Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wii Party U (Wii U) Review

Happy birthday to our founder Phil! Today marks his 28th birthday. What a great opportunity to have a party! That TOTALLY makes sense for us to review Wii Party U on Nintendo's eighth generation console. It fits so perfectly! Here is our review.

Party Hardy, But Don't Be Tardy, Marty

Nintendo saw great success with its Wii line of games last generation. Even something that didn't really turn out as well, Wii Music, sold relatively well in the grand scheme of things. With the Wii U, Nintendo is returning to this line of software with much less prosperity. Truly, the large audience of casual players have moved on to mobile devices for their quick fix gaming sessions. That said, it doesn't detract from the quality of such titles like Wii Sports Club, Wii Fit U, and now Wii Party U. While many gamers would rather have another party with Mario and friends, Wii Party U definitely holds its own in the party department.

My friend who is color blind does
not like this particular mini-game at all.
First off, Wii Party U can most certainly not be criticized for lacking content. The game is packed with modes for many good times and social gatherings with friends or family, containing three separate categories of modes: TV Party, House Party, and GamePad Party. Party Phil hosts the festivities, introducing each modes' rules and offering suggestions to players who don't know what they want to dive into.

Ride 'em, cowboy!
While there is plenty for multiplayer gaming sessions, the majority of content is for 2+ players, some requiring 3 or 4 people. This means there's a sizable chunk of content that is inaccessible to a solo gamer. That said, what is available is pretty interesting.

When you're all aiming for the same basket,
there's bound to be some competition.
TV Party has a heavily reliance on 10-60 second mini-games to determine things like player order, for instance. One example of a TV Party mode is Highway Rollers, a board game that has players competing to travel the 300+ spaces to the goal. That's pretty hard to do with a single six-sided die, so in Highway Rollers, players get up to 10 dice to roll all at once, depending on their placement in each pre-round mini-game to blaze a trail along the linear path. This is all the while dealing with this massive zigzag bridge's variety of spaces, such as being shot from a cannon 20 spaces ahead or back, multiple bonus dice to roll either to move forward to backward, spaces that transport you to another player, or a space that begins a 1 vs 3 mini-game, with the winners being awarded bonus dice.

"Be free, magical dice!"
Another board game is set on an island, and has two human players competing to reach the island's treasure before the other. The mini-games used in Highway Rollers return, but there's also GamePad exclusive mini-games, although much simpler. Everything from determining your roll to tracing a door's pattern to open it relies on the GamePad.

This island isn't big enough for the two of us.
Then there's a board game involving switching between costume pieces and making laps on a linear city path to score points based on which costume parts you're wearing. Having a complete outfit nets the most points, some outfits scoring more points than others. Costume pieces are earned through landing on differently marked spaces around the board. Mini-games pop up every five turns, giving players a pick of one costume addition to their wardrobe. There's even the ability to steal pieces from other players.

Fashion is always in fashion
during this board game.
The mini-games of Wii Party U contain a lot of novel ideas and entertaining gameplay. Yes, there are some that are based solely on chance and some that are too simplistic to fully enjoy, but the majority offer a fair playing ground and enough depth for most people. Whether you're carefully trying to stay on a bucking bronco, trying to avoid being hit out of a gigantic pool table by an errant billiard balls, hitting the jump button with perfect timing to skip like a ninja across water, bopping other players with a hammer in hopes of popping their balloons, engaging in an outdoor version of musical chairs, or leaping into the air and tossing basketballs into the same net your opponents are trying to score in, there's many more fun games than there are ones that aren't. That said, you can let the Wii Party U community know your feelings on a mini-game by rating it on a scale of 1-5 stars. The overall rating of every player will show you which games you should play and which you should avoid like spoiled birthday cake.

It's okay that they're savagely beating one
another with mallets-- they're wearing helmets!
All of the free-for-all mini-games solely use the Wii Remote and do nothing with the Wii U GamePad. However, the 1 vs. 3 games has the sole player using the GamePad against the other three players, who use Wii Remotes and gaze upon the TV screen. This opens up a lot of intriguing games, like one where the GamePad player puts hidden booby traps on a path, and the TV players must try to avoid them through guessing which paths to take. Another game turns the GamePad player invisible, only giving away their location through walking on special tiles that light up when passed across. The goal of the Wii Remote players is to tag the invisible player using the lighted tiles as cues to where he or she is currently at.

The GamePad player controls the punching
gloves while the others try to avoid them.
House Party features some of the most ingenious and entertaining uses of the Wii U GamePad, and offers an abundance of opportunities for raucous laughter. One mode has you and several acquaintances crossing arms and fingers as you press buttons on the GamePad and Wii Remotes in what could be called a finger-centric form of Twister. Another mode has you and several friends and/or family members each passing the GamePad along as you draw the specified object on the screen. The catch is that one of the players will receive a different object than everyone else, and it's those players' job to decide which sketch represents that fact. Finally (but not the last of the many modes available), there's Name That Face, a mode where one player takes a selfie of sorts with the GamePad's camera, displaying some kind of emotion or expression for the other players to try to guess via multiple choice. This latter mode created such hilarity in my household. It was really one of the more popular modes among family members.

How good is your finger fu?

The last of the three categories of modes, GamePad Party, uses the Wii U GamePad to completely removes the television from the equation. These tabletop games feature gameplay wholly performed on the GamePad screen, having players share the controller, albeit on different sides of the screen. Such offerings include foosball and baseball. For foosball, each person controls their players with the analog stick, flicking it up or down to kick the ball while moving the stick left and right to control the goalie. Meanwhile, baseball has players alternating between batter and pitcher for an up to five inning game. The pitcher throws the ball by making a quick flick for a fast pitch or a small movement for a slow pitch. This is all the while the batter tries to time their swing to hit the ball into one of the five areas in the outfield. Depending on where their ball stays, they can get a single, a double, a triple, or a very rare (as its in the center of the outfield) home run. The batter must contend with three moving holes that if the ball drops into is an automatic out. That's just the beginning of the immensely accessible tabletop games available in Wii Party U.

What makes Wii Party U most exciting to me is how it puts the Wii U hardware's many capabilities into excellent use. It's a game that allows players to come across a wide array of compelling gameplay types and activities that are simple to pick up, understand, and enjoy. These highlight the significance of the Wii U's differences to other competing platforms and tell the player "okay, THIS is what the Wii U is good for." . It floors me how Nintendo stealthily shoved this title out the door with little fanfare. There are countless skeptics who don't understand the Wii U and what it is capable of, and Wii Party U would show the GamePad's significance to a lot of these people, as well as many developers who seem to be dumbfounded by what to do with the Wii U's controller.

Why did Pac-Man come into my mind again?
Didn't we already do a Pac 'n Roll review this week?
Still, even with being one of the best games that utilize the features of the Wii U hardware, there are a selection of modes that please less than others. Furthermore, Wii Party U is a party that is best had with other players. As a solo party, Wii Party U isn't half the fun, as you're literally missing out on half the modes available to you. Regardless, if all of what I've described sounds good to you and you have fellow humans to enjoy the game with (and you'd love to get an extra Wii Remote Plus that comes bundled with the game), you should definitely RSVP to this particular party ASAP.

[SPC Says: 8.0/10]

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