Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Go Vacation (Wii) Review

Guess whose Wii was repaired? That's right! Your old pal SuperPhillip's Nintendo Wii is back in his possession, and he's been making up for those lost hours away by playing lots of games on it. Our first review since my Wii hiatus is an overlooked game (at least to the West), Go Vacation by Namco Bandai.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted.
Vacation, Had to Get Away.

It is official, at least in North America. Old man Winter has returned, and he will no doubt be bearing gifts in the form of ice, sleet, and snow. While it is cold and gray outside, wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to get away to some place like Cancun, Jamaica, or Australia? Well, for the majority of us who work our fingers to the bone and still can't afford an all-inclusive getaway, there's Namco Bandai's Go Vacation on Wii, the perfect way to visit a faraway place without use of frequent flier miles, listening to children scream on an airplane flight, and worrying about what bathing trunks to wear that won't make your butt look too big.

The game starts with you designing your own avatar, either through utilizing your Mii or using one of many of the game's templates. You can select from a limited amount of choices including faces and hairstyles, body type, clothing, shoes, and more. As soon as this part is completed, you are whisked away on a plane to beautiful Kawawii Island and its four individual resorts-- Marine, City, Snow, and Mountain. Of course, you are assigned to first exploring the Marine Resort.

At the Marine Resort you are thrust into the world of Go Vacation with free reign to do anything your little heart desires. Want to ride on a marine bike? Go ahead. How about an ATV to drive along the shoreline? Sure thing! First, the attendant behind the counter at the information center tells you about the Stamp Dash, an activity where you go around the various islands competing in all sorts of sports and challenges, earning a stamp for every activity you try out. There's approximately fifty unique activities to partake in. As you earn stamps, you unlock the ability to venture to other resorts on the island as well as being able to explore at different times of day such as sunset and night. Additionally, you earn the right to own your own villa. We'll get into that more a bit later, however.

Each resort has its own load-out of ways to traverse the land.

With activities and sports in Go Vacation, the developers opted to go for quantity rather than quality. That isn't to say that there is a lot of garbage in this game. Far from it. There is a great amount of variety in the spectrum of sports and activities in the game. There's snow tubing, kayaking, raft riding, horseback riding, whack-a-mole, multiple races to speed through, a wide selection of shooting games, mini golf, scuba diving, skydiving, trick challenges, and whole heck of a lot more. Though some activities and how they control will have you scratching your head in disbelief. For instance, waggle seems to be thrown in for waggle's sake. Skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, horseback riding, among other activities have you shaking both the Wii remote and nunchuk controller to speed up. You tilt both in the direction you want to move. This is similar to rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. It's something that takes practice to master. One wonders why you couldn't just speed up by shaking both controller parts and using the control stick to move. Then there's activities that only use the Wii remote. You can't have the nunchuk connected to the Wii remote during these moments, and seeing as you need both controllers to move around the various resorts, it gets problematic. Constantly being forced to take off and reconnect the nunchuk gets tiring after multiple times.

Explore Kawawii Island with up to three other friends!

Other controls work much more favorably. In street racing you tilt the Wii remote like in Mario Kart Wii to drive, holding a button down to drift and speed around corners. On ATVs, marine bikes, and off-road vehicles, you hold down the B button the remote to accelerate, turn the remote and nunchuk to steer, hold down B and flick both up to jump, use the control stick to perform tricks, and go in reverse pretty easily. Games like Target Shooting put the pointer to terrific use in having the player point the Wii remote at the screen and fire with the B button to take out multiple colored targets of varying values.

And compete against one another to determine the best player!

Likewise, there are some activities that are purely and entirely broken in controls. Dancing very rarely reads your movements providing much in the way of frustration. Mini golf has you holding down a button and swinging the Wii remote back and forth like a putter. Too bad this, too, isn't read by the game. Surfing is also pretty complicated and offers broken controls as well. Thankfully, you only need to compete in an activity to earn a stamp, and not necessarily complete the activity.

Some activity start out with simple controls. Perhaps the game moves your character automatically a la Wii Sports Tennis. This fact may put some players off, and might make them think that this is all the game has for them-- a dumbed down version of a sport they like. This is certainly the case with Go Vacation's take on tennis as well as beach volleyball. However, after your initial play-through of the sport, you get the option of taking on the sport with analog stick movement.

Though you can't move yourself in the beginner version of beach
you gain that ability after the initial play-through.

In fact, apart from the fifty activities, there are several challenges that go with each activity. For example, let's go back to tennis. After completing the initial "dumbed-down" stage of the sport, you unlock challenges such as completing levels 1-3 of tennis elimination. The goal is to play through and win three games of tennis against a progressively harder computer opponent or opponents in the case of doubles play. There are approximately 100 unique challenges to take part in. Once you finish all of the challenges in a given category, you earn a silver key. Silver keys are used to purchase furniture and design options for your villa which, again, unlocks after earning a small amount of stamps.

Your villa is yours to customize as you see fit. You can't really alter the foundation, adding walls and such, but you can furnish your villa with a wide selection of furniture and furniture styles. With silver keys, you can buy different villa and furniture styles such as tropical and Mediterranean. For furniture there's beds, cabinets, closets, chairs, sofas, televisions, plants, mirrors, and much more. Each player's villa is two stories tall which allows for endless amounts of varying furniture layouts. Call upon your inner interior designer.

Going back to Kawawii Island, the four resorts are quite expansive, offering a variable playground to explore. Sprinkled around each of the resorts are seven treasure chests. Finding these is a true challenge as they are hidden well. Opening one up adds a new clothing option to your collection. Aside from discovering treasure, you zip around the various resorts to talk to NPCs-- getting missions, starting activities, taking photos, having your Miis join your party, among other things. The resorts are littered with people all doing their own thing. If actively driving or moving to location to location is getting you down, you can quickly warp to multiple locations at a resort through the map menu. What's even better is that after you unlock an activity, you can play it from the main menu. There is no need to literally move to the location of the activity at a resort if you don't want to.

Secret treasure unlocks new costumes for your character.

Go Vacation is one graphically stellar game. The sheer scope of the resorts is amazing, and add into the fact that they are heavily populated with tourists and wildlife, and you have a lot of activity going on. Little touches like your feet making footprints in the sand and in the snow make for a more realistic experience even in this cartoon world. The water in the game is pretty incredible as well. All of this and little in the way of slow-down (though there is the occasion bout of it) create a memorable vacation for anyone. Furthermore, the sound is sensational, too, with peppy and infectious original pop tunes (Go Vacation has one of my favorite soundtracks of the year. It truly is that good to me.), the sprinkles of voice acting from passersby, and the roar of vehicle engines. For a Wii game, Go Vacation is certainly ambitious in its presentation.

And we're free... Free-fallin'!

And not just ambitious in its presentation either. Go Vacation is undeniably ambitious in its scope as well. The sheer number of sports and activities and various variations will have you playing for an extended amount of time, long after the credits have rolled. The collectible aspect of gathering silver keys, stamps, treasures, and the ever-elusive and secret gold keys will have players coming back for more and more. Sure, some of the activities may be complete duds, and the controls in some games might have you bewildered at their stupidity, but Go Vacation is an excellent example of what a Wii U version of Wii Sports might have to aspire to. There is a seemingly endless amount of content in Go Vacation, a superb soundtrack (seriously), and a huge, though disconnected, series of resorts to traverse how you want, when you want. For a better-than-usual mini-game collection, plot your destination for Kawawii Island and charter a plane for Go Vacation.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.25/10]

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