Brawl? Party fighting game. Nintendo Land? Multigenre party game.

Wii Party U falls into an odd category; it is a tried and true traditional party game, following the release of its predecessor on the Wii. However, its genre is dying. Party games are less popular than ever, and even mainstays of the genre—namely, Mario Party—are struggling to achieve critical or commercial acclaim. Wii Party U fails to achieve the former. The game is utterly boring, and it does not attempt to change much from its predecessors. The few modes it does change are unimpressive and uninspired. The various activities vary widely in “fun” factor, quality, and playability, ranging from ridiculously unplayable to decently enjoyable.

Devoid of Party

Wii Party U divides itself up into three major modes with an additional mode for playing minigames only. These three major modes include TV Party (heavily TV-reliant), House Party (heavily GamePad-reliant), GamePad Party (totally GamePad-reliant), and, of course, Minigames. Each mode tends to have its own unifying gimmick, but I have yet to determine why some TV Party games aren't in House Party and vice-versa. The game's own classification system is loose in that regard. Nevertheless, the modes themselves are nothing to write home about, but the minigames, fortunately, are overwhelmingly decent, barring a few rehashes.

TV Party

In many ways, TV Party mode is several steps backwards from the innovation that defined Wii Party. Furthermore, despite what could be considered “maturity,” Wii Party U's TV Party modes are frankly boring. They lack any spunk. Rather than push the envelope, Wii Party U recedes into monotony. The game feels less like a party and more like a game of chess.

Pulling a page from Wii Party's more mundane games, TV Party mode in Wii Party U offers two get-to-the-finish-first games in which the players compete with each other—and the level—to reach the end of the stage. The first one to finish wins. The first attempt, a highway level in which players roll huge numbers with several dice, lacks any sort of challenge and is simply a game of luck. While minigames act as interludes each turn, determining how many dice (ten, seven, four, or two) each player will roll, they cannot do away with the monotony of simply going forward on a highway. It's boring.

The second attempt has slightly more interesting level design, but it also lacks any spark or spunk. This level allows players to trek an island in search of treasure; the set path has a few more interesting challenges which force you to draw designs with the GamePad (which is facing away from you), using the TV as your only guide. The challenges, however, are too similar. The dice games are oftentimes counterintuitive; they are supposed to give the player in last the advantage by both allowing them to choose the game and giving them the easiest version, but this player can suffer from the stigma of not knowing just how the dice game works. The explanations are not helpful, and the game's minigames are less frequent, making this adventure far less enjoyable. Nonetheless, both get-to-the-finish games are underwhelming.

The other three games—Balldozer, Team Building, and Mii Fashion Plaza—are just as boring. Balldozer requires players to play something akin to those coin slot games in arcades: drop balls onto moving shelf in order to knock balls down into the slot at the bottom. Minigames at the beginning of each round determine how many balls each player gets to drop. Unfortunately, minigames are irrelevant; the game is far too luck-based for its own good. I placed second, second, first, first, and first in each of the minigames, respectively, and lost 16-34 against my brother in a four-player game. The game is too luck-of-the-draw—and too boring—for its own good.

Mii Fashion Plaza seems like the best, but it is just as benign as the other play modes. After playing the game for about ten minutes, the game gets old because the pacing is far too slow. In this game, each player goes around a small board collecting clothing items; if you get all the clothing to one set, you get more points. Once you make one revolution around the board, you get to show off your clothes, earning points. Whoever has the most points after fifteen turns wins. However, it simply takes far too long to get around the board; this type of game would benefit from a more varied board structure with multiple paths leading back to the start, allowing players quicker access around the board. Mii Fashion Plaza is still the best game with all of its ins and outs, though.

Regardless, the landmark mode in Wii Party U is a concoction of monotony. Why is such a mode so boring? Because it doesn't feel like an actual party—especially on the second, third, or fourth go-around on each level. There is simply too little variety, too little chaos, and a complete lack of fun. The minigames are the star of the show; the boards feel like they're simply there to give the minigames purpose. If this is the case, why not simply play one of the minigame modes or choose minigames directly? The TV Party modes are just too damn simple.

House Party

The House Party modes are more hit-and-miss. Some modes are complete jokes (e.g., Do You Know Mii?, Water Runners, Name That Face, etc.) while others are wildly interesting (e.g., Button Smashers, Lost-and-Found Square, etc.). Some modes are only good for a few attempts (Sketchy Situation, Water Runners) while others are endless fun. A select few levels should not be played ever. Admittedly, many party games have hit-or-miss levels, but Wii Party U's dichotomy is 50/50, which is anything but solid.

Of the bad games, Do You Know Mii? Is clearly the worst. This “game” allows one player in the hot seat to answer a question on a sliding scale (e.g., “How independent are you?” with answers ranging from “Very” to “Not at all”). The other players then take turns guessing the first player's answer. The game is supposed to juxtapose others' images with your own self-image. However, the game simply ends once the answers are revealed—nothing else happens. How exactly is this a game?

On the other hand, the best game (in my experiences) is Button Smashers. This game requires players to put three Wiimotes and the GamePad on a table in front of the TV. Players take turns pressing and holding buttons as instructed by the game; after a set number of turns, more buttons are released or held, but the game does not discriminate who presses what. Thus, this game is a lot like Twister—just with Wiimotes. The sheer wackiness of the game and the weird finger and hand contortions are what give this game its spunk. If more of the other games had this zaniness, Wii Party U would be in a lot better shape.

GamePad Party

The GamePad Party games seem obsolete. These few games only require the GamePad with two players, and they generally last a shorter amount of time (~5 – 20 minutes). However, it seems odd to have several GamePad-only games when the entire rest of the game requires four Wiimotes with the Wii Motion Plus accessory. Furthermore, the GamePad games are somewhat underwhelming, and many of them lack any sort of attachment mechanism (i.e., that was really fun—let's play again!). Rather, the GamePad Party mode is full of one-time-only games.

The best of the GamePad games is Mii in a Row. This short 20 minute game allows both players to compete on a six-by-six board, assembling complete Miis with a variety of tokens. A complete Mii includes a head, torso, and lower body; the game plays out like connect four because both players take turns placing their randomly drawn tokens. Every few turns a minigame is played to flip one of the existing tokens to the opposing player. Once all tokens have been placed, the number of Mii characters is tallied up for each player. The player with the most complete Mii characters wins. This game is easily the best out of the bunch, though the cooperative games are pretty decent.

Other games, however, are less impressive. The tabletop games in particular are rather poor. Both Tabletop Foosball and Tabletop Baseball are one-time-only games that are far too simplistic for their own good. They get boring after a while. The rest of the GamePad Party games are unremarkable.

Summary

Overall, the party modes lack a lot of party. After playing them once, many of them simply lack any replayability. Furthermore, the first experience oftentimes isn't all that solid either. Why would anyone want to scoop water for the GamePad only to run across the room like an idiot to the TV? Some of the games are too crazy (i.e., in an unenjoyable way) for their own good while others are too one-dimensional. Such is the dichotomy that renders Wii Party U nigh unplayable.

Impressive Minigames

Wii Party U's biggest strength is its minigames. While it's not all that difficult to create a great repository of minigames, Wii Party U does an excellent job of creating balanced, engaging, and humorous entries. Some creations are a bit too easy for their own good (e.g., Recipe Recall, which only requires you to recall ten ingredients and who has already used what ingredient) while others are a bit difficult. Some are far too simplistic while others require a fair bit of strategizing yet are too unbalanced to begin with.

Nevertheless, while Wii Pary U does have several lackluster minigame entries, a decent share (I would say over half of the minigames) are extremely fun and engaging. The four-player minigames are especially good with many of my favorites hailing from the four-player side of things. My personal favorite is Flock Shot, which requires you to take a picture in a serene park setting with the most birds. The birds will continually fly in and out of the shot, and, if one player takes a picture, the other birds will almost certainly fly away. Timing your picture is key, and it's possible to get more than fifteen birds (or not) if one goes with instinctual impulses.

Although many minigames are not original in concept—some are mirror images of games in Wii Party or Mario Party—they are still solid entries. Wii Party U's minigame library is exceptionally strong, and it should not be discounted because of a weak party mode offering.

Wii Party U's Other Offerings Can't Save the Game…

Unfortunately, the superb graphics, decent music, and surprisingly well done animations cannot make up for the utter lack of party in this title. Wii Party U is not only too similar to its predecessor, but it sacrifices a lot of what made the Wii version so good: the freshness, the spunk, and the expansiveness. Wii Party U feels small by comparison. Furthermore, Wii Party U seems even weaker in comparison to other excellent party titles on the Wii and the Wii U: the main modes in Wii Party, Fortune Street, Nintendo Land, and other four-player games are far stronger than the modes in Wii Party U. I whole-heartedly recommend that you pass on Wii Party U unless you plan on playing Wii Party U with dozens of friends—it's too monotonous for its own good. It's too boring.

FINAL SCORE: 4.5/10 | PLAYABLE

Gameplay
+ Exceptional minigames.
+ Some good GamePad Party games.
+ Some excellent House Party games.
- Extraordinarily poor TV Party modes.
- Completely unplayable and unenjoyable House Party modes.
- Monotonous GamePad Party games.
- Boring.

Content
- Lacking good anchor modes.
- Too little to do; game loses its magic after a few hours.

Graphics
+ Superb animations.
+ Excellent atmospherics and graphics.

Music
+ Decent soundtrack.
- Annoying hosts.

Replayability
+ Some instant classics.
- Many games lose their freshness after one playthrough.
- Some minigames get stale once you figure them out.


Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 01/07/14

Game Release: Wii Party U (w/Black Wii Remote Plus) (US, 10/25/13)

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